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Oedipus The King, aka Oedipus Rex. Sophocles. 496-406 BC Most awarded playwright of ancient Athens Wrote 120 Plays Only 7 complete plays exist Fragments of others. Theban Plays. Cycle of three plays Oedipus The King Oedipus at Colonus Antigone Not performed together

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496-406 BC

Most awarded playwright of ancient Athens

Wrote 120 Plays

Only 7 complete plays exist

Fragments of others

theban plays

Theban Plays

Cycle of three plays

Oedipus The King

Oedipus at Colonus


Not performed together

Written over 35+ years apart

history of greek theater

History of Greek Theater

Great change during Sophocles's time

Changes in structure

Only chorus

Two actors --> three actors

Greater character development

Characters more dimensional

Audience could relate to them

Conflict between characters

roles in greek theater

Roles in Greek Theater


Provides background, reflects on actions, anticipates future actions

Represents citizens, morals & values

Strophe (movement across stage from right to left) and antistrophe (reaction to strophe which moves left to right)

Tragic Hero

High social standing

Tragic flaw

Other Characters

Speak in order of rank

Only three characters onstage

goal of greek theater

Goal of Greek Theater


Goal of tragedy is the purging of tragic flaw in hero of high station and superior values

Audience identifies with the flaw and is emotionally connected with character’s demise

structure of greek tragedy

Structure of Greek Tragedy

I. Prologue

-background info before chorus

II. Parodos

-entrance song sung by chorus

III. Episodes/Scenes

-main action in play

IV. Odes

-song reflecting events; weaves plot together

-performed by Choragos and Chorus

V. Paean

-a prayer of thanksgiving to honour Dionysus

VI. Exodos

-sung by chorus as it exits; offers words of wisdom

major themes in oedipus the king

Major Themes in Oedipus The King


Are we victims of fate?

Do we control our destiny?

State of Control

Government & Politics

Roles of leaders

Sight & Blindness

What do we see? What don’t we see?

What do we want to see? Why?



The Chorus

Oedipus The King

Queen Jacosta


Antigone & Ismene (daughters)

Tiresias the Seer

Laius (dead; not in play)

Polybus & Merope (not in play)

Oracle at Delphi (not in play)

before the play

Before the Play…

Queen Jacosta & King Laius of Thebes

Fortold of son’s future by Oracle of Delphi

Bind child’s feet in rope

Ask servant to kill him (but he doesn’t)

Child is found and raised as King Polybus’s son

Oedipus means “Swollen Feet”

before the play1

Before the Play…

Oedipus (Adult)

Hears rumors about lineage

Asks Oracle about parents

Oracle tells him that he will:

"Mate with [his] own mother, and shed/ With [his] own hands the blood of [his] own sire.”

Leaves because he does not want this to happen (he believed Polybus and Merope were his birth parents)

before the play2

Before the Play…

On the way to Thebes Oedipus encounters Laius

Argument over right of way in chariots

Oedipus’s pride leads him to kill Laius and his men

Part of prophecy fulfilled because Laius was his biological father

before the play3

Before the Play…

Thebes blocked by Sphinx

Oedipus solves riddle of the Sphinx:

"What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?”

Reward is kingship and marriage to Queen Jocasta

Second part of prophecy fulfilled

the start of the play

The Start of the Play

Many years later

Oedipus and Jacosta Have four children:

Two Sons (Polynices &Eteocles)

Daughters (Antigone & Ismene)

Plague in Thebes due to Laius’s death

Oedipus has vowed to find Laius’s murderer and exile him (unaware that HE murdered Laius)