Sophocles (ca. 496-406 B.C.E.)
Oedipus Rex (ca. 430 B.C.E.)
Things to Consider :
** Homework Questions **
- Roles of Gods/Roles of Humans in Fate
- Roles of Prophets
- Relation of Character to Plot
- Images of Vision
- Oedipus vs. Gilgamesh/Sundiata/Soumaoro
- Dramatic Irony (see p. 484)
- Roles of Women: Iliad vs. Oedipus
- Role of Chorus
- Sigmund Freud
- Interesting Essay on Oedipus and Sphinx
Background: (See Oedipus Rex Q's )
- Describe the Greek city-states system.
- Explain the difference in government between Sparta and
Attica (See also p. 12).
- Describe the position of women in Athens and Sparta at this
- Describe the Sophists. How was Socrates like and/or unlike
- Describe the contexts surrounding the performances of Greek
drama in the ancient world.
- Describe the composition of the chorus.
- What general themes, according to the editors, are
associated with the works of Sophocles?
- Explain: Oedipus the King "is a drama not of
surprise, but of suspense" (483).
- What two essential plot patterns did Aristotle identify in
- Define dramatic irony.
Other Discussion Questions:
- Describe the Dark Ages of Greece.
- Describe the Greek writing system in the 7th c. B.C.E.
- Describe life in the Persian Empire.
- Describe the importance of the events in Marathon and
Salamis in the 5th c. B.C.E.
- Describe the difference between direct and representational
- Describe the Peloponnesian War (See also 14-15).
- Describe the important cultural and intellectual changes in
the 5th c. B.C.E.
- Describe the figures of Philip and Alexander.
- What was the Hellenistic age?
- In what language were the first accounts of Jesus of
- When and by whom was tragedy invented? What did this
- Describe the construction of the Athenian theater.
- What two major structural devices do the editors describe?
What purposes did they serve?
- Explain the importance of the deus ex machina.
- Describe the actors who participated in Athenian plays.
- Describe the effect of masks on the performance of the
- Identify and describe the two important dialogue techniques
employed by the Athenian dramatists.
- Describe iambic hexameter and iambic pentameter.
- Describe the purpose of the messenger speech.
- Describe the composition of the plots of Greek tragedy.
- Describe the importance of Pericles to the development of
the Athenian theater.
- What innovations did Sophocles bring to the theater?
- How many plays did Sophocles write? How many survive?
- Describe the practice of exposure.
- In what ways, according to the editors, can Oedipus be seen
as a typical fifth-century Athenian?
- Define hamartia.
- Explain Freud's concept of the Oedipus Complex.
Oedipus the King
- How has Oedipus come to rule Thebes?
- What kind of king is Oedipus?
- What is the cause of the plague?
- What does Oedipus think is the reason that Creon urges
Teiresias to blame Oedipus?
Truly Zeus and Apollo are wise
and in human things all knowing;
but amongst men there is no
distinct judgement, between the prophet
and me—which of us is right. (578-82)
- How does Jocasta initially react to Oedipus's claims?
- Why has Oedipus killed Laios? Is he
- Why does Oedipus blind himself? Is it indeed an act of
"free will and heroism," as Michael Bayton suggests in another
edition of the play?
- Explain: "It was Apollo, friends, Apollo,/that
brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion"
- Is Oedipus's suffering really undeserved, as Michael
Other Discussion Questions:
- Why do the citizens come to Oedipus's palace?
- Who is the Sphinx?
- Who is Teiresias?
- How does Creon respond to Oedipus's claims?
- Why, at first, can't Oedipus be sure that he has killed
- Why does the messenger from Corinth believe that the news
of Polybus's death will bring joy to Oedipus and Jocasta?
- Explain: "Why should man fear since chance is all
in all/for him, and he can clearly foreknow nothing?"
- Explain: "Before this, in dreams too, as well as
oracles,/many a man has lain with his own mother" (1105-6).
- Why does Oedipus call himself the "child of Fortune"
(1236)? What does that mean?
- Why does the servant say that the palace can't be washed
clean by either the Phasis or the Ister (1391)? What
does he mean?
- Why does Oedipus ask for a sword when he is looking for
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- Explain: "Come--it is unfit to say what is unfit/to
- Explain Kreon's speech (1599-1609).