Dramatic irony was used in Oedipus the king as an essential tool to develop the play. Dramatic irony involves readers knowing what is happening in the plot, where as the characters have no knowledge about it. This makes the audience feel privileged, as they know more than the main characters in the story. In Oedipus the king the use of dramatic irony develops the play through pathos towards Oedipus, creating suspense and foreshadowing the outcome of the play.
In the play dramatic irony is also used to create suspense because although the reader knows about the prophecies of Oedipus and what his fate will bring him, the audience does not know how he will react to
the accusations laid upon him. Oedipus knows about the prophecies yet he does not know they have come through, however the audience is aware of everything going on in Oedipus life. According to Oedipus, he has proved the prophecies wrong, but the audience knows this is not the case. the prophecies have become a part of his life yet he is ignorant of it. In Oedipus speech to the people of Thebes he tells them he will start from the beginning and will bring right to their lives. This leaves readers in suspense wondering what will come next. Oedipus he will gain something form the people of Thebes by finding the murderer of liaus it creates suspense, as the reader will want to know what will happen next. “ For whoever killed Laius might decide to raise his hands against me so acting on behalf of liaus I benefit myself too.”(Sophocles, 10) this creates suspense because the readers know he would not benefit himself, as he is the real killer. This lets the audience wonder as to what would happen when Oedipus figures out that the real killer of liaus is himself. This leaves the readers questioning everything that is to come next. To reveal the murder in this part of the play is an important factor of creating suspense among the readers.
The play continues to develop by creating suspense through the use of dramatic irony. The readers know he is the murder of liaus but looking at Oedipus personality the novel also depicts how angry Oedipus is with whoever killed laius. “ As for the murderer himself, I call down a curse on him…. may he drag out an evil death-in-life misery. And further I pronounce a curse on myself is the murderer should, with my knowledge share my house” (sophocles, 14). This creates terror and suspense in the readers mind as to what Oedipus would do when he finds out he is the murderer of Laius. This also creates anticipation among the readers, as they will want to know what is to come next.
Another aspect of dramatic irony used for the development of the play is the audience feeling sorry for Oedipus. The audience knows what ill-fate Oedipus life carries and how in a way he is guilty of his own unhappiness. This feeling of remorse the audience develops through the play contributes greatly to Oedipus character personality according to Aristotle. The use of dramatic irony makes the readers hopeful. When Oedipus says, “ I am lost, accusred, and hated by the gods. Beyond all other men” (sophocles, 37) the audience feels sorry for him at this point; as they already knew about his destiny and hoe it is all written out for him.
Dramatic irony also foreshadows what might be the out come in the end. Prophecies and foreshadowing are important parts of play writing, and adds an element of suspense that might not seem possible any other way. For instance when Tireias says to Oedipus “ without knowing it you are the enemy of your own flesh and blood …. This doubled aged curse shall one day drive you from this land” (sophocles, 28) this foreshadows the outcome of Oedipus life, and how he might be exiled from Thebes. Again the audience already knows about his prophecies and the curse they bring upon him, which he will have to pay for in the end , hence this quote foreshadows to the readers what might happen to Oedipus at the end. Oedipus later says to tiresias, “ Save yourself and the city, save me, from all the infections caused by the dead man .we are in your hands” (Sophocles, 19). This foreshadows and also creates suspense as to what tiresias might say next to Oedipus. It is dramatic irony because the audience knows tiresias cannot save Oedipus for this curse it is him self that has to see the truth on his own. Therefore a bit of tension arises as to how tiresias might respond to him and what Oedipus will do once he is told the truth. Also when tiresias tell Oedipus that his life will end in darkness “ you see straight now but then you will see darkness” (sophocles, 28) darkness vs. light used in the play foreshadows and helps the audience understand what Oedipus might do to him self when he learns the truth about his past, his prophecies and the real murderer.
In Oedipus the king the use of dramatic irony develops the play through pathos towards the tragic hero, creating suspense, and foreshadowing the outcome of the play. Finally, Oedipus the king is a tragic play that depicts the characteristics of a tragic hero an how destiny plays an unfortunate game with him. Sophocles’ Oedipus, dramatic irony is a major input into making this novel a strong one; the whole novel is based on the concept of dramatic irony. Where the audience knows about Oedipus prophecies, his past and the murder he committed, but he himself is blind to. Oedipus destiny has been written out for him. He became a victim to an ill fate unknowingly. His destiny could not be controlled or changed; a man born with poor fortune and a dishonored life, who saved the people of Thebes from the sphinx ad brought light to everyone’s life at the end, gets rid of the light of his own eyes and ends his life in darkness.