Oedipus The King as Greek Tragedy
The genre of drama is wide and contains works of varied forms and subjects.
The first drama, on which all later works ...view middle of the document...
of the predictions made by the oracles led to the downfall of Oedipus, which
created a catharsis in the audience, brought by arousing feelings of pity and
fear for the fallen king. The Choragos gives the lesson, ÒÉlet none presume
on his good fortune until he find life, at his death, a memory without painÓ (l.
1473-5). This scene allows the audience to leave the theater feeling purged of
their pity and fear. The plot is the most important component of Oedipus the
King, as it is of every Greek Tragedy. Development of characters is
secondary, and the audience rarely Ôgets insideÕ any of the characters. Only
characters crucial to the plot are introduced; there is no extraneous action on
stage. This development of plot is a challenge. A tragedian must present a
story with which the audience is already familiar and still make it interesting
and exciting. Sophocles accomplishes this goal by using dramatic irony.
Several times in the play the audience knows something the characters on
stage do not. During the conversation between Oedipus and Iokaste in which
Oedipus is trying to determine if he is King LaiosÕs murderer, Iokaste tells him
that he canÕt possibly be the killer, since ÒMy child was doomed to kill him; and
my childÉdied firstÓ (l. 810-1). The audience, familiar with the story, knew that
her child in fact had not died, and that Oedipus was actually both her child
and the killer. This creates suspense that came to be called Sophoclean irony.
By using this dramatic irony, Sophocles ensures that his plays will be
interesting to an audience that already knows the story. The story in Oedipus
the King, characteristic of all Greek Tragedy, has unity of time, place and
action, since it takes place all in one day, happens in a...