Oedipus The King


Oedipus the King is a story of patricide and incest, which was written by Sophocles, an Ancient tragedian during the 5th century BC. Also known as the Oedipus Rex chronicles, the story focuses on a man named Oedipus, who became the King of Thebes and was prophesied to kill his father and marry his biological mother. In her book “Tragic Pleasures: Aristotle on Plot and Emotion, Belfiore conferred that Aristotle regarded “Oedipus the King” as the best Greek Tragedy.

CliffNotes provided a detailed but concise summary of the Oedipus the King where Sophocles emphasized the irony of a man who is determined to find and punish an assassin who in the end turned out to be himself.

The play started with Thebes’ clamour to King Oedipus to stop the plague that threatened the city. The oracle instructed the king’s brother –in-law, Creon to find the murderer of the former King of Thebes, King Laius. The blind prophet, Tiresias was then summoned by the King, who rejected the prophet’s accusation that he killed King Laius. Tiresias further hinted that Oedipus marriage was incestuous and blindness and infamy will soon fall to the King’s life. Jocasta, King Oedipus’ wife told him to ignore the prophecies. She explained that a prophecy that her former husband, Laius will be killed by his son did not come to past because he was murdered by robbers at a crossroad. This revelation from the queen distressed Oedipus because before becoming the king of Thebes, he killed a man who resembled like King Laius at a crossroad. To find the truth, he ordered a messenger to get the only living witness back, a shepherd, to provide details of the incident. The messenger revealed that Oedipus was abandoned when he was a baby and the shepherd offered him to a royal couple. At this instance, Oedipus was determined to know the truth about his life. At first, the shepherd refused to speak, but the king threatened to kill him, which led to the revelation that Oedipus was the son of Laius and Jocasta. The realization that the prophecy came true; Oedipus was anguished by his fate. Upon returning to the palace, he found that the queen killed herself. Tortured and miserable, he took pins from Jocasta’s gown and raked out his eyes. Blinded and shamed, he asked Creon to end his life but Creon refused. He then submitted to Creon’s leadership and waited for the oracle to prophesy if he will still stay or be thrown out of Thebes.

Oedipus the King is a good example of a classic tragedy where a hero’s acts contribute to his downfall. This play has been considered one of the most flourishing stories in the history of classic tragedy which made Sophocles one of the greatest Greek tragedians of his time.