Dramatic Irony In Oedipus

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Dramatic irony is a heatedly debated topic in contemporary literary criticism. This issue is especially explored in Sophoclean criticism in light of the tragic ambivalence which is well known in Sophoclean study. Rich scholarly contributions to dramatic irony were made in the past decades and the debate over the meaning of dramatic irony and its relation to tragic ambivalence is still under discussion. In the debate, scholars’ strong interest in Sophoclean language as a media to interpret Sophoclean strategy of irony has never ceased. “Sophocles is a supreme artist of language” states A. A. Long, yet “he is more difficult to analyze than either of his fellow tragedians.” Here the language finds it position where tragic ambivalence and dramatic …show more content…
In the third episode of this play, Jocasta, leaving Oedipus, comes out to ask Apollo to give her (921) λύσιν εὐαγῆ, “holy release”. But she has not predicted that her prayer for lusis would only turn out to be a tragic irony because her hope for release from the current fear will soon be dashed by the arrival of a messenger whose information will lead to the full unraveling of the plot. The truth that Oedipus is still alive and he kills his father brings back the pain Jocasta needs to suffer. The release she asks for has never been realized. Jocasta’s attempt to controll the situation through praying for lusis fails. This is a typical case tof the ironical use of the word lusis. “Release” is thus regarded by Goldhill as a crucial juncture of the plot, and every time what appears to be a release of burden or a solution to a problem would “turn out to be entwining the victims deeper and deeper into the meshes of the tragic plot.” (p. …show more content…
Another pattern of release is further proposed by Goldhill in his examination into Philoctetes: to release through deeds, which means, by Goldhill, to undo all former mistakes. “Undoing” the former mistakes is what Neoptolemus hopes to get relief at the turning point of Philoctetes. Unlike the former characters who wish to release through narrative, Neoptolemus wishes to release through action which would bring much more certainty. It could be regarded as a stronger pattern of release. Neoptolemus has got the bow and Odysseus appears. Odysseus takes Neoptolemus off stage towards the ship and leaves helpless Philoctetes alone with the chorus. It is at this time Neoptolemus regrets and he hurries back to the stage and returns the bow to Philoctetes. He declares that he “intends to undo (lusis) all the mistakes” (1224) that he has done before. However, as Goldhill points out: “it is harder than Neoptolemus imagined to undo what he has done: once trust has been lost by verbal deceit, how can words put it back again? So he gives back the bow: a deed, ergon, rather than a word.” (p. 32) Goldhill further suggests that even the action cannot “release” everything because Philoctetes cannot change his hatred and decision to go

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