Oedipus Rex: Usage of Literary Devices

May 6, 2021 by Essay Writer

Literary Devices in Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex is a remarkable play by Sophocles, centering around Oedipus’ purpose of finding the cause of the curse that is tyrannizing Thebes, the city where Oedipus is king. The play strongly demonstrates the point of how one’s pride could cause them to bloat and be blind to the truths around him or her, as had happened with Oedipus. Oedipus, who is self-confident, was so immersed in his own success that he realized when it was too late of how he was the murderer of his own father, the husband of his own mother, the cause of the curse in Thebes, and the person shepherding the life of lies. In addition to the memorable and thought-provoking plot the play has, it has an element of limitation of space as well as a perfectly organized structure that helps to increase tension and drive drama within the play.

The organized structure Oedipus Rex employs within the play is that of an exposition, a rising action, a climax, and a denouement. One thing that sets the play apart from others is how the limitation of time was effectively used to raise tension. Oedipus was on a self-set time schedule where he promised himself and the people of Thebes that he will find the cause of the curse and get rid of it immediately. The play creates the feeling that there isn’t enough time by explaining how people are affected by the curse, and by showing how Oedipus wants immediate answers from those he’s questioning, causing him to jump to immediate conclusions. Additionally, it seems that the entire play takes place in the span of a short time, which shows to the audience how one dramatic event follows right after another, adding to the tension. For example, as soon as Oedipus discovered that Jocasta had killed herself, he gauged his eyes out; the audience weren’t allowed to welcome their shock of Jocasta’s death since the play had already shown them another dramatic event, Oedipus gauging his eyes out. Overall, the technique of limitation of time was used throughout the play which can be seen in the time-span of the events, as well as the sense of immediacy.

In the exposition of the play, the audience are thrown into a situation where they’re introduced to the various characters of the play, and the situation at hand; how Thebes is under a curse, how Creon is requesting the cure for the curse from Apollo, how Oedipus finds out from Creon that he must find the killer of King Laius to lift the curse. All these events are simply background information for the audience, so they can thoroughly understand what’s going on in the play, and the characters and their respective roles. The rising action of a play provides a number of events and details that directs the audience towards the highest point of the play, the climax. The rising action of Oedipus consisted of Oedipus questioning the prophet who unwillingly revealed to him that he is the cause of the curse, Oedipus discussing his situation with Jocasta and Jocasta recalling her own fate with prophecies, Oedipus further seeking out the truth by questioning the servant who survived the attack on the king, and by finally realizing the truth that he had indeed killed King Laius.

In the climax of Oedipus Rex, there’s a lot going. Not only did Oedipus just discover that he is the cause of the curse of his city, but he killed his father and is wedded with his mother. Once Oedipus finds Jocasta, she has already discovered the truth at this point herself and suicided, which causes Oedipus to gauge his eyes out. Following the climax of the play was the denouement where Oedipus kept his promise of lifting the curse off of Thebes by banishing himself from the city, and having Creon promise him to take care of his daughters and of Thebes.

As can be seen, Oedipus Rex is a rollercoaster of a play for audience. It successfully raises tension by utilizing literary devices such as organizational structure and the method of limitation of time. More importantly, the play teaches the significant lesson that one should stray away from being prideful and should give more heed to other’s advices. If Oedipus was not blinded by his own success and confidence, he might not have had to live such a tragedy.

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