Describe the exposition, complication, climax, and denouement in Oedipus the King.  

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The exposition of Sophocles' Oedipus the King occurs in a fairly organic way in this play. The audience learns from conversations that Oedipus has with the Priest and Creon that the plague afflicting the Thebans is caused by the continued presence of Laius' killer within the city.

The play's complication, I would say, occurs when Teiresias arrives and is goaded into telling Oedipus that he is the person who killed Laius and who married his mother.

The climax takes place when Oedipus learns from the Theban shepherd that Jocasta had given the baby Oedipus to him to expose on Mount Cithaeron, but that the Theban shepherd gave the baby to the Corinthian shepherd, who in turn gave Oedipus to Polybus and Merope of Corinth. Oedipus responds:

Ah, so it all came true. It’s so clear now.

O light, let me look at you one final time,

a man who stands revealed as cursed by birth,

cursed by my own family, and cursed

by murder where I should not kill.

(Ian Johnston translation)

The denoument in this tragedy occurs at the play's conclusion. Oedipus, having learned that the prophecies about him have come true, has blinded himself. Having blinded himself, Oedipus laments his fate, pleads with Creon to banish him, but also does not want to be parted from his children. The play ends with the chorus commenting on how a person's fortunes can change in an instant.


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