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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 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
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
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
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
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 recap1
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
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
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
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
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 parados the entry of the chorus
The Parados: The Entry of the Chorus


  • Here the Chorus represents the elders of Thebes.
  • They speak in poetry/song and traditionally dance on stage.
  • They narrate and comment on the action of the play.
  • The Chorus will now remain on stage until the end of the play.
  • Their song is in mirroring stanzas called “strophe” and “antistrophe”
  • 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.)

first episode


  • What props or materials would enhance a theatrical production of Oedipus?
  • Consider the pros and cons of using the traditional masks of Ancient Greek drama.
  • s
parados and episode 1 recap
Parados and Episode 1 RECAP:


  • The Chorus enters and chants to the gods, begging to be saved from the plague.
  • “Thebes is dying” (169).

Episode 1:

  • Oedipus announces to the people how he will seek out the killer of the previous king, Laius (whom he doesn’t know is the guy he killed at the crossroads and is his father)
  • “I speak now as a stranger to the story” (171).
oedipus tries to catch the killer
Oedipus tries tocatch the killer:

EPISODE 1 QUESTION 3: (p171-172)

  • Describe Oedipus’ approach to catching the criminal.
  • “I order him to reveal the full truth to me.”
  • “He will suffer no unbearable punishment.”
  • “I will give a handsome reward.”
  • “But if you keep silent…”
  • “Banish this man…drive him out.”
  • “My curse on the murderer.”
  • Compare that with methods used to catch criminals today.
dramatic irony contrast between what audience knows and what oedipus does not
Dramatic irony (Contrast between what audience knows and what Oedipus does not)


  • Which of Oedipus’ lines provide added effect to the DRAMATIC IRONY?
  • “If I’d been present then, there would have been no mystery” (171)
  • “Let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step” (172)
  • “Why, our seed might have been the same,

children born of the same mother might have

created blood-bonds between us” (173)

  • “So I will fight for him as if he were my father” (173)
tiresias the blind prophet or seer sees with the eyes of apollo 174
Tiresias:the blind prophet or “seer”:“sees with the eyes of Apollo” (174).


  • Explain Oedipus’ PARADOXICAL (contradictory) statement about eyesight on p176.
  • Consider: the MOTIF (pattern) of contrast between sight vs. blindness, light vs. dark and truth vs. ignorance throughout the play.
contrast between oedipus and tiresias
Contrast between Oedipus and Tiresias


  • Why is Tiresias slow to give Oedipus the information he desires?
  • Consider the contrast in pacing (Oedipus’ desire for quickness and the old prophet’s slowness and steady, unyielding attitude.)
  • How does Oedipus respond to this delay?
  • Consider the role of emotionality for Oedipus.
conflict and irony tiresias vs oedipus
Conflict and irony: Tiresias vs. Oedipus


  • Why does Oedipus return his attention to Creon?
  • Consider the role he believes Creon plays in the prophecy given by Tiresias.
  • How does Oedipus display his superiority over Tiresias? How does that contribute to the DRAMATIC IRONY in the scene?
  • Consider what Tiresias and the audience knows that Oedipus does not know.
tiresias responds to the accusation so you mock my blindness 183
Tiresias responds to the accusation: “So, you mock my blindness?” (183)


  • What does Tiresias predict will happen to Oedipus? Explain. (183-185)
  • “If you find I’ve lied, from this day onward call the prophet blind” (185).
  • How does the Chorus view the accusations of Tiresias against Oedipus. Explain.
  • “No, not till I see these charges proved will I side with his accusers…Never will I convict my king, never in my heart.” (187).
episode 1 and stasimon 1 recap
Episode 1 and Stasimon 1 RECAP:
  • Oedipus begins to seek out the killer to relieve his city of the plague.
  • He calls upon the blind prophet Tiresias to reveal the truth.
  • Tiresias refuses to speak, but Oedipus bullies and threatens him into revealing what he knows.
  • Even more enraged, Oedipus now believes that the prophet is being bribed by his brother-in-law, Creon, whom he thinks wants the throne for himself.
  • Tiresias leaves Oedipus to reflect on his cursed life.
  • The Chorus calls upon the gods to reveal the truth, still remaining loyal (186-187).
creon the accused
Creon, the accused

EPISODE 2, QUESTION 2: (pages 188-189)

  • How does Creon present his CONFLICT (man vs. man) with Oedipus to the public?
  • How does the CHORUS (as “Leader”) respond to his comments?
  • Consider the CHORUS’ roles here:
  • Representative of city
  • Loyal subject to king
  • Mediator
creon fights oedipus with logic
Creon fights Oedipus with logic


  • How does Creon defend himself against the accusations of Oedipus?
  • What RHETORICAL APPEALS does he use?
  • Logic: “If I wore the crown…there’d be many painful duties to perform, hardly to my taste” (191).
  • Ethics: “How wrong it is to take the good for bad…reject a friend, a kinsman” (194).
  • Emotions: “I would as soon tear out the life within us, priceless life itself” (194).
episode 2 recap creon defends his own honor
Episode 2 RECAP:Creon defends his own honor
  • Oedipus has accused Creon of conspiring with the prophet Tiresias to bring him to ruin.
  • Creon rationally and logically explains that he would never want the king’s responsibility when he already has nearly as much power as second in command.
  • Oedipus cannot accept Creon’s logical and ethical appeals, but rather is blinded by his own emotion.
the queen arrives
The Queen arrives


  • Identify DICTION (word choices) in Jocasta’s first lines that sound more like a mother than a wife.
  • “Have you no sense? Poor misguided men,

such shouting—why this public outburst?

Aren’t you ashamed, with the land so sick,

to stir up private quarrels?” (196)

oedipus gives in to the chorus and jocasta
Oedipus gives in to the Chorus and Jocasta


  • Why does Oedipus eventually let Creon go?
  • How do both men indicate that their CONFLICT is not resolved?
  • “He, wherever he goes, my hate goes with him” (198).
  • “These men know I’m right” (198).
tracing a motif ships and pilots
Tracing a motif: ships and pilots


  • Explain the ship’s pilot (helmsman) METAPHOR.
  • Consider the ship references as a recurring motif.
  • “You who set our beloved land—storm-tossed, shattered—straight on course. Now again, good helmsman, steer us through the storm” (199).
jocasta prophesies are phony brush them from your mind 201
Jocasta: Prophesies are phony--“brush them from your mind” (201).


  • Explain Jocasta’s comments that no mortal has the power of prophecy.
  • “No skill in the world, nothing human can penetrate the future” (201).
  • How doe her comments produce DRAMATIC IRONY?
  • “There you see? Apollo brought neither thing to pass” (201).
oedipus this story sounds oddly familiar
Oedipus: This story sounds oddly familiar…


  • Which parts of Oedipus and Jocasta’s stories overlap?
  • Consider why Oedipus is growing anxious—what is he realizing?
  • Consider the SETTING:
  • PLACE: “I heard you say that Laius was cut down at a place where three roads meet” (202).
  • TIME: “The heralds no sooner reported Laius dead than you appeared and they hailed you king of Thebes” (202).
  • Consider what questions Oedipus asks—”Laius, how did he look?” (202).
recap this sounds oddly familiar oh no could the prophet be right
RECAP: This sounds oddly familiar—oh no, could the prophet be right?!
  • Jocasta finds Creon and Oedipus arguing about the prophecy. Oedipus believes Creon is conspiring to oust him fro the throne. Oedipus won’t listen to reason, and instead displays arrogance –HUBRIS.
  • Jocasta breaks up the argument like a mother with two petty children arguing. She tells Oedipus not to worry about prophets—they are phony. For example, a prophet told us that Laius would be murdered by his son, but he was killed by thieves at the place where three roads meet and our son died on a mountain with his feet bound.
  • This is when Oedipus recognizes the story: the time, the place, the appearance of the man… it all fits together!
oedipus recalls some important details
Oedipus recalls some important details…


  • What was Oedipus’ reason for seeking out the oracle as a young man?
  • Consider the revelation of the man at the banquet who had drunk too much.
  • Consider his parents’ response to the inquiry Oedipus makes into his birth.
  • “Still this thing kept gnawing at me” (205).
the crossroads of fate
The crossroads of fate


  • Describe Oedipus’ episode at the place where the three roads meet.
  • Is it consistent with the way that he has behaved so far in the play?
  • “I strike him in anger!” (206).
the horror
The horror:


  • As Oedipus unravels the truth, how does he respond to his discovery?
  • Why does he bring up the gods’ role in these events?
  • “Oh, but if there is any blood-tie between Laius and this stranger…what man alive more miserable than I? More hated by the gods?” (206).
  • “Wasn’t I born for torment? Look me in the eyes! I am abomination—heart and soul! I must be exiled” (206).
we must find the witness
We must find the witness!


  • What last hope does Oedipus have of his innocence?
  • “But at least question the witness” (207).
  • “You said thieves—he told you a whole band of them murdered Laius” (208).
stasimon 2 the chorus reflects on hubris
Stasimon 2: The Chorus reflects on HUBRIS


  • Explain the CHORUS’ concern about HUBRIS, excessive pride or arrogance.
  • What threat does the CHORUS make and why?
  • “Pride breeds the tyrant” (209).
recap episode 3
RECAP: Episode 3
  • Jocasta prays that Oedipus stops believing the prophecies which she thinks are false—”at the mercy of every passing voice” (211).
  • The Messenger from Corinth brings news that Oedipus is now also the king of Corinth, as his “father”, Polybus, has died.
  • Oedipus and Jocasta are relieved that he cannot “kill” his father now, as the prophecy suggested, but Oedipus still fears that he will bed his “mother” Merope.
  • Jocasta reassures him: “Many a man before you, in his dreams, has shared his mother’s bed. Take such things for shadows, nothing at all—live Oedipus as if there’s no tomorrow!” (215).
recap episode 3 continued
RECAP: Episode 3 continued
  • Oedipus shares his concerns with the Messenger, who assures him that he shouldn’t fear Merope—she’s not his birth mother.
  • With this revelation that his parents adopted him, Oedipus begins to pull the pieces of his story together.
  • Oedipus learns that this Messenger had been given Oedipus as a baby with bound feet from another shepherd—the very same one who had been witness to the murder of the king.
  • Jocasta tells Oedipus to ignore these coincidences, but Oedipus insists—”Fail to solve the mystery of my birth? Not for all the world!” (222).
  • When Oedipus insists to Jocasta that he must discover his true birth, she runs out shouting that he is doomed.
  • He thinks she is upset because he may be less royal than she expected.
recap oedipus episode 4
RECAP: Oedipus Episode 4
  • Oedipus greets the shepherd and interrogates him.
  • The shepherd clams up, but the messenger eggs him on, saying, “let me refresh his memory for him” (227).
  • Oedipus asks the guards to torture the truth out of him: “So you won’t talk willingly—then you’ll talk with pain” (228).
  • The shepherd admits that he took the baby of Jocasta and Laius with his feet bound and gave him to the messenger of the palace of Corinth. He reveals the true fate of Oedipus: “If you are the man he says you are, believe me, you were born for pain” (232).
the anagnorisis

Episode 4, QUESTION 3:

  • How should the actor portray ANAGNORISIS, the sudden realization of truth?
  • Consider movements, voice inflection, facial expression.
  • How can this create CATHARSIS or emotional reaction in the audience?
  • “O god—all come true, all burst to light!” (232).
the peripeteia
  • Episode 4, QUESTIONS 4 and 5:
  • How does the CHORUS describe the complete reversal of circumstances or the PERIPETEIA of Oedipus?
  • Describe the shift in his status from the beginning of the play to now.
  • How and why does the CHORUS use the sight vs. blindness and dark vs. light MOTIF on page 234?
  • Consider the language that foreshadows that Oedipus will bling himself.
  • “We crowned you with honors, Oedipus, towering over all” (233).
  • But now…is there a man more agonized? More wed to pain and frenzy?” (234).
chorus and imagery

Episode 4, QUESTIONS 6 and 7:

  • The Messenger says that “the pains we inflict upon ourselves hurt most of all” (235). This is an important principle of the tragic hero—he causes his own downfall.
  • Are Oedipus’ pains self-inflicted? Explain.
  • Do you agree with this philosophy? Explain.
  • What IMAGERY describes Oedipus’ blinding.
  • Include details of at least three of the five senses (touch, sight, smell, sound, taste)