Use_of_Irony_in_Oedipus_Rex_in_Scene_1.docx - The Meaning...

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The Meaning of Tragic IronyTragic irony is the name given toa device used originally in ancientGreek tragedy, and later almost in alltragedies, whereby a character’swords and actions are seen to bewholly contradictory to the actualsituation as known to some of theother characters or to the audience.Irony consists essentially in thecontrast of the two aspects of thesame remark or situation. A remarkmade by a character in a play mayhave one meaning for him andanother meaning for some of theother characters and the audience, orone meaning for the speaker and theother characters and another meaningfor the audience. Similarly, a situationin a play may have a doublesignificance in the sense that adisaster or calamity may be foreseenby the audience while the charactersconcerned may be ignorant of it. Theuse of irony, whether it be in words orin a situation, heightens the tragiceffect. Irony was used with strikingeffect by Sophocles in his plays.Tragic Irony in Oedipus’s InitialProclamationOedipus Rexis replete with tragicirony. In fact, tragic irony is to befound in this play in most of thespeeches and in most of thesituations. There are many occasionson which the audience is aware of thefacts while the speaker—Oedipus, orJocasta, or the Corinthian messenger,or the Chorus, is ignorant of thosefacts. The awareness of the audience(and some character or characters) onthe one hand, and the ignorance ofthe speaker and some other characteror characters on the other hand,present a contrast which lends anincreased emphasis to a tragic fact orto the ultimate tragic outcome. Thevery proclamation to Oedipus, forinstance, that he will make adetermined effort to trace themurderer of Laius and the curse thatOedipus utters upon the killer andupon those sheltering the criminal,possess a tragic irony in view of theaudience’s knowledge that Oedipushimself will ultimately prove to beLaius’s murderer. In this connection itmay be pointed out that the Greekaudiences of those times knewbeforehand the myth pertaining toOedipus. In other words, theaudiences of those times had a priorknowledge of the facts of whichOedipus himself, speaking on thestage, was ignorant. Even the modernaudience is well-acquainted with themyth of Oedipus before going towitness a performance of the play inthe theatre, and the modern readerknows the story of the play inadvance, so that the irony underlyingOedipus’s proclamation is not lostupon either the audience or thereader. But, even when an audience ora reader does not have priorknowledge of the story of the play,this speech of Oedipus, like severalothers which follow, will be seen topossess tragic irony in the light of thelater developments in the play. Inother words, at a second reading or ata second visit to the theatre, thereader or the audience is bound toperceive the tragic irony of Oedipus’sexpression of his anger against theoffender and his resolve to bring himto book. Oedipus proclaims that no

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Term
Fall
Professor
NoProfessor
Tags
The Oedipus Plays, Oedipus Rex, JOCASTA Oedipus

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