In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the theme of irony plays an important part through the play. What Oedipus does, what he says, and even who he is can sometimes be ironic. This irony can help us to see the character of Oedipus as truly a 'blind' man, or a wholly 'public' man. .
A great irony is found in Oedipus's decree condemning the murderer. Oedipus says, "To avenge the city and the city's god, / And not as though it were for some distant friend, / But for my own sake, to be rid of evil. / Whoever killed King Laios might - who knows? - / Decide at any moment to kill me as well." Later he says, "As for the criminal, I pray to God - / Whether it be a lurking thief, or one of a number - / I pray that that man's life be consumed in evil and wretchedness." When we know the truth that Oedipus is the killer he speaks of, this statement becomes very ironic. Oedipus puts himself as his worst enemy, as he says later, "I think that I myself may be accurst / By my own ignorant edict." .
Oedipus makes many ironic statements throughout the play. One of the most sad is when Oedipus makes a slip and says 'highwayman' instead of highwaymen. This could suggest that Oedipus subconsciously knew that he had fulfilled the prophesy all along and had suppressed this knowledge as it was too horrible. Oedipus first invokes the gods, saying, "I pray the favor of justice, and of all immortal gods." Then, when they grant that justice, he damns them: "God. God. . . . What has god done to me? . . . Children, that god was Apollo." At the beginning of the drama, Oedipus unknowingly tells the truth again: "Sick as you are, no one is as sick as I." Oedipus confirms this later, after he knows the truth, by saying, "For I am sick in my daily life, sick in my origin." It is ironic also that Oedipus saves the city from the plague of the Sphinx and in doing so, he brings on another plague some years later by his very presence. .
The theme of sight, 'true' sight, and blindness also contains much irony.