Oedipus Rex, otherwise known as Oedipus Tyrranos or Oedipus the King, was a Greek Tragedy written by Sophocles himself. It was an epic story of a boy, soon to be a man, named Oedipus. He was abandoned at birth and forced by the Gods to live out a horrible prophecy. Oedipus name means swollen foot in Greek. That name is important, for when he is born his ankles are severely wounded. His parents, Laius and Jocasta, King and Queen of Thebes, abandoned him because of a prophecy. The oracle at Delphi said that when Oedipus grew up he would kill his father and marry his mother. That really scared them.
So they ditched the kid and told a shepherd to get rid of him. The old shepherd takes the boy to Mount Cithareon. Eventually he ends up under the care of King Polybus of Corinth. When Oedipus grows up, he learns of his prophecy. He immediately flees Corinth, believing that Polybus was his father. He hears of the sphinx terrorizing Thebes and heads in that direction. On the way he kills a perfect stranger and all of his party except one. Oedipus did not know that the perfect stranger was his father Laius. The one survivor, however, did. It was the old shepherd, the person who delivered Oedipus away in the first place.
Fortunately for Oedipus, the old shepherd was kind and spread the story that he was killed by a gang of thieves. Afterwards Oedipus catches up to the Sphinx in Thebes. The Sphinx had the head of a woman, body of a lion and wings of a bird. It was terrorizing the city. It refused to stop until someone answered its riddle, which it had learned from an oracle. Anyone who got it wrong was killed. The Sphinx would ask What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the evening and three legs at night? Oedipus was the only one to get the correct answer, which was man.
This led to the fulfillment of the second part of the prophecy, the marriage to his mother. With no king, Thebes had to elect a new leader. Oedipus, who was now a hero, was their choice. He married the Queen, his mother, Jocasta. They had two sons and two daughters together. Eventually a terrible plague came upon Thebes. The townspeople looked to Oedipus for help since he had already proved his worth with the Sphinx. He sent his brother in-law, Creon, to the oracle at Delphi. He returned with the news that there was ome unresolved business that was causing the plague.
He suggested it was the death of Laius. An investigation immediately began. After awhile the truth started to unfold. The shepherd returned, Jocasta and Oedipus both learned some of the truth and refused to believe it. It took some convincing, but when they came to terms with it, Jocasta killed herself. Oedipus didnt know it yet and went around looking for with murder being his intent. When he found her dead he took the pins off her shoulders and blinded himself to avoid looking at his children, the townspeople and the situation in general.
Oedipus was exiled and left with his daughters, thus ending Oedipus Rex. One of the key characters in the story was the old shepherd. He moved the plot along in several points all through the beginning, middle and end of the story. Oedipus was Sophocles way of warning the Greeks that the Gods had absolute power and shouldnt be challenged. It was a very well-written tragedy in a period of history where drama was incredibly important. A story with so much meaning proves the power that drama can have on people, or even a whole culture.