The Three Theban Plays is a Three Part Trilogy

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The Three Theban Plays is a three part trilogy that exhibits the story of the great King Oedipus. Throughout this play, Sophocles develops a strong and central theme of free will verses the Gods’ will. Oedipus’ life is centered around a daunting prophecy that foreshadows the day when he will kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus’ character is faced with the decision between instructed will, or following his personal instincts. Sophocles utilizes irony in this play to create a crucial part in demonstrating the downfall of Oedipus. Irony is used as a literary tool to illustrate Sophocles main plot of the play and help the audience better understand Sophocles intentions. Sophocles uses Oedipus’ character to portray and best emphasize his plot of tragedy, as well as consistently intrigue and or influence the readers ideas whilst incorporating the three types of irony; Dramatic,Verbal and Situational.

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Sophocles use of Dramatic Irony is heavily used in The Three Theban Plays. Dramatic Irony is a literary technique in which the character’s actions are clear to the audience, but unknown to the character. In the play Oedipus the King, Creon is explaining to Oedipus what has happened to their previous King, Laius. Oedipus responds, “I know-/ or so I’ve heard. I never saw the man myself” (Sophocles.Oedipus the King,118-119). Oedipus is told that King Laius was murdered, and that one day Laius’ glory will be honored when his killer is put to death. Oedipus, unknowingly being apart of the murder, agrees that someone must track down the killer.

The audience at this point knows that Oedipus is the reason for Laius’ death, while Oedipus is clueless of his involvement. This realization intrigues the reader to continue their reading, in hopes of explaining the misunderstanding. This quote signifies the use of Dramatic Irony and the hand it plays in Oedipus’ downfall. In this instance, Sophocles use of Dramatic Irony is a tool to illustrate the superior plot of tragedy. Oedipus’ realization towards the death of Laius will lead to Oedipus’ punishment of hurting himself and escaping Thebes, as well as the overall change in his character as Oedipus unravels the prophecy. This use of Dramatic Irony will influence the reader to stay interested and excel in the reading of the play. Dramatic Irony is again present towards the beginning of the story. As Oedipus ventures off to discover himself, he stumbles along a crossroads. This event led him to duel with, and ultimately kill his biological father. This incident progressed the destined prophecy into completion. Due to the fact that Laius is now dead, the land of Thebes is cursed and a sphinx is placed on the people.

Oedipus leading the city of Thebes, he claims he will not let the killer of Laius dwell in their home, or Oedipus will put a curse upon the killer. Oedipus proclaims to the dwindling city, “If by any chance/ he proves to be an intimate of our house,/ here at my hearth, with my full knowledge,/ may the curse I just called down on him strike me!” (Sophocles.Oedipus the King,284-287). This example of Dramatic Irony illustrates Oedipus cursing the murderer of Laius when he is in fact cursing himself. This type of irony plays a considerable role in the tragedy of Oedipus; cursing himself ultimately led to his death. Sophocles use of irony in this specific scene allows the audience to understand the purpose of Dramatic Irony. Dramatic Irony used in the context of this moment, foreshadows the cursing that will take place on Oedipus further into the play. Additionally, Sophocles uses the tactic of Dramatic Irony, to compel the reader to stay interested in the play. Dramatic Irony is important in literature to develop a story and induce the audience. Sophocles uses Dramatic Irony as a source to progress the main plot of tragedy and leave the audience in suspense.

Verbal Irony is another literary tool used throughout The Three Theban Plays, directly along Oedipus to sustain the intended tragedy plot of the story. Verbal Irony are when words convey something opposite of what is expected or what is truly meant by the character; as in the character says one thing, but means something completely different. After Oedipus’ acknowledgement towards the death of Laius, he assures Thebes of his intentions. Oedipus states, “I will fight for him as if he were my father, /stop at nothing, search the world/ to lay my hands on the man who shed his blood” (Sophocles.Oedipus the King,301-303). The Verbal Irony shown in this quote is Oedipus proclaiming his courageous efforts to fight as if the previous king was his real father, when in actuality he is. Additionally he claims to search the world for Laius killer, when again Oedipus is the culprit. This example of Verbal Irony, created by Sophocles, allows the audience to sense Oedipus’ character.

Oedipus’ willingness to find the killer shows his caring side. **Sophocles again portrays Oedipus using Verbal Irony in the play, Oedipus the King. As Oedipus believes Creon is plotting to steal his crown, Oedipus confronts Creon. Oedipus says, “You, plotting to kill me, kill the king-/ I see it all the mauradign thief himself/ scheming to steal my crown and power!” (Sophocles. Oedipus the King, 596-598). This is an example of Verbal Irony because of the fact that Oedipus accuses Creon of potentially killing the King, when in reality Oedipus has already done this with Laius. Again, this illustration of Verbal Irony allows the audience to get a true sense of Oedipus’ character. This present quote of Verbal Irony depicts Oedipus to be a high tempered man who overreacts to little situations.

Situational Irony, similar in the effects of others, is an action that has an opposite effect from what is expected to happen. Situational Irony is strongly showed in The Three Theban Plays often as main ideas. Tiresias is a blind prophet that receives wiseful insight into the future. Tiresias explains to Oedipus that he is the killer and that one day, Oedipus will leave the city of Thebes. Tiresias clearly shares his insight to Oedipus saying, “the man you’ve sought so long, proclaiming,/ cursing up and down, the murderer of Laius-/ he is here (Sophocles.Oedipus the King, 511-513). Tiresias is showing wiseful insight, despite being blind. Additionally, Oedipus constantly appears clueless to situations around him. Oedipus

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The Three Theban Plays Is a Three Part Trilogy. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from

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