The Greek tragedy of Oedipus illustrates dramatic irony through Oedipus’ noble birth which is unknown to him and his fall from the throne due to his fate and excessive pride. In regard to his noble birth, Oedipus does not know he is born the son of King Liaus, the king of Thebes. As fate would have it, Oedipus eventually inherits the throne as King of Thebes even though he is brought up by another noble leader, Polybus, King of Corinth. Oedipus refers often to his upbringing throughout the play. Because of his nobility, the Thebans, as well as the Corinthians, admire him and treat him as their hero.
On page 33 Oedipus proclaims, “he [will] fight for him (Liaus) now, as I would for my own father. ” Oedipus does not realize Liaus is his father because he believes Polybus is his true father, while we, the readers, know Liaus is actually Oedipus’ real father. Another example of dramatic irony in the play is expressed during the discussion between Oedipus, Jocasta, his wife and mother, and a messenger. Oedipus fears he may eventually murder his father until the messenger arrives with the news that Polybus has died.
At this point, Oedipus feels relieved because he believes the burden of his fate is over since his “father” has died. On the contrary, the reader knows his troubles are just beginning when the messenger explains to Oedipus how Polybus is not his real father. Oedipus’ predestined fate and growing pride, which stem from his noble birth, unfortunately lead to his demise as a ruler and his banishment from Thebes. From the time he was born, Oedipus was destined not only to kill his father but also to marry his mother.
However, Oedipus does not know who his actual parents are and thus, runs away and toward his fate at the same time. As Oedipus explains to Jocasta, about his past and the fate given to him by the Oracle, he tells her, “I must marry my mother and kill my father. At this I fled away. ” When Oedipus flees from home he thinks he is avoiding his fate, but the reader knows he is actually approaching closer to his fate. When Oedipus enters the realm of Thebes and becomes king, his pride blossoms almost to the point of arrogance.
Tragically, his pride makes the fall from his throne even more pronounced. The conversation between Teiresias and Oedipus on pages 34-36 illustrates Oedipus’ pride and the continuation of dramatic irony of the play. Throughout the argument between the two men, Oedipus accuses Teiresias of being blind when Teiresias tries to explain to Oedipus that he is the real killer. The reader knows that Oedipus, due to his overwhelming pride, is the more blind of the two because he does not want to face the truth about himself and his fate.
Further exemplifying Oedipus’ pride in creating dramatic irony, Oedipus continuously accuses Creon of trying to steal the throne away from him. Oedipus refers to Thebes as, “his city”, but Creon challenges Oedipus by saying, “Is she not also mine? ” This creates more dramatic irony because the reader knows who Laius’ murderer is, while Oedipus does not. Oedipus’ fate and his excessive pride help to reinforce the dramatic irony produced in the play. Throughout the foregoing series of events, all of which take place in a single day, Sophocles develops dramatic irony through the characteristics of his tragic hero.