Through his use of irony Sophocles manages to avoid simplyretelling an old tale, though the audience is cognizant of the storys endthey are intrigued by the irony present in the story. For instance when Oedipuspronounces his curse upon the head of King Laiuss murderer in the openingscenes of the play : So will I fight on the gods side, And on the side of theslain man! But my curse be on the one who did this, whether he is alone Orconceals his share in it with others. Let him be free of no misery if he sharemy house Or sit at my hearth and I have knowledge of it. On myself may it fall,as I have called it down! -Oedipus from Oedipus Rex When Oedipus pronounces thissentence he has already unwittingly judged himself, and to the excitement of thecrowd foreshadowed later events to come. This statement, is a classic example ofverbal irony.
In it Oedipus thinking that he is directing his pronouncement uponsome bandit, or conspirator, in all actuality he is truly condemning himself. Further examples of irony include his speech when he first answers the chorusBecause of all these things I will fight for him as I would my ownmurdered father. The irony inherent in this speech that Oedipus makes to thechorus lies for the most part in this single line, since the murdered King Laiusis his father. Sophocles does not reserve his use of irony to verbal irony, buthe also ranges into areas of irony dramatic in nature. The entire play could besaid to be an example of this, after all throughout the entire play Oedipus isunaware of the fate that awaits him, even though the viewer is intensely awarethat Oedipus the King will become Oedipus the Beggar.
Sophocles was a pioneer inhis field. The plays that he penned, that survived through the eons are reveredas much now as they were during his day. He often wrote scripts for events inmythology that had already occurred and were common knowledge to thepopulace that viewed his productions. In order to keep these audiences returningfor more, Sophocles made liberal use of irony.
By doing this he tantalized theviewer into wanting to see how the events that occurred later would mentallyaffect the main character, in this case Oedipus.Theater