Prologue (lines 1-167)

  • Oedipus and the preist
  • There is a plague on the city
  • Oedipus adresses the people of the city as 'my children'
  • Oedipus helps the old preist to his feet and asks for the problem 
  • Priest talks of the suffering of the plague and ask Oedipus to save the city 
  • Oedius has sent Creon to Delphi to ask the orcale what could save the city
  • Creon annouces that, to end the plague, the murderer of Lauis must be found and to be banished or killed
  • Creon reveals that the survivour said a band of theives killed Laius
  • Oedipus swears to take action adn find the killer and save the city
1 of 22

Prologue - Analysis

  • The prologue presents the problem of the plau and the direction the play will follow
  • NOTE: The use of dramatic irony of Oedipus' deteminiation to find the killer of Lauis
  • In some ancient cultures the city would have killed their king if it meant a new, purer ruler would restore the lands
  • Oedipus seems outwardly, the ideal king, revealing his intelligence, engery and forward thinking.
  • These qualities would have been valued by an Athenian audience.
  • However, he is a little over-eager for Creon to reveal the oracle's word - portraying arrogance and impatience
  • The audience see Oedipus's sense of responsibility for his city-state. This is what drives his search for the truth
  • Because of this, he gains sympathy
2 of 22

The Parados (lines 169-244)

The chrous chant a prayer to the Gods Zeus, Apollo, Athena and Artemis describing the horrors of the plague.

In the name of the people, they beg for the deliverance from the gods, but worry a sacarfice may be demanded in return 

3 of 22

Parados - Analysis

  • The chrous provide a break from the action as they reflect the fear and the foreboding in the unfolding drama
  • This chanting allows the passing of tiem before the next scene
  • Theme: suffering of Theves - also develops the reality of the plague
  • "Death, so many deaths" - arouses pity in the audience 
  • The chorus's anxiey about the price of the deliverance continues the dramatic irony, by foreshaowing the climax of the play, the disgrace and downfall of Oedius
  • The chours act as a 'yardstick' of tragerdy so the audeince understand the suffering of Thebes
4 of 22

The FIRST episode (lines 245 - 525)

  • Oedipus calls upona nyone who knows the killer of Lauis
  • He promsies to exile, not kill the murderer and anyone with info
  • When no-one steps forward, Oedipus curses the murderer and anyone who knows him, including himself
  • Oedipus talk to the leader of the chorus, who suggests summoning the blind prophet Tiresias
  • The king asks for Tiresias to help byt he refuses,
  • Furious, Oedipus accuses Tiresias of conspiring with Creon to overthrow him
  • In response, Tiresias states that Oedipus killed Lauis, something that Oedipus rejects straight away, in humour
  • Oedipus brags about his victory over the Sphinx instead of pursuing the murderer
  • After Oedipus accuses Tiresias and Creon of conspiracy, Tiresias hints of Oedipus's corruptopn and fate
  • Oedipus angrily orderes Tiresias away
5 of 22

The FIRST episode - Analysis

More dramtic irony Oedipus describing himself as "a stranger to the story" 

He declares he will fight to avenge Lauis "as if he were my father"

Tiresias makes subtle comments about Oedipus's marraige. Reinforicng Oedipus's double relationship with his mother and father 

Oedipus shos another side to him with his anger and frustration at Tiresias

Tiresias represents the ambiguous nature of all spirtual power. Prochies only seem to be apparant in the hind sight 

We see Oedipus rejecting prophetic power

The audience would have recognnised this as Oedipus rejecting a long, respected tradition

Oedipus' methaphoric blindness to the truth, stubbed by his anger, adds dramatic irnoy, while forshawing his eventual blindness

Irony of Oedipus accusing Creon and Tiresias when Creon evetually exceeds him and his fate falls into Creon's hands 

6 of 22

The FIRST stasimon (lines 527-572)

The chorus wonder at the prophet's accusation that Oedipus is the killer fo Lauis

As loyal subjects, they are horrified and confused 

Still, they stand by their king, unless the charges are proved 

7 of 22

The FIRST stasimon - Analysis

  • Contines the theme of beleifs in spirutual power, contrasted with reason and everyday common sense
  • The opening glorifes the Olympian gods, espically their power to reveal the truth and to destory evil
  • They warn the killer of Lauis that they will be hunted down by the gods through their oracle who will descends upon the guilty like "dark wings beating around him , shrieking doom"
  • But they don't trust the prophet fully so they image turns aroud. In the second part, the chorus themselves feel "wings of darkeness foreboding beating" around them as the prophecy implicates their king.
  • This tests people's faith in both the gods and the stare, forcing them to choose between beliefs or reason
  • They revere the gods, but demand proof of the prophet - they remain loyal to Oedipus while keeping open the conviction of his guilt. 
8 of 22

The SECOND episode (lines 573-593)

  • Opens with Creon's denial of plotting against Oedipus
  • When Oedipus again angrily repeats the charges, Creon again denies it, aruing RATIONALLY that he has no motivation to the throne
  • Oedipus angrily threatens Creon "I want you dead"
  • Creon argues that Oedipus cannot rule the city unjustly and says (it is) "my city too, not yours alone"
  • The arguing only stops when Jocasta divides the men, sending Creon home
  • Oedipus complains of Creon's charges (through Tiresias) taht he himself killed Lauis
  • When Jocasta hears the charge was made by the prophet, she dimsses it immediatley.
  • She tells the story of the prophecy that her son would kill his father and marry his mother, but that fate was avoided becuase the baby was left on the hillside to die
  • Oedious learns that Lauis was killed where 3 roads meet and begins to worry that he really is the murderer, but Jocasta reassures him that Lauis was killed by a group of men 
  • Nevertheless, Oedipus asks for the onlyliving witness, a shephard, to be bought and questioned.
9 of 22

The SECOND episode - Analysis

Episode 2 marks a change in the play from a simple detective story to a psychological drama 

From now on, the problem will not only be who killed Lauis, but also what the people know of one-another and how they can know it 

Despite of his rejection of Tiresias, Oedipus does believe in teh power of prophecy as he confesses to Jocasta 

Jocasta, in contrast, rejects the power of prophecy, recalling prood of her own experience.

Then Jocasta's skeptism brings Oedipus to the suspicion that the prophet was right after all 

NOTE: The use of STICHOMYTHIA between Creon and Oedipus

10 of 22

The SECOND stasimon (lines 954-996)

The Chorus glofiy the gods and destiny, rejecting human pride

"Destiny guide me always"

"Pride breeds the tyrant"

11 of 22

The SECOND stasimon - Analysis

The chrous reflect on Oedipus's emerging belief that the prophecies may be correct and that the gods will tear down the proud 

NOTE: the espicallt nostalgic tine of the conclusion, when the chorus lament the erosion of the respect for the prophecies: "They are dying, the old oracles sned to Lauis"

They are angry at the dismisal of the gods

Warning against pride which is aimed at Oedipus ( or everyone as a moral)

"Health strife that makes the city great again" 

Making sure that the Athenians still believe in democraxy. Say they will nevery pray again unless the prophecy is fufilled.

12 of 22

The THIRD episode (lines 997-1194)

  • Jocasta makes a sacrafice to Apollo
  • A messenger from Corith comes to tell Oedipus that his 'father' Polybus has died of natural causes
  • Oedipus rejoices at the news, but contines to worry because his 'mother' Merope is still alive
  • Overhearing Oedipus rejoices, the messenger reveals that Polybus and Merope were not actually Oedipus's parents: "you were a gift, he took you from my hands"
  • Oedipus, stunned, awaits the shepherd to learn the truth of his birth 
  • Jocasta, realises the truth and begs Oedipus to stop seeking the truth
  • She now knwos that Oedipus is the baby she abonded and runs into the palace screaming
13 of 22

The THIRD episode - Analysis

The messenger brings conflicitng news: that Oedipus's father is dead, but that he isn't his real father 

Irony as Jocasta burns incese to Apollo the source of the prophetic truth

Yet the messenger's news returns Jocasta to her orignal views off prophecy - brushing aside Oedipus's anxiety about his mother, completley oblivious to Apollo's warning

Her pride is shattere when she realises that Oedipus is her son 

Oedipus calls for the shepherd who will reveal everything

At this moment Oedipus revelas the kind of pride that always preceeds the downfall of a tragic hero

He seems proud of his (mistaken) belief that he may be the son of  shepherd

By now, the truth of Oedipus's birth is practiallt unavoidable, but the face that he still hasn't figured it out would not have seemed strange to Sophocles's audiene

He wants to suspend their disbelief and let the tradegy unfold on its own

14 of 22

The THIRD stasimon (lines 1195-1214)

The chorus sign a joyful ode to Mount Cithaeron, where Oedipus was found 

They wonder is some god or godess actually gave their king birth

15 of 22

The THIRD stasimon - Analysis

  • The chorus takes up Oedipus's triumphal declaration that he is the son of Chace, and speculates aobut his mysterious birth 
  • The chrous suggesr he may be the son of Pan, Pionysus or ever Apollo himself
  • Releived to hear the possibility of something greatand glorious about their kign after Tiresias's terrible prophecies, the chrous jump ont he uncertainty of Oedipus's birth and expands on his vision
  • The enthusiasm of the chorus elevates Oedipus to divine proportions
  • The hopeful viewpoint sets te stage for Oedipus to fall from even greater heights as the tragic hero
16 of 22

The FOURTH episode (lines 1215-1310)

  • The shepherd arrives but is resistant to tell what he knows
  • Only when Oedipus threathens him with violence does he reveal that his disobeyed the orders of Lauis and Jocasta and saved their baby out of pity
  • "You won't talk willingly - then you'll talk with pain"
  • Oedipus now knows that he is the son of Lauis and Jocasta 
  • Horrifed, he runs wildly into the palace
17 of 22

The FOURTH episode - Analysis

The climax of the play - the point of AGAGNORISIS

NOTE: the engery and determination Oedipus manifests into uncovering the truth of his birth.

When the shepherd refuses to spean, Oedipus threatens him with tortue and death

Oedipus seems to be in control fo the situation until the shephed won't reveal what he knows

The shepherd is afraid of what the king may do to him if he reveals the truth hence why he is relucant to tell the truth 

In this tragic downfall, Oedipus suffers from a very human dilema: at one moment he seems all powerful and the next, he is vunerable and powerless

18 of 22

The FOURTH stasimon (lines 1311-1350)

The chorus lament Oedipus's discovery of this birth, wondering at the king's fall from power and greatness. 

19 of 22

The FOURTH stasimon - Analysis

Just as the previous ode reflects on Oedipus's confidence - this stasimon relfects and magnifies his horror and pain

The chorus chooses Oedipus as an example of the fragility of human life

Joy, they chant, is an illusion that quickly fades. The glory of Oedipus gained by deafting the Sphinx is now buried by his marraige to his mother

The chorus comment on the uncertainty of life and foreshadows its own final lamentation on the power of fate in the last lines of the play.

The chorus look to Oedipus - kind of like a father

"You gave me life" - and his disgrace therefore brigns shame on the whole city 

"Now you bring down nigh upon my eyes" - expresses the suffering. While foreshadowing Oedipus's violence against himself at the end of the play

20 of 22

The EXODUS (lines 1351-1684)

  • A messenger from the palace annouces that the queen is dead. 
  • He explains her suicide as well as Oedipus blinding himself with her pins
  • Oedipus appears again on stage to the horror of the chorus. 
  • He explains he blinded himself becaue he could not look at his loved ones - the one he difilled - espicallt his daughters Antigone and Ismene
  • Oedipus begs Creon, who is now on power of Thebes, to have him put to death or banished
  • Creon says he will consult the oracle for judgement - in the meantime, he tells Oedipus to accept obedience 
  • We see Oedipus mourning for his daughters as he is afraid for their furture
  • Oedipus dissapears into the palace as the chorus lament his downfall
21 of 22

The EXODUS - Analysis

Driven mad by his unconscious actions, Oedipus blinds himself as his way of taking control of the pain that torments him 

The violence empties and exhausts Oedipus's fury and he accepts his fate by becoming one with it 

"I am agony"

The final resolution, then, is the humbling of the once proud Oedipus and his literaly acceptance of his blindness and his submission to another's will

The chorus lament Oedipus's fall from greatness with a warning:

"Count no man happy til he dies, free from pain at last"

For an Athenian audience, the pity and terror aroused by Oedipus's tragic falls brings about a CATHARSIS, the realisation that the power of fate cannot be overcome by will, even by the will of a king 

Oedipus's change of tone and meaning when he cries "I am Oedipus" is such a constrast to when he says it at the begining of the play 

22 of 22


No comments have yet been made

Similar Classical Civilization resources:

See all Classical Civilization resources »See all Tragedy resources »