Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the characters don’t. This adds suspense for the audience because they know what is going to happen to the character, but they can’t stop it. Dramatic irony is used in the play Oedipus Rex to give a greater dramatic effect. Specific instances of irony have effects on the audience and are significant to the overall meaning of the play.
The play starts with Oedipus fleeing his home after hearing a prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother.
Oedipus leaves his home so he stays away from his parents. As he is going to Thebes, Oedipus kills a group of people that were annoying him. The audience watching the play knows that the people that he killed included his father, yet Oedipus doesn’t know that. The audience would also know that the parents that he left were never his real parents but just “for now” parents.
The audience would feel helpless because they can’t stop him from killing his father or marrying his mother. That is why The Oedipus plays are a tragedy because the audience watching the play can’t stop the events that are happening right in front of their eyes. Later in the play, Oedipus is given the task to find the person that killed Louis, the old king, who is still in the city. He pledges to banish him from the city and blind him. The audience would know that Oedipus was the person that killed Lauis, and they know that Oedipus will have to keep his promise.
The audience sees Oedipus as a good man that is a father and a husband and a ruler. Oedipus wants to help the city, like when he answered the sphinx’s riddle which if he got wrong he would have died. The audience believes that Oedipus does not deserve the fate that was given to him but they cannot stop it from happening so they would feel powerless. This is why dramatic irony is used so well in the play.
The overall meaning of the play is that no one can beat fate or go against the will of the gods. The audience knows that Oedipus’s fate should be fulfilled, which shadows our knowledge of his life. We know what his fate is so when he marries Jocasta and becomes the king we should feel like that is a great accomplishment, except we now feel that is is a grave mistake. When he leaves his parents it should feel like he is saving their lives, accepts he is going to end the lives of his real parents. We know Oedipus can’t fight his fate so we just have to watch or read, with what we already know. Oedipus doesn’t do anything wrong that would deserve him of his fate, but he was given it at birth so he can’t escape it. Because of dramatic irony, the audience knows that it will all go wrong for Oedipus and his family.