“Oedipus the King” by Sophocles Review

The play takes place in Thebes, a city-state in ancient Greece (Sophocles wrote it in 429 BC.). Despite the fact that there is a day, the weather may be gloomy in order to emphasize the disaster affecting the city. The tragedy started in front of Oedipus’s palace where suffering and desperate citizens gathered. The original language of the play is Classical Greek.


Exposition or Introduction

The play starts with the introduction of the main characters and setting. People gather in front of the palace in Thebes; the priest with a group of children stands near the altar (Sophocles, 429 BC). Oedipus comes to citizens from the palace’s central door and the priest tells him that people gathered because there are a plague and other terrible disasters in the city.

Inciting Moment

Creon, Oedipus’s brother-in-law, returns to Thebes after visiting the oracle in order to ask him about the city’s misfortune. He informs Oedipus that all diseases are the result of pollution and its source, the murderer of the previous king, Laius, is in Thebes. Oedipus promises to search and search until this person will be found in order to stop citizens’ suffering.


Oedipus decides to ask Tiresias, a blind prophet, for help, however, he refuses to talk despite Oedipus’s outrage. Finally, Tiresias mentions that Oedipus is this murderer he is searching for. Thinking that it is Creon who forced Tiresias to say this in order to undermine the king, Oedipus wants to execute his brother-in-law, however, Jocasta, Oedipus’s wife, stops him. She states that Laius was killed on the road by bandits and describes her previous husband. Tormented by suspicions, Oedipus invites a shepherd who witnessed a murder.


Oedipus tells Jocasta about the oracle’s prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. In addition, he tells that he was on this crossroad where Laius was killed and had a conflict with people from a carriage and killed one person. Finally, a messenger from Corinth and the invited shepherd confirm that Oedipus was given to Polybus and Merope who raised him from Laius and Jocasta.


Understood that Oedipus is her son, Jocasta hangs herself, and Oedipus, cursing himself and fate, destroys his eyes.


Oedipus is a king of Thebes, a husband of Jocasta, and a father of four children. His peculiar feature, a wound in the ankles received in childhood not only determines his name but points at his tragic fate (Sophocles, 429 BC). Oedipus may be regarded as a good king who cares about his people and is ready to sacrifice himself to stop their sufferings. He does not know he killed his father and married his mother despite the fact that he received such a prophecy in the past and tried to avoid it. Finally, he repents the murder of his father, his worst deed, and his mother’s death with his blindness.

Jocasta, a mother and a wife of Oedipus, is the play’s only female character. Similar to Oedipus, she does not know that the oracle’s prophecy has become true. She is a caring wife who tries to protect Oedipus from suspicions telling that prophets frequently lie. Later, realized that Oedipus is her son, she commits suicide not only feeling shame but guilt that she left Oedipus to die in his childhood as well.


The main theme of “Oedipus the King” is a conflict between blindness and sight. Introduced as a good king, a leader, and a hero that aims to save the city, Oedipus is subsequently changing facing the truth about his faith that he does not want to accept. While initially mocking Tiresias’s blindness, he finally punishes himself with blindness as well for the ignorance and inability to see his faith.


From a personal perspective, “Oedipus the King” is an outstanding work of ancient Greek literature that cannot leave anyone unemotional and indifferent. All issues it clearly addresses may be regarded as actual in the present day as well. In addition, the play’s importance is determined by the fact that it still remains an inspiration for various writers and playwrights to develop and search for new perspectives of identified problems.


Sophocles. (429 BC). Oedipus the King. In M. Puchner (Ed.), The Norton anthology of world literature. Volume 1. (4th ed.) (pp. 400-437). W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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