The Oedipus Trilogy of Sophocles
Oedipus was the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta. Before he was born, his parents consulted the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle prophesied that Oedipus would murder his father and marry his mother. In an attempt to prevent this prophecy's fulfillment, Laius ordered Oedipus's feet to be bound together, and pierced with a stake. Afterwards, the baby was given to a herdsman who was told to kill him. Unable to go though with his orders, he instead gave the child to a second herdsman who took the infant, Oedipus, to the king of Corinth, Polybus. Polybus adopted Oedipus as his son. Oedipus was raised as the crown prince of Corinth. Many years later Oedipus was told that Polybus was not his real father. Seeking the truth, he sought counsel from an Oracle and thus started the greatest tragedy ever written. (From feedbooks.com)
The curriculet is being added to your library
Oedipus at Colonus
Spoiler Alert! This brief section before the play summarizes the entire story. It is helpful to have a general sense of what happens, but if you want to be surprised, skip it!
Sophocles did not write "Oedipus at Colonus" as a true sequel to "Oedipus the King," but the two texts nonetheless contain many of the same characters. In "Oedipus the King," Oedipus blinds himself and is banished from his hometown of Thebes as a punishment for unknowingly fulfilling an oracle's prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. When "Colonus" begins, Oedipus has been an outcast and has suffered for many years. (This annotation contains an image)
The Stranger's request indicates which of the following about the Ancient Greeks' relationship with the gods?
Which of the following does not directly convey Oedipus's respectful attitude toward the gods?
The Ancient Greeks believed that oracles, who communicated directly with the gods, could deliver prophetic statements indicating what their destinies would be. In literature, a clue about what is forthcoming in a story is called foreshadowing. Click below for a definition of foreshadowing and keep these particular lines in mind as you continue to read the play. (This annotation contains a video)
Traditionally an Ancient Greek theater production consisted of 18 people- 3 primary actors to play all of the roles, and a group of 15 masked singers and dancers known as the Chorus. The Chorus represents the voice of the general public, offering commentary and reflection on the events of the play. How do the people of Colonus feel about Oedipus's arrival? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following adjectives best describes Oedipus's daughter Antigone?
In "Oedipus the King," the city of Thebes suffers a terrible, destructive plague as a result of Oedipus's immoral actions. How does this knowledge help explain the reaction from the Chorus?
It can be inferred that since Oedipus and Antigone's banishment, they have experienced significant
Which of the following is an important theme of the play, as evidenced by the concern the Stranger, the Chorus, and Oedipus pay to it?
Oedipus killed his father, Laius, after Laius's entourage pushed him off of a road they were both travelling on. Oedipus did not know who Laius was, but this action nonetheless fulfilled the first part of the oracle's prophecy. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe what Oedipus at Colonus teaches the reader about the expectations and duties of children toward their parents in Ancient Greece.
Creon is Oedipus's brother-in-law, who took the throne and became king of Thebes upon Oedipus's banishment in "Oedipus the King." During the time that this text is set, Oedipus's two sons, Polyneices and Etocles, are vying for the position.
Which of the following best describes the purpose of the prophecy from a narrative standpoint?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Each of the following characters has been directly inspired by the gods to take an action except
Considering what you have learned about Oedipus, both from this text and the annotations regarding "Oedipus the King," why do you think Oedipus shows such high regard for the power of the gods?
Oedipus gained fame by saving the city of Thebes from an evil Sphinx who terrorized the town's citizens. As a reward, he was granted permission to marry the widowed queen, Jocasta. Unbeknownst to him, Jocasta was his biological mother. Together, Oedipus and Jocasta had four children- hence, Oedipus's description of Antigone and Ismene as his "daughter-sisters." (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is revealed though Oedipus's lines, "I sinned not... I served the State"?
Theseus is another Greek mythological hero. He is best known for the story in which he slays the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. (This annotation contains an image)
From a storytelling perspective, what is the benefit of Sophocles's choice to portray stories and characters which are already familiar to the audience, rather than create original stories?
Which of the following is the best paraphrase of Oedipus's main idea in this soliloquy?
Part One Quiz
Occasionally authors will draw parallels between two characters to illustrate a theme. In what ways do Theseus and Oedipus appear to be similar?
Using specific references to Creon's arguments and overall tone, explain how Creon attempts to persuade Oedipus to return to Thebes.
"Rhetoric" is the use of language to persuade an audience. It relies on tone, literary devices, and manipulation of the audience's feelings, and it sometimes seems to be lacking in sincerity. As Creon speaks, evaluate the sincerity of his argument.
In the highlighted lines, Oedipus points out the cruel irony of Creon's offer. Watch the video below for a definition of "irony." (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following has occurred offstage?
Why does Creon use a metaphor to compare Ismene and Antigone to crutches?
In classic tragedies, the hero has a flaw which contributes to his downfall. Here, Creon alleges that Oedipus's flaw is his passion- his tendency to act out of emotion rather than intellect. Do you agree with Creon's assessment?
Theseus's anger with Creon stems from the fact that Creon failed to uphold which of the following values important to the Ancient Greeks?
Earlier in the text, Oedipus displayed anger towards the people of Colonus for not being proper hosts and demonstrating hospitality toward him. Hospitality goes both ways, however. What does Theseus's speech reveal about the Ancient Greeks' expectations for how guests should behave?
Using evidence from the text, explain why the following statement is true: Oedipus has a complicated relationship with the gods.
Humans' ability to control their own fates is a huge theme in all of Sophocles's plays. In these lines, Oedipus addresses Creon's belief that humans have any control over their own fates. What conclusion has Oedipus drawn about this question?
In the painting by Fulchran-Jean Harriet below, Oedipus and Antigone are reunited. View the painting, then use it to answer the next question. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe how Harriet has portrayed the relationship between Antigone and Oedipus through his painting. Is the depiction accurate? Why or why not?
Which of the following best describes the shift in attitude Oedipus displays in these lines?
Remember, Oedipus holds a grudge against his sons for fighting one another for power rather than coming to the aid of their disgraced father.
Why does Antigone draw this parallel to Oedipus's relationship with his own parents when trying to convince Oedipus to see Polyneices?
Part Two Quiz
In addition to providing exposition, the Chorus makes the play's themes readily apparent. What evidence backs up the Chorus's conclusion that "Not to be born at all / Is best"?
Why has Polyneices sought out his father?
Under the laws of primogeniture, the first-born son of a family inherits the family's estate upon the death of his father. Polyneices feels that Etocles stole his birthright by seizing the throne of Thebes.
Which of these two mediums- the text or the painting- does a better job of conveying the emotions contained in this scene? Why?
The painting by Jean-Antoine-Théodore Giroust below depicts this scene from "Oedipus at Colonus." View the painting and use it to answer the next question. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following statements is most accurate?
Remember these lines from earlier in the play: “‘There,’ said he, ‘shalt thou round thy weary life, / A blessing to the land wherein thou dwell’st…’ / And of my weird he promised signs should come, / Earthquake, or thunderclap, or lightning flash.’”
In his youth, Oedipus's failure to listen to the gods led to disaster. How do these lines demonstrate how he has changed?
Oedipus most likely chose to die in Athens, and not in Thebes, as a result of Theseus's
Oedipus calls upon several gods and goddesses associated with Greek beliefs about the afterlife. Hermes, the messenger god, is in charge of escorting souls to the Underworld. Hades and Persephone (here called Persephassa) are the King and Queen of the Underworld. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best summarizes the Chorus's speech?
Describe how the artist uses details to depict the shift which occurs in the relationship between Oedipus and his daughters moments before Oedipus dies.
The method in which Oedipus dies is most likely meant to convey which of the following?
The engraving below depicts Oedipus with his daughters moments before his death. Use this image to answer the next question. (This annotation contains an image)
The final Theban play, "Antigone," picks up where this play leaves off, with Antigone and Ismene returning to Thebes in the hopes of stopping their brothers from slaying each other.
Part Three Quiz