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Text of OEDIPUS REX (OEDIPUS THE KING) ENG 273: World Literature

Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King)

Oedipus Rex(Oedipus the King)ENG 273: World Literature

Greek TheaterTheater was very popular in Ancient Greek culture

Drama competitions held at religious festivals (Dionysus)


ComponentsStory taken from Greek MythologyAction takes place outsideIncludes chorusComment on the action of the play

SophoclesLived c. 497 c 405 B.C.

Athenian Playwright

Plays actually survivedAjax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes, Oedipus at Colonus

Innovative techniques, deep character development,

The PlayBased on well known Greek MythTragedy

Told and retold in Oral Tradition

First performed in 486 B.C.

Audience would have been very familiar with the story

Impact on Western literature and cultureSigmund Freud PyschoanalysisOedipal Complex

The PlotOedipus is King of ThebesBecame King after solving the Sphinxs riddle

Thebes is wracked with plague

Oedipus sent Creon to the Oracle to find out how to rid the city of the plagueAnswer: Find Lauis murderer and punish him (execute or banish)

ProphesiesLaius would be murdered by his sonPreventive measure: baby son left on mountain to dieOedipus would kill his father and marry his motherPreventive measure: ran away from his parents

Hidden truth: the prophesies came true

The AudienceFrom the beginning of the play, the audience is aware of the knowledge that Oedipus lacksHe killed his father and married his mother

Scenes build on the tension between what the audience knows and what Oedipus does not know

AristotleFirst example of Literary Criticism in PoeticsOedipus the King = perfect tragedyPlot: beginning, middle, and endCatharsis = release of emotionPerfect tragic heroNot fully evilNot fully goodAllows the audience to sympathize with his plight

Characters: On StageOedipus

Creon (brother-in-law)

Tieresias (blind prophet)

Jocasta (wife/mother)

Antigone and Ismene (daughters)





Characters: Off StageLaius (deceased father)

King and Queen of Corinth

Characters: DivineApollo (Phoebus)

The Sphinx

The Oracle

Key ThemesSearch for TruthKnowledge versus IgnoranceBlindness versus Sight

Power of ProphesyFate/Destiny versus Free WillRelationship of gods to humans

Flawed HeroPrideArrogance