There once lived a man named Oedipus RexOedipus the King, also known as Oedipus Tyrannus or Oedipus Rex, is the first in a series of three plays by the Greek tragedian Sophocles. The play tells of the downfall of the king Oedipus from his lofty position, due to hubris (pride), which seems to be the leading cause of death, despair, and destruction in Thebes.The play opens with a terrible plague ravaging Oedipus' kingdom of Thebes. Creon, the Queen's brother, returns from the oracle at Delphi with news that the plague will not be lifted until the true murderer of the old King is found. The blind prophet Tiresias warns Oedipus that he really really does not want to know who the true cause of the plague is. However, Oedipus is driven by both honor and a dedication to his people to root out the cause of this evil. It turns out Oedipus himself is the cause of the plague. The reasons behind it are long and complicated.When Oedipus was born, the sole prince of Thebes, it was foretold he would kill his father and marry his mother. His father orders his son to be left in the wilderness to die. This does not work. Oedipus ends up being adopted by another pair of royals who fail to tell him that they are not his birth parents. Oedipus eventually gets wind of the prophecy from his birth and leaves home to avoid that fate.He ends up heading back towards his birth kingdom to solve the Riddle of the Sphinx. On the way he unknowingly encounters his father, who, for lack of a better term, cuts Oedipus off in traffic. Words are exchanged and by the end of it Oedipus' real father is dead by his hand. Continuing on his way, he passes by Thebes, which is "guarded" by a vicious Sphinx, who won't let anyone in or out of the city unless they can solve her Riddle. Oedipus solves the Riddle, freeing his birth kingdom from the beast. In gratitude, the people make him king and he unknowingly marries their Queen, his mother. And has children with her. It is this state of affairs, his father's blood on his hands and his, erm, relationship with his mother, that has thrown things out of whack in Thebes.Oedipus' wife/mother figures things out shortly before he does and hangs herself. Upon finding her body, Oedipus gouges his eyes out with her brooches. Now a completely broken man, Oedipus goes into exile.The other two plays are Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone. Fragments of another play, The Progeny, were discovered in 2005. The Progeny was about the Seven Against Thebes.Oedipus Rex redirects here. If you're looking for the character archetype that this play named, it's Oedipus Complex.
You may have heard about his odd complex.
His name appears in Freud's index
'Cause he... loved his mother...
—Tom Lehrer, "Oedipus Rex"
This play contains examples of:
So be sweet and kind to mother, now and then have a chat
Buy her candy or some flowers or a brand new hat
But maybe you had better let it go at that
Or you may find yourself with a quite complex complex
And you may end up like Oedipus
I'd rather marry a duck-billed platypus
Then end up like ol' Oedipus Rex!