Review: The Oedipus cycle by Sophocles

Sophocles’ surviving plays are few in number, with the violent Oedipus plays being his most prominent tragedies.

Oedipus Tyrannos is centered on the events that occurred after Oedipus defeated the Sphinx and became the king of Thebes.  Dramatic irony is brilliantly used by Sophocles as Oedipus is unknowingly ensnared by his own actions into the tragedy which is his fate.  The Chorus of Theban citizens acts as spectators of the tragedy.  The gods have proved to be cruel and uncompassionate, that they have dictated such a fate for one man and his entire family.

The second play in the Oedipus cycle, Oedipus at Kolonus, follows Oedipus in his old age after all tragic events have long taken place.  Oedipus, with the help of his daughter Antigone, is searching for the resting place promised to him by the god Apollo.  Theseus, the present king of Athens, acts as the understanding benefactor and protects Oedipus against the Chorus’ reproaches.

Antigone is the final Oedipus play, and it involves the members of Oedipus’ family after Oedipus’ death.  Antigone defies Kreon, her uncle and the new king of Thebes, by breaking his new law in giving her outlawed brother a proper burial.  Kreon’s arrogance and conceit continue the series of unfortunate events until he is left alone with his tortured conscience.  Sophocles questions whether one should first obey Divine law or human law.

Original review: Part 2: Notable Ancient Greek playwrights,


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