Oedipus Rex Notes


Telling the Story:

·       In Homer’s the Odyssey, Odysseus sees Oedipus’ mother in the Underworld, with her name being Epicaste not Jocasta

·       In the Odyssey, Oedipus’ story is told from the mother’s perspective, and Oedipus’ end seems to be even worse due to his mother’s “avenging spirits”

·       There is continuity in the ignorance of Oedipus and Epicaste’s relationship, Epicaste’s suicide and Oedipus’ suffering

·       Gradual revelation of details from the past and tension between what the internal audience gets to know (chorus) and what the external audience knows (the viewers)

·       Oedipus should have guessed before he realised it

·       Jocasta gives Oedipus three major clues in one of her speeches: the oracle predicted it “An oracle came to Laius one fine day…and it declared that doom would strike him down at the hands of a son, our son”,that Laius was killed where the three roads meet “was killed by strangers, thieves, at a place where three roads meet”, and that her baby was exposed and had his ankles pinned “the boy’s father fastened his ankles, had a henchman fling him away on a barren, trackless mountain”

·       Tiresias also gives lots of information to Oedipus if he is willing to hear it, so he should have known

·       Oedipus only hears the accusation of being the killer from Tiresias

·       Oedipus also overlooks details from Jocasta, but grasps that Laius was killed where the three roads meet, which is what starts to make him worried that he is the killer

·       The rest gradually falls in place, and the audience watches this process

·       Oedipus realises he may be the one he cursed, as he may be the killer, but the audience knows there is much more suffering for him than just being the killer

·       Oedipus and the sphinx is part of the landscape of the play, as it is brought up multiple times, such as when the chorus mentions that he was able to solve the riddle

·       The focus at the beginning of the play is on the plague at Thebes, which gives it an epic feel, like Homer’s Iliad also beginning with the plague

·       Oedipus sees the immediate problem as the plague, and that is what he has to solve

·       Little does he know, the discovery of that will take the plot from public to private, and from the suffering of the city to the suffering of his individual family


The Original Audience:

·       Cannot be certain about the date and when it was originally performed in Athens, but some scholars seem tempted to link the plague in the play to the plague experienced in real life by Athens in the first years of the Peloponnesian War

·       5th Century Athenian historian Thucydides described the plague as having both physical effects and moral disruption, such as from death on


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