The Oedipus Trilogy

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The Oedipus Trilogy

Oedipus Rex was the second play of the Oedipus trilogy. The story begins about 17 years after Oedipus has unknowingly killed his own father, Laius. A plague sweeps across Thebes, the land which Oedipus rules over. After consulting the Oracle of Delphi, an all-knowing and all-seeing entity, it is determined that the murderer of Laius (namely, Oedipus himself) has to be exiled from Thebes to lift the plague from the people. After embarking on a long journey to try and hunt down the murderer of Laius, Oedipus ultimately finds out that it is himself, and he is forced to exile himself from Thebes.This story in particular has greatly aided psychologists in the field of psychoanalysis of human emotions and thought processes, mainly because of the complexity of the plot and Oedipus’s own character as well. The main conflict seen throughout the story is internal – that of Oedipus grappling with the truth of his predicament. He is constantly struggling as to whether he should uncover the whole truth, knowing that if he does, it will bring about his downfall – but yet, the whole story is “a quest for [his] identity. The question 'who did it?', 'who am I?', 'who speaks truth'? And many more suspicious questions…” (Parray 6) The plot is further complicated if one looks at the life of Oedipus from a broader scale – in this sense, Oedipus can be seen as a sacrifice for Laius’s wrongdoings, with one curse leading to yet another doomed prophecy. Laius, when staying with King Peleus, raped the King’s son who then committed suicide, cursing Laius to be killed by his son. Thus, it is inevitable that Oedipus will fulfill the prophecy laid out in front of him when he kills Laius. In this way, both Oedipus’s contradictory character and the plot of the play help psychologists analyze the way human instinct and nature is geared towards thinking and acting.


442 BCE - Antigone was written429 BCE - Oedipus Rex was written401 BCE - Oedipus at Colonus was written

Antigone was the last play in the Oedipus Trilogy but the first play to be written. Sophocles wrote it around 442 B.C and it is just the beginning of a very dramatic series. Antigone is Oedipus’ daughter and the story is about how she must disobey her uncle to bury her brother Polyneices. Her uncle has just become the new King of Thebes after her father was banished. Antigone has been seen as the conflict between law and devotion to morals and family. In the end Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter, chose to stick with her family and morals then follow the law. Antigone became popular because, “unlike Oedipus Rex or Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone takes place in the aftermath of a great war”. (Henderson 1)

Lasting Impact

Works Cited

Henderson, Dayton. "Therapeutic tragedy: Walter Hasenclever's Antigone and the need to bury the war dead." Arcadia - International Journal for Literary Studies 46.1 (2011): 43+. Academic OneFile. Web. 9 Oct. 2014."Oedipus at Colonus." Masterpieces of World Literature. HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 599+. General OneFile. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.Zachrisson, Anders. "Oedipus the king: Quest for self-knowledge - denial of reality. Sophocles' vision of man and psychoanalytic concept formation." The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 94.2 (2013): 313+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.Parray, Ashaq Hussain. "A postmodern interpretation of Oedipus Rex." Language In India Oct. 2013: 106+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.

The Oedipus Trilogy


Oedipus Rex

The Oedipus trilogy includes a set of plays called Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone throughout these plays Irony is used by Sophocles many times. The Oedipus trilogy is also a very tragic play, Oedipus is the king of Thebes, he was told at a young age by a old man that he would sleep with Jocasta his mother and kill Laius his father. Oedipus also causes “the suicide of his wife and mother, Jocasta” (“Oedipus at Colonus” 2) and him to gouge his eyes out with his mothers jewelry. The Greek plays influenced the Greeks heavily, if you were a male citizen it was your civic duty to attend these plays at the Greek theater which is one of the most recognized building in the world. Along with these influences Sophocles was well versed in psychology; Sophocles wanted to project characters in the story as different characteristics.

Oedipus at Colonus was the last play written and was known as the climax of the trilogy to most. Oedipus is now trying to figure himself out after being blind sided at the fact of not knowing he had killed his father and married his mother, coming to this realization resulted in the suicide of his wife and mother. His daughter, Antigone, now takes care of him since he was banished from Thebes for this sin. He and Antigone stop at a grove in Colonus, calming the men of Colonus by telling them he obtained supernatural powers. Ismene, Oedipus’ other daughter, delivers the news that he needs to be buried in Thebes, but he refuses and the king of Colonus, Theseus, says Oedipus will be taken care of in the land of Attica. Creon orders Oedipus to return to Thebes, but when he refuses his daughters are captured, but Theseus later rescues them. Soon it is Oedipus’ time to pass away, and he is buried in the land of Attica in a place only known to Theseus, but his daughters are ordered back to Thebes to resolve the conflict between Polynices and Eteocles. Before Oedipus passes, he “accepts the fact of his guilt and its consequences, but he insists on his essential innocence with passion and conviction, making a powerful affirmation of human dignity in the face of an incomprehensible universe.” (“Oedipus at Colonus” 1)

Oedipus at Colonus



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