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Oedipus The King Summary Essay Examples

Oedipus the King Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Bibliography and a Free Quiz on Oedipus the King by Sophocles.

Sophocles's Oedipus Rex is probably the most famous tragedy ever written. It is known by a variety of title (the most common being Oedipus Rex), including Oedipus the King and Oedipus Tyrannus. Sophocles, first produced the play in Athens around 430 B.C. at the Great Dionysia, a religious and cultural festival held in honor of the god Dionysus, where it won second prize. In the play Oedipus, King of Thebes, upon hearing that his city is being ravaged by fire and plague, sends his brother-in-law Creon to find a remedy from the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. When Creon returns Oedipus begins investigating the death of his predecessor, Laius, and discovers through various means that he himself was the one who had unknowingly killed Laius and then married his own mother, Jocasta. Jocasta commits suicide, Oedipus blinds himself, takes leave of his children, and is led away. Aristotle praises the play in his Poetics for having an exemplary, well- constructed plot, one which is capable of inspiring fear and pity not only in its audience but especially in those who have merely heard of the story. Following Aristotle's appraisal, many prominent authors including Voltaire, Fredench Nietzsche, and Sidmund Freud reacted at length to the play's themes of incest and patricide. In the twentieth century, the most influential of these thinkers, Freud, showed that Oedipus's fate is that of every man; the "Oedipus Complex" is the definitive parent-child relationship. Throughout history, writers have drawn upon the myth of Oedipus, and dramatists, composers, and poets, including Pierre Corneille, Frednch von Schiller, Heinrich von Kleist, William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, Igor Stravinsky, and Jean Cocteau, have both written on, translated, and staged the tragedy; contemporary filmmakers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Woody Allen have directed self-consciously autobiographical versions of Oedipus Rex,

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Oedipus, The King Summary

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Sophocles’ Oedipus, the King is a great representation of Greek tragedy and of the human experience. Within it, he explores the intricacies of human thinking and communication along with its ability to change as more information and knowledge is acquired. His primary focus as the story begins and progresses is the growth of Oedipus from an unintelligible and unenlightened mentality to its antithesis.

Because the story was one familiar to most of its viewers in its time, there are certain things that they are expected to already know. Among them is the background to the legend. Most generally it was that it was prophesied that Laios and Jocasta, king and queen of Thebes, would give birth to a child who would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. And, fearing the dreadful prophecy, that the parents nailed their first son's feet together (thus the name Oedipus, which means “swollen-foot”) and left him to die on a lonely moun-tainside outside the city. Moreover, that he was found by a wandering shepherd who took him to the nearby city of Corinth where he was adopted by the childless King Polybos and Queen Merope who raised him as a son and prince in the royal household. Then, when he was a young adult and first heard the prophecy, that he assumed that it applied to Polybos and Merope, the only parents he had ever known, and had fled Corinth and wandered around Greece where he met a group of travelers and killed an old man who, unknown to him, was his real father, King Laios. Then, when he arrived at Thebes, he met the Sphinx, a monster who guarded the gates of the city and correctly answered its riddle and was rewarded with the title of king of Thebes and was given the hand of the re-cently widowed queen, Jocasta. The true horror in his life begins here because he has four children with her, An-tigone, Ismene, Eteocles, and Polyneices and fulfills the prophecy.

The story begins after some time after Oedipus has taken the throne and when there is a mysterious plague that sweeps the city. Here, he learns from the priest that the sacred oracle says that the plague will be re-moved only when Laios' murderer is discovered. Consequently, he sends Creon, his brother-in-law, to Delphi to consult the oracles and find out the identity of the murderer.

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On his return and relation of the news, he discovers his identity and of his parents and discovers his sins. In his despair, he blinds himself, and Jocasta hangs herself. He is exiled and Creon takes the throne of Thebes.

During this entire fray of minds—between Tiresias and Oedipus, Creon and Oedipus, and others—certain idiosyncrasies of Oedipus are brazenly revealed. Among them, in the beginning, is his short temperament and quick judgment of situations as, for example, his confrontation of Creon after he had sent Tiresias away. He is quick to think that Creon conspired against him although he had no proof. However, by the end of the novel, he is humbled by his discovery of his sins and becomes a more enlightened man through his discovery of his ignorance of the realities of his world and his realization that there is no escaping destiny.

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