Some Notes on Revelatory Structure in Oedipus Rex

The Beginnings of the Revelatory Structure--Some key points in the first 400 lines of the play

Clue 1 the play's title and the king's name (Oedipus, which means swell-foot)--foreshadowing of O's sign of recognition

Clue 2 Oedipus limps (this limp can act as a sign of recognition later)

First example of dramatic irony "Everybody everywhere knows who I am: Oedipus, King" (ln. 10). --O. doesn't really know himself.

Second key example of dramatic irony " Everything ends here, with me. I am the man" (ln. 87). --O. is literally "the man" who brought the plague by polluting Thebes with his fratricide and incest.

Third key example of dramatic irony "When he returns, what kind of man would I be / if I failed to do everything the god reveals?" (lns. 95-6) --O. consistently tries to avoid fulfilling the prophecy of the Oracle, yet here he seems to say a good man follows the word of the gods.

The first oracle banish or kill the murderer of King Laios to stop the plague (lns. 113 ff.) Here we learn about the supposed story of Laios' death, that bandits killed him.
Results in
O's promise to find the killer (lns. 160 ff.), to reveal the truth, and to seek vengeance

Fourth key example of dramatic irony "So by avenging Laios' death, I protect myself" (ln. 170) --In reality, by finding the killer and avenging Laios's death he hurts himself.

Fifth key example of dramatic irony Lines 293-301-O claims he knows nothing of the murder. Following this he curses himself (lns. 338 ff.) --But O. committed the murder himself.

Other Points of Dramatic Irony and/or Revelation in Oedipus Rex Identified by the Class

Irony in lines
1-403
 
Revelation
 
Irony in lines 404-795
 
Revelation
 
 Irony in lines
796-1187
 
Revelation
 
 Irony in lines 1188-end
 
Revelation
 

Observations about the Distribution of Irony and Revelation Throughout the Play


Return to Greek Drama 5th Century BCE
Return to Sophocles
Return to Oedipus