Oedipus the King: What is the significance of the play’s title? What does it suggest about the author’s overall emphasis?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The title Sophocles gives this play indicates several things about its focus and themes.

To start, the myth of Oedipus has several stages, and the audience Sophocles was writing for would have known each stage. The title signals to the audience which portions of the myth the play will cover.

Since Sophocles was working in a known, if fairly new structure (tragedy), his audience is likely to have known that the title indicates that play will cover not a period in which Oedipus is successful as being a king, but that he'll fall from this position.

They can know to look for a tragic flaw, and for Oedipus to fall because of it.


Finally, because of the way the king relates to his people in this period, the title signals that the play will carry implications for the entire community. It isn't just a private matter: it will have public or communal implications.

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