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The Story of King Oedipus

The Story of King Oedipus


The story of King Oedipus

Deborah Patrick

The story of Oedipus the King was written by Sophocles and is known as the greatest tragedy that was ever written both in modern times and in the previous times. There are many variations to the story, however, the most popular and well known story of Oedipus the king is one of great sorrow, death and loss.

According to the Greek mythology Oedipus was the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. A long time ago in ancient Greece, the King and Queen were delighted about the birth of their new born child. However, according to a prophecy foretold by the Oracle of Apollo, which stated that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, this joy was thwarted as the king was enraged. Determined to thwart the prophecy, king Laius pierced the baby’s feet and bound them with rope. The Queen Jocasta, then gave the baby to a servant instructing him to drown the baby in a river. However, the servant went against their wishes and abandoned the baby on a mountain. A shepherd came along the mountain, took the child and presented Oedipus to the King and Queen of Corinth as they were childless.

Many years later, after Oedipus was grown, a drunk at a feast called him a bastard meaning that he was  not related to the King and Queen of Corinth by birth. Angry, he confronted his parents who denied the claim. Further intrigued he travelled to meet the Oracle in Delphi which his original parents had confirmed earlier on. The oracle does not tell him if the King and Queen of Corinth are his parents or not, but tells him that he is destined to kill his father and marry his mother. In other to avoid this, he travels to Thebes. On his way there, he meets his birth father (unknown to him), engages in a fight with him and kills him as well as all the servants; except a slave who manages to escape.

 On getting to Thebes, he encounters a sphinx who ask him a riddle, he answers the riddle correctly. In anger, the sphinx throws itself into the river. Oedipus is seen as a hero and is made king, he also marries the King’s ex-wife. Many years pass and famine, infertility and diseases plague the land. Upon consultation of an oracle, who tells them in order to redeem the land, the killer of the first king must be revealed. Oedipus promises to banish the killer who has committed such as heinous act and demands for the oracle to say who committed the crime. The oracle then confirms that it was Oedipus himself who killed King Laius. Furious and enraged he denied it, Jocasta his wife, trying to calm him down explained that King Laius was killed at a three crossed road. It was at this time that the slave who survived the massacre came out of hiding and confirmed the words of the oracle. It was at this revelation that Oedipus remembered the words of the oracle. Ashamed and enraged, he sought after Jocasta to kill her, however, he was late as she had hung herself. Taking a pin from Jocasta’s gown, he gouged his eyes out and banished himself from the land taking his two daughters and leaving his two sons behind to rule Thebes.

Oedipus wandered across lands using his daughters as guides until he was taken in by the king of Athens. It was in Colonus that he died finally and was taken into the Lands of the Gods. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King has been adapted into many versions. Similarly, it is from this great work of literature that Sigmund Freud creates his theory of Oedipus complex, where a male child has exclusive love for his mother and sees the father as a rival. It’s female version being Electra complex where the female child has exclusive love for her father.


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