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Oedipus Rex Summary

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Oedipus Rex PDFAre we the creators of our lives, or is there a force much more powerful than us that ultimately creates a path?

If there is such a force, is a man capable of fighting it?

Who Should Read “Oedipus Rex”? And Why?

“Oedipus Rex” is a classic tragedy about the power of fate. Although it was written in ancient times, it works even in modern context.

We recommend it to all lovers of plays, tragedy and especially to those enjoying the works of ancient authors.

Sophocles Biography

Sophocles BiographySophocles is an ancient Greek playwright and is one of the three playwrights whose work survived until the modern day.

He has written over 120 plays during his lifetime, but only a few have been kept in their complete form.

In Athens, he was celebrated as the best playwright for a long time. His works remain as one of the classics and are studied all around the world, as the basis of tragedy.


Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King is a psychological murder mystery play set in Thebes.  

The play opens with the citizens begging they king to get rid of the plague that has taken, so many lives in the city.

The king Oedipus has already given the task to his brother Creon to go to the Oracle and come back with an answer of what to do.

When he returns, Creon tells Oedipus that the oracle advised him to find the murderer of the former king. When the murderer is punished, the plague will end and they will be all saved.

Oedipus does not have second thoughts: he immediately sets out to find the murderer and save his country.

To do it, he summons Tiresias, a blind prophet in the kingdom. However, the prophet is not willing to speak.

After a while, we learn that he was keeping quiet because he did not want to tell Oedipus that he is the one who killed the former king Laius.

Oedipus is angry and orders the prophet to leave his sight.

Before he does so, the prophet comments on a dark future of incestuous marriage, infamy, and blindness.

Oedipus, not having the answer he was looking for, asks for advice from Jocasta, the queen of Thebes.

She tells him that prophets are a lie – that once in the past, a prophet told her that her previous husband would be killed by the hand of his own son.

But according to her, that cannot be true, since their baby was abandoned when it was young and died, and the king was killed by a group of robbers.

These words do not bring ease to Oedipus, on the contrary, they worry him even more – while he was on the road, he killed a man who looked a lot like the former king at the crossroads.

But that is not all he is anxious about. Oedipus suddenly remembers that when he was young, an oracle told him that his fate is gloomy: that he would be the killer of his father, and he would later marry his own mother.

We find out that that was the reason that he left his home in Corinth, and set off to another country, ultimately wounding up in Thebes.

In the next scene, the king gets news that his father has died of old age, but he is still worried about the prophecy and afraid he will somehow wind up marrying his mother.

His wife, Jocasta tells him not to worry.

However, he cannot help it and, once he finds out that the people he grew up with were not his birth parents, he can sense that something is not right, and decides to look for the only living witness of the crime when the king was killed, and ask him about it.

The witness is a shepherd, and he refuses to speak about it even though he is asked.

Oedipus thinks that the secret he hides is that he is actually a child of low birth, but in the end, he realizes that he was actually abandoned and given to the people who he believed are his parents, while his birth parents were Jocasta and Laius.

He, therefore, has already made the prophecy come true, despite all of his tries to escape his destiny.

He does not know what to do and rushes to the palace, where he sees that his mother and wife Jocasta has killed herself.

He takes the pins from her dress and takes out his eyes so that he is blind to the misery he has created.

He feels like he cannot take it anymore and begs Creon to end his life, but as the play comes to an end, he follows Creon’s ruling and waits for the oracle to tell him what would the right decision be about the rest of his life.

Oedipus Rex Epilogue

“Oedipus Rex” is a story about one’s destiny and the inability to escape it, no matter how much we try. We are all just a small part of the universe, and we cannot change the plan of the gods for us, despite all we do.

This concept is different from the modern view on fate, and on literature in general.

The ancient Greeks believed in the unstoppable power of fate, and moreover believed that a story could exist without a character, but not without action.

That is why Oedipus still keeps our attention, although we know where he would end from the very beginning.

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“Oedipus Rex PDF Quotes”

I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect. Click To Tweet Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day. Click To Tweet Time, which sees all things, has found you out. Click To Tweet The truth is what I cherish and that's my strength. Click To Tweet Oblivion - what a blessing...for the mind to dwell a world away from pain. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“Oedipus Rex” is a classic for a reason. It is easy to read, and holds the reader’s attention until the very end, despite the fact that it was written such a long time ago.

Moreover, it is the play that inspired Sigmund Freud to document the Oedipus Complex, so it is interesting to see where the name comes from.

If you are a lover of plays, this is one of the must-reads.

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