Sophocles was Famous for Writing Tragic Plays

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Author’s Style- Sophocles was famous for writing tragic plays, and he uses dramatic irony throughout the play. Most of his plays follow the format of taking place in the same place throughout the progression. Significance of the Title- The name Oedipus translates to “swollen feet” and Rex translates to “king”. This relates to Oedipus as, when he was little, he was left in the wilderness with his feet bound. He later became the king of Thebes. Setting- The story takes place in the ancient Greek city Thebes.

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Summary- The novel opens with the new king of Thebes, Oedipus, talking to the citizens about the plague that has stricken the city. As the story progresses, and he is on his journey to find the killer of the last king, Oedipus learns about his past and what his fate holds for him.

Conflict (Internal & External)- The external conflict seen in the story is bringing justice to a wrong doer. Oedipus going on his journey to bring justice to the killer of his father and bring justice to him for his wrongdoing. The inner conflict is finding the truth. While on his journey, Oedipus realizes that he is the murderer of his father, and that he married his mother. He then struggles with the fact that this is the truth and the people close to him have been keeping this from him.

Theme- One theme seen throughout the story is determination. As Oedipus is seeking for the truth many people tell him to leave it alone, but with Oedipus’ determination to find the truth, he continues his journey. This ends up leading to his demise.

Symbolism- One of the many examples within the story is Oedipus’ swollen ankles. Oedipus was bound to a tree by his feet when he was a child, and the injury leaves him with a scar for the rest of his life. These scars symbolize how his fate has marked and set him apart. It also symbolizes the way his movements have been confined since birth, by Laius’ prophecy.

Author’s Background- Sophocles was born in Greece in 496 BC, and he died 406 BC. His father was a wealthy weapons’ maker and leading citizen. Sophocles was not only a playwright, but a diplomat, war general, and a priest.

Impact of the novel- The play The Oedipus Cycle relates to today’s society because both show that people can and do change themselves internally and develop themselves over time.

Characters/Description- Oedipus is the king of Thebes, as he saved Thebes by solving the riddle of the Sphinx. Creon is Oedipus’ brother-in-law. Oedipus sent him to the oracle at Delphi to seek Apollo’s advice for saving the city from plague. Tiresias was a blind prophet who tells Oedipus of his fate.

10 Quotes/Significance- “…Tell me, and never doubt that I will help you in every way I can; I should be heartless were I not moved to find you suppliant here”(Sophocles 4). In the beginning, Oedipus shows how much he cares about his citizens by stating he will help them in anyway he can.

“‘Your birds—what good were they? Or the gods, for the matter of that? But I came by, Oedipus, the simple man, who knows nothing—I thought it out for myself, no birds helped me’”(22). After being told his fate, Oedipus calls out Tiresias for not helping the city when the Sphinx was crippling it.

“‘I tell you, no man that walks upon the earth shall be rooted out more horribly than you’”(23). Tiresias tells Oedipus that he will have a horrible ending to his life, but Oedipus does not believe this.

“‘But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: You can not see the wretchedness of your life’”(22). The irony in this statement is that Tiresias is literally blind, but he is able to see others’ fates. While Oedipus has eyes, but he is blind to his fate.

“‘This day will give you a father, and break your heart’”(24). This quote acts as a riddle to Oedipus, who is supposed to be a master at solving riddles. This line also foreshadows Oedipus’ origins, his mother and wife’s death, and the loss of his sight.

“‘No more shall you look on the misery about me, the horrors of my own doing’”(69). Oedipus realizes that he did kill his father and slept with his mother. He is unable to handle the truth after being blind to it for so long that he blinds himself physically.

“‘You do not know me; but the city knows me, and in its eyes I am just’”(36). Creon tells this to Oedipus before he leaves their dispute. He implies that Oedipus is indeed the killer of his father and the people of the city knows this.Aristotle once said “A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself . . . with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions”. In order for a play to be considered as a tragedy, it needs to emotionally move the audience throughout the play. The audience should leave the play feeling like they were the in the shoes of the protagonist, going through the same troubles. The play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles gives the audience this experience. Therefore it is considered a classical tragedy because the audience experiences catharsis, the protagonist is a tragic hero, and he is good hearted.

The play can be classified as a classical tragedy because Oedipus can be seen going through the stages of a tragic hero. In the beginning, Oedipus is displayed as a virtuous person. As the priest and Oedipus are talking, the priest says, “‘Noblest of men, restore life to your city! Think of how all men call you liberator for your triumph long ago’”(Sophocles 5). This shows how highly the people of Thebes think of Oedipus. Since he saved the city from the Sphinx, the people crowned him king, and praise him comparably to the gods. Not only is Oedipus highly praised, but he is caring and compassionate towards his citizens, confident, strong, and powerful. However, he possesses a tragic flaw being him bearing hubris. Oedipus exclaims, “‘If Creon, whom I trusted, Creon my friend, for this great office which the city once put in my hands unsought––if for this power Creon desires to destroy me’”(21). After Teiresias tells Oedipus that he is the murderer, Oedipus gets enraged and accuses Creon and Teiresias of lying in order to take the throne. Oedipus’ over confidence in this remark does not let Creon defend himself from being accused, and loses a friend and ally. Later, he comes to realize that the accusation was false, and uncovers more horrendous facts about his fate. It is his overconfidence that leads Oedipus to his own demise.

Since the tragic hero, Oedipus, is admirable and good at heart, the play is furthermore considered a classic tragedy. Oedipus always tries to find a solution for others’ problems. Oedipus tells a priest who comes to him for help, “‘Tell me, and never doubt that I will help you in every way I can’”(4). Out of the kindness of his heart, Oedipus tries to solve the problems of his citizens in any way he can. If he wants, he could tell the people of Thebes to figure it out themselves, but he insists that he will find a way to rid of the plague. He does not go against his word. After Oedipus finds out he is the murderer of his father, and of his fate; he tells Creon “‘Let me purge of my father’s Thebes of the pollution of my living here’”(77). For the good of the people of Thebes, Oedipus requests to be exiled from Thebes to put an end to the plague riddling the city. Since he is the king and everyone admires him, Oedipus could falsely accuse someone else in order to remain king. Instead he keeps to his word of banishing the person responsible for his father’s death. One of the three principles of a Greek Tragedy that the play follows is: The tragic hero must be essentially admirable and good.

The play also contains the use of catharsis. The reader exhibits terror towards Oedipus’ future when his fate is revealed. Teiresias proclaims, “‘To the children with whom he lives with now he will be brother and father––the very same; to her who bore him, son and husband––the very same’”(25). Teiresias’ telling of Oedipus’ fate leaves the reader afraid that he is sleeping with his mother. Although Oedipus may not see this connection between the statement and himself, the statement foreshadows the truth of who Oedipus is. The reader feels extreme disgust as well to realize that Oedipus is married to his mother and has kids with her. Yet later on, the reader begins to pity Oedipus for his punishment. The chorus states, “‘For the king ripped from her gown the golden brooches that where her ornament, and raised them, and plunged them down straight into his eyeballs’”(69). The reader pities Oedipus because of his wretched fate and the punishment he bestowed upon himself. For he had found is mother killed herself and blinds himself for his crimes against the gods. Not only does he blind himself, but also exiles himself from the city to never be seen by man again.

Since the play contains the use of catharsis, a tragic hero, and the protagonist is pure hearted it is assessed as a classical tragedy. The play is able to emotionally move the audience throughout the play, and the audience leaves the play feeling as though they were the in the shoes of the protagonist, going through the same troubles. Aristotle once stated that inorder for a play to be considered a classical tragedy, it must strike fear and pity into the audience as they watch.

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Sophocles Was Famous for Writing Tragic Plays. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved February 3, 2023 , from

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