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Major Works Data Sheet

The numbers in parentheses represent the point values for each requirement.

AP Literature

Biographical information about the author:

Title: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus the King

Author: Sophocles
Date of Publication: circa 429 B.C

Considered one of the 3 greatest playwrights of classical

Greek theater, Sophocles was a respected citizen who held
political and military offices in 5th century BC Athens.
Wrote more than 100 plays. Best known for his 3 Theban
plays. Credited with changing Greek drama by adding a 3rd
actor, reducing the role of the chorus and paying greater
attention to character development

Genre: Tragic Drama

Historical information about the period of publication:
Classical period. Greek authors drew material from a cycle of
4 epic poems, the Theban Cycle, which was very familiar to
audiences Sophocles used this common story but made
Oedipus a contemporary character to represent many of the
ideals of Athenian leadership.

Plot summary:

Characteristics of the genre:

Tragic Hero
Tragic Flaw (Hubris)
Prologue, Parados, Episode, Stasimon, Exodus

The Backstory: First of all, to understand Sophocles play, Oedipus the King (also known as Oedipus Rex),
a bit of Greek Mythology is in order. Oedipus was a strong, young man who was walking down the road
when all of a sudden, an arrogant rich guy nearly runs him over with a chariot. The two fight the rich guy
dies. Further down the road, Oedipus meets a Sphinx who has been plaguing the city of Thebes, and
challenging pedestrians with riddles. (Anyone who guesses wrong gets gobbled up.) Oedipus solves the
riddle correctly, and becomes the King of Thebes. Not only that, he marries an attractive older gal named
Jocasta the recently widowed queen of Thebes. The Play Begins: The setting is Thebes, over a decade
after Oedipus has become king. The Chorus (a bunch of citizens who talk and move in unison) complains to
their king about the terrible plague. King Oedipus wants to solve the citys problems. Apparently Zeus and
the rest of the Olympian Gods are angry that the previous king was murdered and no one bothered to find
the murderer. Oedipus vows to find the killer and bring justice. He will punish the killer no matter who the
culprit is even if it is a friend, or a relative, even if he himself turns out to be the killer. The Plot
Thickens: Oedipus requests help from a local prophet, an old timer named Tiresias. The aging psychic
tells Oedipus to stop looking for the killer. But this just makes Oedipus all the more determined to find out
who slew the previous king. Finally, Tiresias gets fed up and spills the beans. The old man claims that
Oedipus is the murderer. Then, he declares that the murderer is Theban born, and (this part gets seriously
disturbing) that he killed his father and married his mother. Yes, Oedipus is a bit freaked out by Tiresias
claims. This isnt the only time he has heard this sort of prophesy. When he was a young man living in
Corinth, another soothsayer claimed that he would kill his father and marry his mother. So, he ran away
for Corinth to save his parents and himself from murder/incest. Oedipus wife tells him to relax. She says
that lots of prophecies do not come true. A messenger arrives with news that Oedipus dad is dead. This
seems to imply that all of the icky curses and destinies are not ordained. More Bad News: Just when they
think that life is fine (except for the deadly plague, of course) a shepherd arrives with a story to tell. The
shepherd explains that long ago he found Oedipus as a child, a little baby left out in the wilderness. The
shepherd took him back to Corinth where young Oedipus was raised by his adoptive parents. With a few
more disturbing puzzle pieces, Oedipus figures out that when he ran away from his adoptive parents, he
bumped into his biological father (King Laius) and killed him during their roadside argument. (Nothing is
worse than chariot road rage mixed with patricide). Then, when Oedipus became king and married Jocasta,
Laius wife, he was actually marrying his biological mother. Wrapping Things Up: The chorus is filled with
shock and pity. Jocasta hangs herself. And Oedipus uses the pins from her dress to gauge out his eyes.
Well, we all cope in different ways I guess. Creon, Jocastas brother, takes over the throne. Oedipus will
wander around Greece as a wretched example of mans folly. (www.plays.about.com)

Major Works Data Sheet

Describe the authors style:

Page 2
Identify an example passage that demonstrates the style. Explain the
example if necessary. (Please include a page number): (2.)

Dramatic Irony: The contrast

between what the audience knows
and what the character knows

Significant Quotes (5)

(Choose at least five and include page numbers. Quotes should demonstrate the range of the entire work.)


Major Works Data Sheet

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Significant Characters (5)










Role in the story



Major Works Data Sheet

Page 4

Setting and significance (Please list and describe three

Significance of the opening scene (1)

examples; include page numbers) (1)

Thebes (Unity of Place and Time)


Significance of the ending/closing scene (1)


Significant Literary Devices (such as symbol, foreshadowing, imagery, irony, etc.) that contribute to the themes of the work
(List and explain 5; include page numbers) (5)

Use 3 examples of dramatic irony and 2 examples of the light/dark imagery.

Themes (List five universal themes that the work conveys.)


The truth is more important than the bliss of ignorance.

Human justice is subservient to divine justice.
Human greatness lies in our ability to accept the painful truths of our existence.
Human pride should be kept in check at all times since there is a limit to human ability and reason.
Our first responsibility as humans is to know ourselves.