“Oedipus the King” is one of the most famous Greek tragedies and its plot is based on the myth about Oedipus. This tragedy is considered one of the best tragedies regarding plot and fable organization – dating from Aristotle era.
Like in many other dramatic and epic works everything starts “in media res” – in the middle of everything. Plot starts from the moment that is not the same as chronological beginning, but in the middle of the story. All this gives author more options as far as the plot goes, because chronology can go either way – forward or backward from this moment.
As for the “Oedipus the King” action goes back mostly because Oedipus subsequently discovers what happened and the action unravels. All this gives the impression of greater tension.
Laius, king of Thebes, found out from a prophet that he will be killed by his own son. That’s why he ordered for his son’s feet to be stabbed and for him to be taken to the mountain Kithairon so that the animals would eat him. The shepherd that was supposed to take the child there felt sorry for him and gave him to another shepherd. That other shepherd gave the child to king Polybus.
He decided to adopt the child without ever telling him where he came from. After a while a drunken man tells Oedipus that he is not Polybus son and then Oedipus was left with the benefit of the doubt. He decided to find out the truth so he went to the prophet and found out his destiny but he believed that he was meant to kill Polybus who he still considered to be his father and marry his own mother. He did not find out he actually wasn’t Polybus son.
He was struck by that finding and decided to leave for Thebes. He got into trouble on his way there. He encountered an old man and got into a fight with him. During the fight he killed him and the man who was with him. Then he solved the monster’s riddle and there for liberated Thebes from its terror. As a reward he inherited the throne of Thebes.
Soon after he married Jocasta, Laius widow who was actually his mother. They had four kids and he ruled Thebes.
Thebes got hit by a plague so Oedipus sent his brother-in-law to the prophets to find out more about this and get an advice on how to solve the situation. Creon found out that the murderer of Laius was in Thebes and that he should be found and punished. When that will be accomplished the city will be liberated from the plague.
The investigation began. Oedipus was advised to talk to a fortune-teller about it but he did not say much about the situation. Oedipus got furious and accused him to be the killer’s accomplice. He was upset about the accusation to he told Oedipus that the real murderer was him.
Furious and hurt because of that information Oedipus accused the blind fortuneteller that he was working with Creon. Creon swore that he had nothing to do with it but Oedipus didn’t believe him. Jocasta calmed him down telling him not to worry about the fortuneteller. She told him about the prophecy that Laius will be murdered by his son and instead of that he was murdered by robbers on a crossroads.
Even though those were supposed to be words of comfort Oedipus remembered that he killed somebody on the crossroad. He remembered the way of finding out the truth. He ordered his servants to bring him the shepherd. He was the only one who survived from the Laius chaperons. Then Oedipus got the news that Polybus died and that he should take over his throne. He said no because he feared the possibility of getting married to his own mother.
The messenger told him that he has nothing to worry about because he wasn’t even Polybus son. He told him that he brought him to Polybus when he was just a child and that he was taken from the shepherds who worked for Laius.
Jocast realized the truth then and went to the castle in silence. The shepherd showed up and confirmed that indeed it was Oedipus who killed his father and married hisown mother. Oedipus was devastated by that.
After a while a servant came barring horrible news. Jocasta had killed herself and Oedipus had taken his own eyes out. He took a needle from Jocasta’s dress and blinded himself. He did it because he did not see what the blind fortuneteller did see.
The tragedy ends with Oedipus asking Creon to take care of his two daughters Antigone and Ismene and that he can banish him from the land. That’s how Oedipus life ended tragically instead of happily.
Characters: Oedipus, Jocasta, Creon, messenger, shepherds, Laius
Oedipus – an hero of the play and main character. Courageous, just, appreciated the honesty and sincerity. His whole life was a search for the truth about his origins. He was tormented by doubt and he wanted to avoid the tragic fate that has been handed down by the prophets in every way possible. He was not aware of the fact that all his life he lived under a false identity. When he found out that he is the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother he realized who he is and how wrong he was, and not even aware of anything. He could not withstand the pressure because he also somehow disappointed himself. His ideals were disturbed by the truth, he realized that he made something that he just wanted to avoid. He couldn’t stand this pressure, so he plucked his eyes out and decided to go into exile.
Sophocles (495 – 406 B.C.) was born near Athena and he came from a wealthy family. He was a play writer and one of the three great tragedians next to Aeschylus and Euripides.
Even though he was a poet he was vividly involved in political business.
He wrote over hundred tragedies and only seven were saved: Oedipus the King, Antigone, Electra, Ajax, The Trachiniae, Epigoni, Oedipus on Colonus.
He introduced the third character into the plays and he placed a man, passion and action into the center of the plot and also he let go of the mythical Greek world.
Book reports from Sophocles