The newly crowned young king of Thebes, Oedipus, having solved the riddle of the sphinx, has married the widowed Theban queen Jocasta and fathered two daughters. A plague, however, has overtaken his kingdom since he took the throne. Through a series of reveals and hubristic missteps that bring Oedipus’ past to light, he discovers that it is Oedipus himself who has brought this ill fate to his city, having fulfilled a prophecy made when he was born–that he would kill his own father and marry his mother. In its tragic ending, Oedipus the King, or Oedipus Rex as is it known by its Latinized name, is the inspiration for many modern literary and social philosophies, including the concepts of hubris, literary tragedy, and the Freudian Oedipal Complex. This Sophoclean drama, first performed in 455 BCE, is the first in the Oedipus trilogy, which follows the tragic lives of Oedipus and his daughters, culminating in the death of Antigone. Sophocles’ Oedipus is not an original story or plot; the myths and characters of the play would have been well-known to the Greek audience. However, classicists believe that Sophocles added the unique and horrifying element of Oedipus’ self-blindness to his production, a new element that would have made a powerful and memorable impact on a well-known story. Today, Oedipus is perhaps the most well-known and one of the most frequently performed Greek tragedy. It is written without any intermission although some directors choose to divide the play into two acts.
Oedipus (Oedipus Rex, Oedipus the King) guide sections