Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex allows the audience to experience pity and terror by the story of the hero brought low by a power greater than himself. This catharsis brings the viewers a sympathetic understanding of life in all its complexity. The play is very powerful because it brings pleasure to the audience by using dramatic irony, Aristotle's definition of a tragic hero and the audience's previous knowledge of the myth, which in return allows the audience to identify and feel sympathy for the hero.
Dramatic irony is a literary technique where the characters have an inaccurate understanding of the facts. The audience is familiar with the myth of Oedipus Rex, therefore they know more than the characters, causing the audience to become emotionally invested because of their prior knowledge. Dramatic irony is used throughout the whole play when characters have inaccurate or incomplete knowledge of their situation and their own words. For example, when Oedipus says in the first scene, "I take the sons part, just as though I were his son, to press the fight for him and see it won!" (Sophocles,715), Oedipus is ironically taking the position of a son when we as the audience know he biologically is Laios' son. We realize Oedipus is damning himself when he declares punishment on he who has murdered King Laios. Oedipus doesn't know it but we do and that's the hook of the drama, to keep the audience feeling terror and pity for the hero. The irony is what makes this play powerful because of the viewers knowledge; they can connect with Oedipus and understand he has been cursed from birth.
Another part of the drama that makes it powerful is the notion of the tragic hero. The tragic hero should neither be better or worse morally than normal people, in order to allow the audience to identify with them. This introduces pity, which makes this tragedy so powerful. If the hero was perfect we would be outraged with their fate or not care especially because of their ideological superiority.