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Important Terms and Characters at a glance!

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Important Terms and Characters at a glance!. Sophocles:. Wealthy gentleman of Athens—never left the city Active in civic affairs. Wrote first play at age 28—wrote approx. 125 plays

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  • Wealthy gentleman of Athens—never left the city
  • Active in civic affairs.
  • Wrote first play at age 28—wrote approx. 125 plays
  • Wrote his plays in separate pieces resisting the common trilogy. The Oedipus trilogy was not written in chronological order.
sophocles continued
Sophocles continued
  • Credited with making changes to drama—he added a third actor, created more elaborate costumes, and painted sets.
  • His plays offered good examples of dramatic foils and dramatic irony.
  • His attitudes and messages are:
    • There is no security in life
    • Man must accept his limitations
    • Good fortune is transient
    • No man is perfect
oedipus rex
Oedipus Rex
  • First play in a trilogy called “Oedipus the King” by the playwright Sophocles.
  • Oedipus- Swollen Foot
  • Hubris- excessive pride likely to evoke the wrath of the gods.


  • We recognize the tragic flaw of Oedipus through his unavoidable fate
    • Oedipus has excessive pride, realizes his error, suffers gallantly, and then we as the audience experience Catharsis
oedipal complex
Oedipal Complex
  • Defined as the Freudian Theory that all young children around age 3+ have a strong attachment to the parent of the opposite gender and wish to kill/destroy the same gender parent so they can take their place.
in media res
In media res
  • In the middle of the action
  • When the play begins, there will be no explanation of what is taking place. You will realize before and after events through character dialogue.
divine right
Divine Right
  • Belief that a King was considered a superior being because he was chosen by God or the gods.
  • Crimes against the King were considered the worst of acts
  • Regicide- Killing of a king
other important terms
Other important terms

Polis- City State; Independent cities but still a part of the Greek empire. Often at war with one another.

Thebes- Polis of the Greek Empire. Setting of Oedipus Rex and many other Greek plays

Corinth- Polis where Oedipus grew up

think about it
Think about it
  • Tarot cards, Fortune cookies, Magic Eight Balls
  • Psychics, Ouija Boards, Nostrodamus
  • Revelations, the Apocalypse, other religious predictions
  • Fate plays a major role in Oedipus, as well as many Greek plays. In this day and age, what are some ways that ones destiny can be predicted?
oracle at delphi
Oracle at Delphi
  • Current Connections:
  • Ancient peoples prophesied in ways we may find grotesque. Ancient Romans studied animal entrails while Ancient Greeks listed to the oracles.
  • Oracle- the place and/or spirit that delivers the message, the message from the gods
oracle at delphi1
Oracle at Delphi
  • Delphi is the place that characters in Oedipus go to hear the prophesies
  • Usually a place where a priestess or seer goes or sits waiting to hear a message from the gods
  • They then return to share their messages
other important terms1
Other important terms
  • Sphinx- Mythical creature with the face and bust of a woman, head and body of a lion, and wings of a bird.
  • Chorus- In Oedipus, the chorus consists of the old Theban citizens. They lead in the dialogue.
  • Choragos- Leader of the Chorus
  • King Laius: King of Thebes; Oedipus’ biological father; pierces the baby’s foot with iron led so that it cannot crawl and secretly gives him to a shepherd to abandon on the mountains

Oedipus kills him (not knowing its his father) in self-defense after they argues the right-of-way at a crossroad.

  • Queen Jocasta: Queen of Thebes; mother and wife of Oedipus
  • Creon: Jocasta’s brother/Oedipus’ uncle. Later becomes King of Thebes
  • Eurydice: Creon’s wife/Oediups’ aunt.
  • Tiresias: The blind seer. Adds to the irony.
  • King Polybus and Queen Merope: Oedipus’ adoptive parents. He thinks they are his biological parents and runs away after he is accidentally told by a man at a party that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother.
  • Antigone/Ismene/Polynices/Eteocles: Children of Oedipus and Jocasta. Also Oedipus’ brothers and sisters.
how it all goes down
How It All Goes Down

The Backstory:

First of all, to understand Sophocles’ play, Oedipus the King (also known as Oedipus Rex), a bit of Greek Mythology is in order. Oedipus was a strong, young man who was walking down the road when all of a sudden, an arrogant rich guy nearly runs him over with a chariot. The two fight – the rich guy dies. Further down the road, Oedipus meets a Sphinx who has been plaguing the city of Thebes, and challenging pedestrians with riddles. (Anyone who guesses wrong gets gobbled up.) Oedipus solves the riddle correctly, and becomes the King of Thebes. Not only that, he marries an attractive older gal named Jocasta – the recently widowed queen of Thebes.

the play begins
The Play Begins

The setting is Thebes, over a decade after Oedipus has become king. The Chorus (a bunch of citizens who talk and move in unison) complains to their king about the terrible plague. King Oedipus wants to solve the city’s problems. Apparently Zeus and the rest of the Olympian Gods are angry that the previous king was murdered and no one bothered to find the murderer.

Oedipus vows to find the killer and bring justice. He will punish the killer no matter who the culprit is… even if it is a friend, or a relative, even if he himself turns out to be the killer. (But that couldn’t possibly happen, could it???)

the plot thickens
The Plot Thickens

Oedipus requests help from a local prophet, an old timer named Tiresias. The aging psychic tells Oedipus to stop looking for the killer. But this just makes Oedipus all the more determined to find out who slew the previous king. Finally, Tiresias gets fed up and spills the beans. The old man claims that Oedipus is the murderer. Then, he declares that the murderer is Theban born, and (this part gets seriously disturbing) that he killed his father and married his mother.

ooh gross yuck
Ooh! Gross! Yuck!

Yes, Oedipus is a bit freaked out by Tiresias’ claims. This isn’t the only time he has heard this sort of prophesy. When he was a young man living in Corinth, another soothsayer claimed that he would kill his father and marry his mother. So, he ran away for Corinth to save his parents and himself from murder/incest.

Oedipus’ wife tells him to relax. She says that lots of prophecies do not come true. A messenger arrives with news that Oedipus’ dad is dead. This seems to imply that all of the icky curses and destinies are not ordained.

more bad news
More Bad News
  • Just when they think that life is fine (except for the deadly plague, of course) a shepherd arrives with a story to tell. The shepherd explains that long ago he found Oedipus as a child, a little baby left out in the wilderness. The shepherd took him back to Corinth where young Oedipus was raised by his adoptive parents.
  • With a few more disturbing puzzle pieces, Oedipus figures out that when he ran away from his adoptive parents, he bumped into his biological father (King Laius) and killed him during their roadside argument. (Nothing is worse than chariot road rage mixed with patricide). Then, when Oedipus became king and married Jocasta, Laius’ wife, he was actually marrying his biological mother.
wrapping things up
Wrapping things up

The chorus is filled with shock and pity. Jocasta hangs herself. And Oedipus uses the pins from her dress to gauge out his eyes. Well, we all cope in different ways I guess.

Creon, Jocasta’s brother, takes over the throne. Oedipus will wander around Greece as a wretched example of man’s folly. (And I assume Zeus and his fellow Olympians enjoy a mean-spirited chuckle.)