The play Oedipus The King begins with the king and queen of Thebes, Laius and Jocasta.
Laius was warned by an oracle that his own son would kill him and that he would marry his mother, Jocasta. Determined to reverse their fate, Laius pierced and bound his newborn sons feet and sent a servant away with him with strict instructions to leave the child to die on the mountain of Cithaeron. However, the servant felt badly for the infant and gave him to a shepherd who then gave the child to Polybus, king of Corinth, a neighboring realm. Polybus then named the child Oedipus (swollen foot) and raised him as his own son. Oedipus was never told that he was adopted, and when an oracle told him that he would murder his father and marry his mother he fled the city believing that the king and queen of Corinth were his parents. In the course of his travels, he met and killed Laius, thinking that the king and his servants were a band of robbers, and thus unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy.
Oedipus then continued his traveling, and arrived at the kingdom of Thebes, which was plagued by a horrible beast, they called the Sphinx. The frightful creature frequented the roads to the city, asking travelers her riddle then eating them when they could not answer correctly. Oedipus answered the riddle the Sphinx presented him with correctly, saving the city and becoming a hero. Believing that robbers had killed Laius, and grateful to Oedipus for ridding them of the dreadful Sphinx, the Thebans rewarded Oedipus by making him their king and graciously giving Queen Jocasta as his new wife.
The kingdom of Thebes was exultant, and the kingdom prospered under their new ruler, but again a grievous plague fell upon the city. The oracle was consulted to give
an answer on how to rid themselves of the plague. The oracle proclaimed that Laius’s murderer must be punished in order to rid the city of the dreadful plague. Teiresias, a blind prophet was summoned to help the kingdom with their terrible calamity. He revealed that Oedipus was the murderer and that he was sleeping with his own mother. Oedipus did not believe Teiresias at first but slowly began to realize that it was true. In grief and despair of their incestuous life, Jocasta killed herself, and Oedipus, after learning of her death then blinded himself and was banished from Thebes forever, leaving Creon, his brother-in-law as the new king.
“Ever since Aristotle’s high praise regarding its structure and characterization in his Poetics, Oedipus Rex has been considered one of the most outstanding examples of tragic drama” (Drama, 210). In Oedipus The King, Sophocles creates one of the most intricate characters of Greek drama. A tragic hero, Oedipus’s desire for self-discovery and understanding inevitably leads to his tragic downfall. However, self-discovery is not the only characteristic of Oedipus, which contributes to his tragic end. Oedipus’s excessive pride (hubris) combined with his temper also...