Tone in Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex 4
"live at random..."   (Oedipus Rex)

Jocasta is the first character to openly embrace fate. Her tone is more relaxed, almost jovial, as she discusses taking things as they come, rather than worrying about what could be. “[F]ortune” is an interesting choice of words, as it can have two meanings. Jocasta uses it as a synonym for an event that happens by chance, but it also denotes a great sum of money. Both of these meanings have positive connotations. This contrasts with the way Oedipus and Tiresias speak about destiny and prophecy in more grave terms.

"stain of my doom..."   (Oedipus Rex)

The tone of the play gets especially dark here as Sophocles examines the illusion of choice in human existence. Sophocles uses “stain” to describe Oedipus’s fate, suggesting it is permanent and inalterable.

"This very day will sire you..."   (Oedipus Rex)

Tiresias often speaks cryptically, but he seems to be saying that the truth about Oedipus’s long-debated parentage will finally be revealed on this day, which will create a sort of rebirth for Oedipus. “Rebirth” usually connotes positive change, but the use of “destroy” creates a more ominous tone.

"in whom alone of men lives the truth..."   (Oedipus Rex)

Even though Oedipus will try to find the truth, an explanation for the plague, he will have a difficult time finding it because Tiresias is the only one who can access it. Oedipus is unable to access this truth to alter the course of events, allowing the prophecy to come true. His ignorance and the tone of inevitability are the main sources of drama and tension in the play.