Summary of Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos
Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos Characters
Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannos Terms to Know
While you read Oedipus Tyrannos there are many themes that may occur to you. Here are some questions you might try to answer or argue from both sides.
What is Sophocles' Vision of the Gods?
Which gods feature most prominently in the play? Where are they? Do the Furies (Erinyes) play a role? Can you think of why this might be significant? Why do the gods care what Oedipus did? Is all the action pre-ordained? Is there really a distinction in fallibility between soothsayer and the gods, as the chorus maintains? Do humans have free will?
- "The Maker and the Myth," by Alister Cameron; The Antioch Review (1965).
Why is Oedipus Tyrannos Held up as the Model of Tragedy?
What Is Oedipus' Tragic Flaw?Does Oedipus even have a tragic flaw? What is it? What evidence is there for "hubris" and "hamartia"?
When Do the Guilty Parties Realize?At what point is the evidence such that Jocasta and Oedipus must realize their involvement? Anagnorisis is the technical term for the moment of recognition.
What Is the Difference Between Calling It Oedipus Rex and Oedipus Tyrannos?The play is usually translated into Latin as Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King), but the Greek form is Oedipus Tyrannos. What qualities of his rule are missed by calling Oedipus a king (Greek basileus) instead of a tyrannos? Is Oedipus ultimately a basileus?
What Does the Chorus Do?
How Do Events in Athens Affect this Tragedy Set in Thebes?It is thought that the play was performed first in the second year of the Athenian plague. What is going on in the tragedy that makes that appealing? Are there any other aspects of the Peloponnesian War or the contemporary climate of Athens that find expression in Sophocles' play? Is there anything about the Theban legends that make them appropriate for an Athenian dramatic festival?
Why Cadmeans and Not Thebans?Although we know the legendary founder of Thebes was Cadmus, the city is Thebes. Why are people referred to in terms of Cadmus?
Research: What Happened Next?
Does Oedipus curse his sons? After Oedipus leaves, what happens? Who rules? If you can, look at other versions where Oedipus doesn't leave and compare the implications. For starters, Oedipus appears in the Iliad at 23.679 and in the Odyssey at 11.271-80. Who is in charge of Thebes at the time of the Trojan War?
- "The Dramatization of the Theban Legend," by H. C. Baldry; Greece & Rome (1956).
- "The Legend of Cadmus and the Logographi," by A. W. Gomme; The Journal of Hellenic Studies (1913).