Oedipus Rex | Study Guide


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Oedipus Rex | Character Analysis



Oedipus leaves his home city of Corinth believing he will escape Apollo's prophecy that he will kill his father and sleep with his mother. While on the road, he kills a traveler and most of the traveler's servants. When Oedipus arrives in Thebes, he is a stranger, but Oedipus eventually becomes king of the city after saving it from the Sphinx. He marries Jocasta, King Laius's widow, and has four children with her by the beginning of the play. Now the city is suffering from a plague, and Oedipus discovers that it is his actions that brought the pestilence upon it. He blinds himself when he realizes the horrible prophecy he originally tried to escape has come true.


Jocasta is as eager as Oedipus to avoid the prophecy that her son will sleep with her and kill his father. To ensure that the prophecy will not come true, she orders the shepherd who left her baby boy, bound at the ankles, to kill him before leaving him. She tries to keep Oedipus from acting in anger. She is steadfast in her certainty that oracles are silly and not to be believed, but she prays to the gods at their altars anyway. Her public beliefs do not match her private ones, and when she discovers what she has done by marrying Oedipus and having children with him, she hangs herself.


Creon is sent to the oracle when Oedipus cannot figure out what to do about the plague, and he willingly goes because he believes that the gods are the ones who direct the fate of human beings. When Oedipus accuses him of wanting the throne and plotting with Teiresias, Creon explains that he most certainly does not want to rule Thebes and is loyal to Oedipus. When the terrible prophecy about Jocasta and Oedipus comes true, Creon wants to keep Oedipus at the palace, regardless of the horrible things he has done, and he tries to comfort him by bringing his children to see him. Creon does end up taking the throne and the responsibility for the children only because Oedipus can no longer rule. Creon is the moral center of the play.


Teiresias, according to the Chorus, is on the same level as the god Apollo when it comes to seeing the truth. Teiresias does not want to tell Oedipus what he knows because he immediately sees that it is the fulfillment of the prophecy that has caused the pestilence in Thebes. However, when pressed, he tells what he knows and is sent away by an angry Oedipus.

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