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Oedipus Rex

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 Portrait of Sophocles, engraved by Marino Bovi
Oedipus Rex1
by Sophocles
A play first performed between 430 and 426 BCE.
The discovery by Oedipus, king of Thebes, that he is his wife's son and the murderer of her prior husband, leads him to blind himself and leads her to commit suicide.

Dramatis Personae

Scene: Thebes. Before the Palace of Oedipus.

Suppliants of all ages are seated round the altar at the palace doors, at their head a PRIEST OF ZEUS. To them enter OEDIPUS.



To Laïus, King of Thebes, an oracle foretold that the child born to him by his queen Jocasta would slay his father and wed his mother. So when in time a son [Oedipus] was born, the infant's feet were riveted together and he was left to die on Mount Cithaeron. But a shepherd found the babe and tended him, and delivered him to another shepherd who took him to his master, the King of Corinth [Polybus]. Polybus, being childless, adopted the boy, who grew up believing that he was indeed the King's son. Afterwards doubting his parentage, he [Oedipus] inquired of the Delphic god and heard himself the weird [prophecy, fate] declared before to Laïus. Wherefore he fled from what he deemed his father's house and in his flight he encountered and unwittingly slew his [true] father, Laïus. Arriving at Thebes, he [Oedipus] answered the riddle of the Sphinx, and the grateful Thebans made their deliverer king. so he reigned in the room of Laïus, and espoused [married] the widowed queen. Children were born to them and Thebes prospered under his rule, but again a grievous plague fell upon the city. Again the oracle was consulted and it bade them purge themselves of blood-guiltiness. Oedipus denounces the crime, of which he is unaware, and undertakes to track out the criminal. Step by step, it is brought home to him that he is the man. The closing scene reveals Jocasta slain by her own hand and Oedipus blinded by his own act and praying for death or exile.


1 Translation of Oedipus Rex (Latin) by F. Storr under the title Oedipus the King.

PORTRAIT: Sophocles, engraved by Marino Bovi (1796); courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery.
CITATION INFORMATION (replace date of access with your own): Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Translated by F. Storr. Gleeditions, 17 Apr. 2011, published in Sophocles, vol. 1, translated by Francis Storr, Harvard UP, 1912-13, pp. 1-140.
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