Introduction | Synopsis | analysis | Resources

Introduction – Oedipus Story

Back to peak of Page

Oedipus the King” (Gr: “Oidipous Tyrannos”; Lat: “Oedipus Rex”) is a tragedy by the old Greek playwright Sophocles, an initial performed in about 429 BCE. It to be the 2nd of Sophocles‘ 3 Theban plays to be produced, however it comes an initial in the internal chronology (followed by “Oedipus in ~ Colonus” and then “Antigone”).

You are watching: Where is the play oedipus rex set

It adheres to the story of King Oedipus the Thebes as he discovers the he has actually unwittingly killed his own father, Laius, and married his own mother, Jocasta. End the centuries, the has pertained to be related to by many as the Greek tragedy par excellence and certainly as the summit the Sophocles’ achievements.


Synopsis – Oedipus Summary

Back to height of Page

Dramatis Personae – Characters

OEDIPUSTHE monk OF ZEUSCREONCHORUS of THEBAN ELDERSTIRESIASJOCASTAMESSENGERHERDSMAN that LAIUS

To briefly recap ~ above the background to the play:

Shortly after Oedipus’ birth, his father, King Laius the Thebes, learned indigenous an oracle the he, Laius, was doomed come perish by the hand of his very own son, and also so ordered his mam Jocasta come kill the infant.

However, neither she nor she servant could carry themselves to death him and that was exit to elements. Over there he was found and brought up by a shepherd, before being bring away in and raised in the court the the childless King Polybus of Corinth together if he were his own son.

Stung by rumours the he was no the organic son that the king, Oedipus consulted one oracle i m sorry foretold the he would marry his very own mother and also kill his own father. No hope to protect against this foretold fate, and believing Polybus and also Merope to be his true parents, Oedipus left Corinth. ~ above the road to Thebes, the met Laius, his actual father, and, unaware of each other’s true identities, lock quarrelled and also Oedipus‘ proud led the to murder Laius, fulfilling part of the oracle’s prophecy. Later, he fixed the riddle that the Sphinx and his prize for releasing the kingdom that Thebes native the Sphinx’s curse was the hand the Queen Jocasta (actually his biological mother) and the crown that the city of Thebes. The prophecy was therefore fulfilled, although nobody of the main characters were mindful of it in ~ this point.

As the pat opens, a priest and also the Chorus the Theban elders room calling top top King Oedipus to assist them with the plague which has actually been sent out by Apollo to ravage the city. Oedipus has currently sent Creon, his brother-in-law, to consult the oracle in ~ Delphi top top the matter, and when Creon return at that very moment, he reports that the torment will only end when the murderer the their previous king, Laius, is caught and brought come justice. Oedipus vow to discover the murderer and also curses him because that the torment that he has actually caused.

*

Oedipus likewise summons the blind prophet Tiresias, who cases to recognize the answers to Oedipus‘ questions, however refuses come speak, lamenting his ability to check out the reality when the fact brings nothing but pain. That advises Oedipus to give up his find but, once the tease Oedipus accuses Tiresias the complicity in the murder, Tiresias is provoked into telling the king the truth, that he himself is the murderer. Oedipus dismisses this as nonsense, accusing the prophet of being corrupted by the ambitious Creon in an effort to threaten him, and Tiresias leaves, putting forth one last riddle: the the murderer the Laius will rotate out to be both father and brother to his very own children, and also the kid of his own wife.

Oedipus requirements that Creon it is in executed, convinced that that is conspiring against him, and also only the treatment of the Chorus persuades him to let Creon live. Oedipus‘ mam Jocasta speak him he should take no notification of prophets and oracles anyway because, countless years ago, she and also Laius obtained an oracle which never came true. This prophecy claimed that Laius would certainly be killed by his own son but, as everyone knows, Laius to be actually eliminated by bandits at a crossroads on the way to Delphi. The cite of crossroads reasons Oedipus to offer pause and he suddenly becomes worried the Tiresias‘ accusations might actually have actually been true.

*
When a messenger native Corinth arrives through news of the fatality of King Polybus, Oedipus shocks everyone v his obvious happiness at the news, as he look at this together proof that he can never death his father, although he still fears that he may somehow commit incest with his mother. The messenger, eager to ease Oedipus‘ mind, tells him no to worry due to the fact that Queen Merope that Corinth was no in fact his real mother anyway.

The messenger turns out to be the an extremely shepherd who had looked after an exit child, i m sorry he later on took come Corinth and also gave approximately King Polybus because that adoption. That is likewise the really same shepherd that witnessed the murder of Laius. By now, Jocasta is beginning to establish the truth, and also desperately begs Oedipus to stop asking questions. However Oedipus presses the shepherd, threaten him v torture or execution, till it finally emerges the the kid he offered away was Laius’ very own son, and also that Jocasta had offered the infant to the shepherd to privately be exposed ~ above the mountainside, in fear of the prophecy that Jocasta said had actually never come true: that the kid would kill its father.

With every now finally revealed, Oedipus curses himself and his catastrophic destiny and stumbles off, together the Chorus laments how even a great man have the right to be felled by fate. A maid enters and explains that Jocasta, once she had started to doubt the truth, had actually ran to the royal residence bedroom and hanged it s her there. Oedipus enters, deliriously calling for a knife so the he could kill himself and raging through the home until he comes upon Jocasta‘s body. In final despair, Oedipus bring away two lengthy gold pins from her dress, and plunges them right into his very own eyes.

Now blind, Oedipus begs to be exiled as quickly as possible, and also asks Creon come look after his two daughters, Antigone and also Ismene, lamenting the they should have actually been born right into such a cursed family. Creon counsels the Oedipus should be preserved in the palace until oracles have the right to be consulted concerning what is finest to be done, and also the pat ends together the Chorus wails: ‘Count no guy happy till the dies, free of pain in ~ last’.

Oedipus The King Analysis

Back to height of Page

The play follows one thing (the most dramatic one) in the life of Oedipus, King that Thebes, who lived about a generation before the occasions of the Trojan War, specific his progressive realization that he has actually killed his very own father, Laius, and also committed incest v his very own mother, Jocasta. The assumes a specific amount the background understanding of his story, i beg your pardon Greek audiences would have known well, although much of the background is likewise explained together the action unfolds.

*
The basis of the myth is recounted to some degree in Homer’s “The Odyssey”, and an ext detailed accounts would certainly have showed up in the chronicles of Thebes recognized as the Theban Cycle, although these have because been shed to us.

“Oedipus the King” is structured together a prologue and five episodes, every introduced by a choral ode. Every of the occurrences in the beat is component of a tightly constructed cause-and-effect chain, assembled with each other as an investigation of the past, and also the beat is thought about a marvel the plot structure. Component of the tremendous sense of inevitability and fate in the pat stems indigenous the truth that all the irrational things have currently occurred and are as such unalterable.

The main themes the the play are: fate and complimentary will (the inevitability of oracular suspect is a design template that often occurs in Greek tragedies); the conflict between the individual and the state (similar to that in Sophocles“Antigone”); people’s willingness to overlook painful truths (both Oedipus and also Jocasta clutch at unlikely details in stimulate to staying clear of facing approximately the inceasingly evident truth); and sight and also blindness (the irony the the blind seer Tiresius can actually “see” more clearly than the supposedly clear-eyed Oedipus, that is in reality blind come the truth around his origins and also his inadvertent crimes).

See more: How To Chuff Like A Tiger - The Noises Big Cats Make And What They Mean

Sophocles makes an excellent use that dramatic irony in “Oedipus the King”. For example: the civilization of Thebes involved Oedipus in ~ the start of the play, questioning him to rid the city that the plague, once in reality, the is he who is the cause; Oedipus curses the murderer that Laius the end of a deep rage at no being may be to discover him, actually cursing self in he process; that insults Tiresius’ blindness as soon as he is the one that actually lacks vision, and will soon himself be blind; and he rejoices in the news the the death of King Polybus of Corinth, when this new information is what in reality brings the disastrous prophecy come light.