Oedipus the King Review
Terms in this set (50)
1. Where does the play take place?
At the steps of the royal palace
2. Which character begins the play?
3. What is Oedipus's attitude toward the suppliants seeking his help?
He is caring and empathetic about their suffering and says he will help them.
4. What does the priest ask Oedipus to do?
Save Thebes from ruin by the plague
5. What has Oedipus already done?
He has already sent Creon to Delphi for direction from the oracle.
6. Who is Creon?
7. What is the message from the oracle of Delphi with which Creon returns?
To lift the plague, King Laios's murderer must be driven from the land.
8. What prevented Thebes from tracking down the murderer of Laios at the time the murder occurred?
Thebes was tormented by the sphinx.
9. What does Oedipus promise to do?
To find Laios's murderer and drive him from Thebes, ending the plague.
10. The suppliants are carrying olive boughs (branches) which symbolize peace. Why do you think Oedipus tells the suppliants to take their branches of supplication off the alter?
To show that they were successful in obtaining Oedipus's promise of peace to Thebes (p12)
11. To which 3 gods and goddesses does the chorus appeal for rest from their suffering?
Apollo, Athena and Artemis (p13)
12. Describe the condition of the people of Thebes as the play begins.
The land is barren, women cannot bear children, and people, especially children, are dying. (p13)
13. What will happen to the guilty person if he comes forward and admits his guilt? What will happen if the guilty person doesn't come forward?
He can leave peacefully if he comes; violent banishment without any aid if he doesn't.
What is the Chorus's response?
They think that Oedipus should talk to Tiresias
16. What might be an explanation for Oedipus having to send for Tiresias twice?
Teiresias is hesitant to come
17. At his entrance, how is Tiresias described by the Chorus?
He is the "holy prophet in whom, alone of all men, truth was born."
18. Why do you think Tiresias wants to leave?
Because he doesn't want to tell Oedipus the truth about his fate.
19. What is ironic about Oedipus statement: "I understand it all"?
He doesn't understand at all
20. Explain the paradox (something that seems to be a contradiction but is not) of blindness of the following example: Tiresias [to Oedipus]: Listen to me. You mock my blindness, do you? But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind.
Tiresias suggests that, though Oedipus has two healthy eyes with which to see physically, figuratively he is blind to the truth.
21. What does the chorus remind the audience about the murderer?
He cannot escape punishment from Apollo and the Furies, the three mythological horrific female monsters who were relentless in avenging crimes.
When the chorus debates whether to believe Oedipus or Teiresias, with whom do they side and what is their reason?
23. What character trait of Oedipus is revealed by the fact that Oedipus accuses Creon of treason without first hearing his side?
Obstinate, bull headed, irrational, impetuous (impulsive)
24. What rational argument does Creon use to convince Oedipus that he has no designs on the throne of Thebes?
Creon has all of the privileges and none of the responsibilities of kingship. Why would he voluntarily seek to add stress to his life?
25. Hamartia is the mistake or error committed by a tragic character which in part accounts for his misfortunes. What is Oedipus's hamartia?
Immoderation; jumping to extreme conclusions; anger
26. Jocasta does not believe that mortal men are capable of divination (prophesy). What proof does she offer to support this opinion?
She retells the oracle at Delphi, issued at the birth of her son, whom they supposedly killed. (p41)
27. What detail from Jocasta's story of Laius's murder pricks Oedipus's memory?
Laius was killed where three roads meet. (p42)
28. What eyewitness to the murder of Laius still exists?
A household servant is the only eyewitness (
29. What is revealed about Oedipus's personality by his description of the encounter he had with the old man where the three roads meet?
His hubris (pride)
30. How does the chorus feel about the laws of the universe?
Laws are not made by mortals and cannot be forgotten or ignored. To do so is to ensure personal destruction
31. What worries the chorus most?
The gods will destroy the man who does not revere them or who blasphemes them.
32. Discuss the irony in the opening of scene three, where Jocasta burns incense to the gods.
Jocasta, a nonbeliever, hypocritically appeals to Apollo to deliver the House of Thebes from defilement.
33. What message does the messenger bring?
He tells Jocasta that Polybos, King of Corinth and father of Oedipus, had died of natural causes due to advanced age and that they were
34. What attitude toward the gods do Jocasta and Oedipus exhibit after learning of Polybos' death?
They act arrogantly and challenge the power of the gods.
35. Though Oedipus is comforted that Polybos, his father, had died of natural causes, what aspect of the oracle still troubles Oedipus?
He still fears his mother's bed.
36. A peripeteia is a reversal caused by a major incident in the plot during which a previously unknown piece of information is revealed. What is the peripeteia in this scene?
The messenger from Corinth thinks he is offering Oedipus comfort with his insight when he reveals that Polybos and Merope are not the natural parents of Oedipus.
37. How does the messenger prove that Oedipus was not the child of Polybos and Merope?
He tells Oedipus that he found Oedipus as an infant on Mt. Kithairon, with his ankles bound together and took him to Polybos and Merope who adopted him as their own.
38. What is Jocasta's response to this? Why does she respond this way?
She tries to stop Oedipus's questioning of the messenger; She has discovered the truth.
39. What explanation does Oedipus give for Jocasta being upset?
He's worried about being born not of nobility
40. Scene Four is the anagnorisis of the play (a recognition of his situation). Copy the line where Oedipus's has his anagnorisis.
"Alas! All out! All known, no more concealment! O Light! May I never look on you again, revealed as I am, sinful in my begetting, sinful in marriage, sinful in shedding of blood!"
41. What three heinous sins has Oedipus committed, sins which were unspeakable and unforgivable in ancient Greek society?
Killed his father, married his mother, and fathered her children.
42. What do light/sight and darkness/blindness represent in this story?
Light = knowledge and wisdom; dark = ignorance and foolishness
43. The ancient Greeks did not allow unseemly scenes to be portrayed upon the stage, but rather required that such scenes be narrated by a character. What tales of horror does the palace messenger relate to the audience about Jocasta and Oedipus?
She hanged herself and he blinded himself with golden brooches he removed from her gown.
44. Why might it be significant that Oedipus blinded himself with the golden brooches from Jocasta's gown? She gave birth to him and thus gave him sight initially
The blinding brings this full circle. Also, he was blind to the truth in their relationship and physically saw what he should not have seen.
45. Why does Oedipus choose blinding himself rather than committing suicide?
His punishment lasts longer. He doesn't want to meet his father beyond the grave with seeing eyes.
46. Who will rule Thebes now that Oedipus is exiled?
47. Why is this (Creon ruling) ironic?
Oedipus had been afraid of being dethroned by him.
48. What requests does Oedipus make of Creon?
To exile him (Oedipus); To bury Jocasta; Care for his daughters
49. What future does he predict for his daughters?
Ill-fated, barren lives (p81)
50. Explain the catharsis (relief) the audience expects as a result of the exodus? In other words, what wrongs have been made right?
The murder has been avenged, the plague on Thebes will be lifted, and nature will return to balance. This relieves the audience's distress.
What are Aristotle's 6 characteristics of a tragic hero?
1) nobility or wisdom (by birth)
2) a flaw or error of judgment (hamartia)
3) a reversal of fortune
4) the discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the hero's own actions (anagnorisis)
5) the audience must feel dramatic irony for the character)
6) the character's fate must be greater than deserved
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