Ans. Tragic irony is a form of dramatic irony in which a character who is about to become a victim of disaster uses words that have one meaning and quite another to the spectator or those who are aware of the real situation.
in King Oedipus there is brilliant use of tragic irony to highlight the weaknesses in Oedipus’ personality and to foreshadow the tragic conclusion of the play.
In the very beginning of the drama Oedipus proclaims that he will make a resolute effort to trace the murderer of Laius. He utters curse upon the killer and upon those who are sheltering the criminal. These become ironical because the audience guess from what Teiresias says that Oedipus himself will ultimately prove to be Laius’s murderer.
The scene of quarrel between Oedipus and Teiresias contains a good amount of tragic irony. Teiresias, as a prophet, knows everything, but Oedipus is ignorant of his own guilt. Teiresias does not like to disclose the secret, but Oedipus forces him to disclose it. But the king does not accept what he says. The audience becomes aware of the truth of Teiresias’s statement, but it is rejected by Oedipus.
Tragic irony is also evident in Oedipus’s attitude towards Creon. Oedipus charges Creon with plotting against him in collaboration with Teiresias. Though Creon strongly defends himself with convincing argument, Oedipus tends to disbelieve him, and threatens to punish him. The audience who are already aware of the real truth, feel the ironic significance of what Oedipus says to Creon, and the attitude he shows towards him. In the final scene, the roles are reversed; Oedipus becomes the supplicant, and Creon the authority. Tragic irony comes to be fully realized.
Queen Jocasta’s account of the oracle also provides tragic irony. Jocasta is sceptical of the oracle. To prove the falsity of the oracle, she gives an account of what she and her husband did to the new-born baby who was to kill his father. But ultimately her ideas are falsified towards the end.
After Oedipus hears the oracle from Corinth, when he was the Corinthian prince, he believes that he is the son of Polybus and Merope, and tries to falsify the oracle by fleeing from Corinth. But all that he does in an effort to falsify the oracle, ironically contribute towards the fulfilment of the prophecies of the oracle.
Jocasta’s dealings with the Corinthian messenger is full of tragic irony. She mocks the oracles, but she does not realize that her mockery will turn against herself. The messenger remarks that Jocasta is the “true consort” of the man like Oedipus. Jocasta tells Oedipus that the news brought by the Corinthian messenger proves the hollowness of the oracles because Polybus, Oedipus’ f4ther died a natural death But all these prove ironical at the end.
The song of the chorus sings that the King Oedipus is the son of some god and a mountain nymph. It attributes divine, parentage to Oedipus. The words of Corinthian shepherd prove that the words of the chorus are false
In addition to the irony in the episodes there is irony in the inversion of the whole action. The homeless wanderer Oedipus by delivering the city of Thebes from the Sphinx and marrying Jocasta, became a king. But ultimately he becomes a homeless wanderer again. And the wanderer who was once bright eyed with his strong traveller’s staff, now. uses the staff to feel the way before him as he is old and blind.
Thus the whole drama King Oedipus is full of irony from its very beginning to the end.