Title: Oedipus Rex
Date of Publication: around 430 B.C.
Genre: Dramatic Tragedy
Biographical information about the author: Born at Colonus, son of Sophilus. Sophocles was a playwright and served as a priest. He had a son with Nicartrata, who was also a playwright. And he also had a son with Theoris. Wrote 123plays but only 7 survived: Ajar, Antigone, Trachinian women, Oedipus Tyrannoss, Electras, Philocetes, and Oedipus at Colonus. Also increased the number of chorus from 12 to 15. Powerful imaged occur in Ajar’s sword, Philocetes bow, and Electras urn. Actions in his play unfold in a more natural way and avoid the expository prologues of his contemporary. The modern concept of tragic drama begins with Sophocles. Oedipus is arguably the most influential play written. Also distinguished as a figure coincided with the rise and fall of Athens. At 16 he was an accomplished dancer and lyre player. Served as an imperial treasurer and diplomat. Sophocles is regarded as the tragic Homer. All tragedies posses a moral or religious problem and an unalterable idea of fate and divine will of the gods. Died in 406 B.C., 2 years before the fall of Sparta. Considered one of the three greatest playwrights of classical Greek. Historical background:
Greek theater was part of a religious festival. Greek plays were put on at annual festivals for as many as 15,000 spectators. During this time there was a great advancement in philosophy, art, and government. The Golden Age of Athens happened during his lifetime. Sophocles was involved with the political and military affairs of Athenian democracy. He did stints as a city treasurer and as a naval officer, and throughout his life he was a close friend of, Pericles. He also was chosen to be one of the nine generals in the campaign dealing with power of the state. Athens became entangled in a war with other city-states.
Characteristics of the Genre: Tragedy was thought to have developed from the ancient dithyramb, or choral lyric. Included group dancing and some brief dialogue between the leader and the chorus. There was an addition of an actor to the chorus which allowed more complicated and lengthy stories. Tragic stories were taken from the great cycles of mythology. Ancient myths and heroic legends had collective social, political, and religious history of the people, and profound tales on human life and the nature of gods. Plot summary:
A plague overflows the city of Thebes and Oedipus is called upon to solve it. He sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to the oracle at Delphi to learn how to help the city. He discovers the plague will end when the murderer of Laius is caught and expelled; also the murderer is within the city. Oedipus vows to find the culprit and punish him, he curses the murderer. Oedipus asks Teiresias, the blind prophet, what he knows about the murder, but all he says is the truth will bring pain. Oedipus curses and insults the prophet so he tells Oedipus that he is the murderer. Oedipus does not believe him and accuses Creon and Teiresias of treason against his life, and charges Teiresias with insanity. Oedipus brags that he alone was able to solve the puzzle of the Sphinx and save the city in the past. Teiresias brings up Oedipus’s parents and Oedipus asks how Teiresias knew his parents. But Teiresias finishes by saying the murderer of Laius will be father and brother to his own children, and the son of his own wife. Jocasta enters and asks why the men shout at one another. He explains the prophecy and she does not believe it either. She tries to support her idea with evidence that Laius was killed at a crossroads by thieves. However Oedipus took a journey to Thebes and was confronted by travelers who later were killed. This was the same crossroads that Laius was murdered. Oedipus sends someone to discover the truth. A messenger tells Jocasta that Oedipus’s father, Polybus, is dead, and that Corinth has asked Oedipus to come and rule there in...
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