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Oedipus rex

Oedipus rexsophocles

Born in Colonus, a small town outside Athens, Greece in 495 B.C.


Over 62 years, Sophocles wrote over 120 plays, 24 of which won first prize; the others placed in second at the competition.Only seven exist today. They are Ajax445 B.C.Antigone440 b.C.Electra440 b.C.Oedipus rex430 b.C.The trachiniae 413 b.C.Philoctetes410 b.C.Oedipus at colonus 401 b.C.

Toward the end of Sophocles life, Athens raged a war against Sparta, their bitter rivals

There also was a great plague in 430 B. C.

OEDIPUS REX One of the worlds greatest tragedies an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles that was first performed about 429 BC. Of his three Theban Plays that deal with Oedipus, Oedipus the King was the second to be written

a TRAGEDY a form of drama in which the protagonist, having some quality of greatness (as in Greek, Roman and Renaissance tragedy in high places), comes to disaster through some flaws in him brings about his inevitable downfall of death.

began during 6th century B.C in ancient Athens

OEDIPUS REX - BackgroundDuring the early years of the Peloponnesian War, when Oedipus Rex was produced, Athens suffered from political instability and devastating plague.

Ancient Athens

C h a r a c t e r sOedipus- the protagonist - becomes King of Thebes - he is renowned for his intelligence and his ability to solve riddles- stubbornly blind to the truth about himself- names literal meaning (swollen foot) - he killed his biological father, not knowing who he was, and proceeded to marry jocasta, his biological mother.

Jocasta- Oedipuss wife and mother, and Creons sister- she tells Oedipus not to trust in the oracles

Antigone- Child of Oedipus and Jocasta- lead and care for her old, blind father in his exile

Ismene-Child of Oedipus and Jocasta- underscores her sisters grandeur and courage

Polynices- Son of Oedipus, and thus also his brother- he arrives at Colonus seeking his fathers blessing in his battle with his brother, Eteocles, for power in Thebes

Creon- Oedipuss brother-in-law- claims to have no desire for kingship. Yet, when he has the opportunity to grasp power at the end of that play, Creon seems quite eager. We learn inOedipus at Colonusthat he is willing to fight with his nephews for this power, and inAntigoneCreon rules Thebes with a stubborn blindness that is similar to Oedipuss rule. But Creon never has our sympathy in the way Oedipus does, because he is bossy and bureaucratic, intent on asserting his own authority.

Tiresias- blind prophet and servant of Apollo- reveals the reasons for the devastation and plague in Thebes- tells Oedipus he will become blind and poor

Messenger - tells Oedipus that King Polybos of Corinth is dead- Oedipus learns from the messenger that Polybos was not his father- the messenger had been given Oedipus as an infant by one of Laius men

Shepherd of Laius - reveals his information only after Oedipus threatens his life- admits to receiving the infant (he gave to Polybos messenger) from Laius and Jocasta- Oedipus eventually realizes his own identity and his crimes of patricide and incest after hearing the shepherds story

Second messenger - announces and describes Jocastas suicide- predicts future sorrows for a people whose kings descend from this polluted line

Setting Thebes Corinth delphi

SUMMARY: Laius was married to Jocasta and were the rulers of Thebes. They were very happy because they were about to have a son. However, King Laius went to the Oracle of Delphi to get a prediction of his future. The oracle said that Laius was doomed to perish by the hands of his own son

With that news he tightly binds the feet of the infant together with a pin and orders Jocasta to kill the infant. Jocasta cant bear to do this so she orders a slave to do so. Instead, the servant takes baby Oedipus to a mountain top to die from exposure. A shepherd rescues the infant and names him Oedipus (or "swollen feet"). The shepherd carries the baby with him to Corinth where he is raised by King Polybus

As a young man in Corinth, Oedipus hears a rumor that he is not their biological son. He asks the Delphic Oracle who his parents really are. The oracle seems to ignore this question, telling him instead that he is destined to "mate with [his] own mother, and shed/with [his] own hands the blood of [his] own sire Desperate to avoid his foretold fate, Oedipus leaves Corinth in the belief that Polybus and Merope are indeed his true parents and that, once away from them, he will never harm them.

On the road to Thebes, he meets Laius, his true father.Unaware of each other's identities, they quarrel over whose chariot has right-of-way. King Laius moves to strike the insolent youth with his scepter, but Oedipus throws him down from the chariot and kills him.

Shortly after, Oedipus solves the riddle of the sphinx, which has baffled many a diviner: What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evenin?

The SphinxThere was a single sphinx in greek mythology, a unique demon of destruction and bad luck A winged lion with a woman's head The name 'sphinx' is derived from the greek sphingo, which means "to strangle".


The Sphinx throws herself off the cliffside. Oedipus' reward for freeing the Kingdom of Thebes from her curse is the kingship and the hand of Jocasta, his biological mother As he is now Ruler of Thebes, Oedipus has a new problem to face: a plague is ruining the land. It is a result of King Laius death being unsolved Oedipus vows to find the murderer and curses him for the plague that he has caused.

Oedipus summons the blind prophet Tiresias for help.. Oedipus is enraged by Tiresias's refusal, and says the prophet must be complicit in the murder. Outraged, Tiresias tells the king that Oedipus himself is the murderer. Oedipus thinks Creon, Jocastas brother, made Tiresias say this. Jocasta enters and attempts to comfort Oedipus, telling him he should take no notice of prophets. Many years ago she and Laius received an oracle which never came true. It was said that Laius would be killed by his own son, but, as all Thebes knows, Laius was killed by bandits at a crossroads on the way to Delphi.

A man arrives from Corinth with the message that Oedipus's father has died. Oedipus, to the surprise of the messenger, is made ecstatic by this news, for it proves one half of the prophecy false, for now he can never kill his father. However, he still fears that he may somehow commit incest with his mother. The messenger, eager to ease Oedipus's mind, tells him not to worry, because Merope was not in fact his real mother.

Everything is at last revealed, and Oedipus curses himself and fate before leaving the stage When Jocasta enters the house, she runs to the palace bedroom and hangs herself there. Giving a cry, Oedipus takes her down and removes the long gold pins that held her dress together, before plunging them into his own eyes in despair. Oedipus's two daughters (and half-sisters), Antigone and Ismene, are sent out, and Oedipus laments that they should be born to such a cursed family.

T h e m eQuest for identity and truthNature of innocence and guiltNature of moral responsibility

I m a g e r yReferences to light and darkness to predict the futureThe priest says at the beginning: "all the house of kadmos is laid waste; all emptied, and all darkened

Example of Foreshadowing Teiresias tells Oedipus that it is he who is blindBut I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind. You cannot see the wretchedness of your life

M o t i f sSuicideSight and blindnessGraves and tombs

S y m b o l sOedipuss swollen footThe three-way crossroads