The Use of Literary Devices in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Antigone

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I found Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Antigone two captivating and intriguing plays. I chose to examine these plays in depth because I am drawn to Sophocles’ poetic style, particularly the sharp imagery, dramatic prose, and rhythmic flow his work achieves. Although Sophocles wrote both plays as poems, the English translator of Oedipus the King, Bernard M. W. Knox, decided to adapt the text as an “acting version” for the stage, as stated in the translator’s preface. He also crafts sympathetic characters whose journeys pose deep philosophical questions for the reader to contemplate and analyze. He effectively employs literary techniques such as dramatic irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing to develop his characters and the plays’ central themes. In addition, his work offers readers a glimpse into ancient Greek culture by exploring how the roles of gender and the gods shape a character’s quest for truth. Thus, altogether, Sophocles employs a combination of literary devices and commentary on Greek culture and society in Oedipus the King and Antigone to reveal the importance of following one's heart and remaining committed to the truth, no matter how painful, dangerous, or tragic the consequences. To begin, one primary literary device that Sophocles employs in Oedipus the King is dramatic irony. Early on in the play, through Oedipus’s encounter with the blind prophet Tiresias, the reader is asked to question who the real blind man is in Thebes. Though Tiresias is literally blind, Oedipus is figuratively blind, because he is blind to the truth of his identity. Sophocles therefore uses irony not only to show the contrast between the blindness of these two characters, but as a tool for realizing tragedy. For example, Tiresias tells O... ... middle of paper ... ... though he is figuratively blind to the truth of the literally blind prophet Tiresias’s words, and his wife Jocasta deters him in his pursuit to discover that truth, he ultimately confronts his tragic destiny. Here, the reader moreover sees how masterful Sophocles is at employing irony, foreshadowing, and symbolism to contrast Oedipus’s blind ignorance to Tiresias’s physical blindness as a guise for divine truth. Through analyzing both Oedipus the King and Antigone I have not only developed a deeper understanding of Sophocles’ literary brilliance, but I have also gained sharper insight into Greek society and the role of gender and the gods in complicating tragedy and the pursuit of truth. I found Oedipus and Antigone particularly sympathetic characters; both remind me of the importance of staying true to oneself and following one’s heart even at the risk of death.

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