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OEDIPUS REX:. (Oedipus the King) The first play in the Theban trilogy and the model of Greek tragedy. The audience watches a man’s fate unravel before him:. PROLOGUE QUESTION 1: Read the play’s backstory and evaluate the role of FATE vs. FREE WILL in the play.

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(Oedipus the King)

The first play in the Theban trilogy and the model of Greek tragedy

The audience watches a man’s fate unravel before him:


  • Read the play’s backstory and evaluate the role of FATE vs. FREE WILL in the play.

  • Then explain why audiences experience CATHARSIS, an outpouring of pity or fear when Oedipus finds out his true identity.

Suppliants (beggars) gather at the gates of the city


There is a plague on the city of Thebes and the people have come to beg Oedipus for help. Pre-read page 160 to find out what problems the city has and make a sign for the rally at the gates of the city.

Oedipus faces a crowd of Thebans, his people who are suffering.


  • What do we learn about Oedipus

    from his opening comments?


  • How does he feel about his city and his people?

  • How does he react to their begging?

  • How does he describe himself?

  • What do his comments foreshadow (hint) for the audience?

Prologue Recap:

Setting: The gates of the royal home of Oedipus

Before the scene:

  • “Many years have passed since Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx” and taken the throne of the previous king, Laius.

  • He has tried to escape his prophesy that he would murder his father and marry his mother—he has fled his city of Corinth.

  • He did not know he was adopted though—he kills a man on his way to Thebes (his biological father) and married the queen after saving the city from the Sphinx (his biological mother).

Prologue Recap:

  • Oedipus comes out of his home to welcome the “children of Thebes,” beggars who have come asking him to help the city.

  • Oedipus shows he cares for his people: “I’m ready to help, I’ll do anything.”

  • Oedipus ironically (DRAMATIC IRONY) references blindness—we know he is figuratively blind to his true identity and that he will literally blind himself later. (FORESHADOWING, BLINDNESS MOTIF)

  • He greets the priest who has come to speak on behalf of the people of Thebes.

  • The priest tells him that the city is a sinking ship that “cannot lift her head from the depths.” (SHIP MOTIF)

The priest speaks of the plague and begs help of Oedipus.


  • What does the priest reveal about the city and its people?

  • What does the priest want from Odysseus?

  • How does he appeal to him with flattery?

  • How does he appeal to his pride?

  • How does he remind the audience of the dangers of HUBRIS—excessive pride or arrogance?

Oedipus feels the pain of the city of Thebes.


  • How does Oedipus respond to the priest’s request?

  • Consider what this reveals about him as a leader.

  • What action has he already taken?

  • Consider the role of religion and the gods in ancient tragedy.

Creon says that the killer must be banished or “pay back blood with blood.”


  • What is Creon’s message from the oracle?

  • Consider why although Creon tries to report to Oedipus in privacy, Oedipus insists on taking the report in public.

  • What information is now needed?

  • Consider what “grounds for hope”

    Oedipus feels he now has.

Oedipus reassures:“I’ll bring it all to light myself!”


  • How does Oedipus reassure him?

  • Consider the use of DRAMATIC IRONY (the contrast between the audience knows and a character does not know.)

  • How do lines 156-159 affect the audience?

  • Consider:

    “I am the land’s avenger.”

    “Not to assist some distant kinsman.”

    “For my own sake I rid us of this corruption.”

    “By avenging Laius I defend myself.”

The Chorus:


  • Here the Chorus represents the elders of Thebes.

  • They speak in poetry/song.

  • They narrate and comment on the action of the play.

  • They comment on the religious messages of the play as its moral compass.

  • Find at least one example of DICTION (word choice) related to religion and mourning (sorrow at a death or loss.)

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