Oedipus Rex Characters
The main characters in Oedipus Rex are Oedipus, Jocasta, Teiresias, and Creon.
- Oedipus is the king of Thebes and the tragic hero of the play. He is the victim of a curse that leads him to kill his father, Laius, and marry his mother. Once he realizes his true identity, Oedipus blinds himself and goes into exile.
- Jocasta is Oedipus's wife and mother, as well as the mother to his children. When she realizes the truth, she hangs herself.
- Teiresias is a blind prophet who reluctantly reveals Oedipus’s identity.
- Creon, Jocasta’s brother, delivers a prophecy stating that Laius’s murderer must be exiled.
Last Updated on February 28, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 356
Oedipus is often considered the quintessential Aristotelian tragic hero. In Oedipus Rex, he begins the play at a high point as the benevolent and beloved King of Thebes. However, at the end of the play, he blinds himself and prepares to enter into a self-imposed exile. Oedipus is destroyed by the knowledge that he has killed his father and married his mother. Oedipus remains a compelling and tragic figure because he does not realize his mistakes until it is too late. The true tragedy of his fall is that he bears minimal fault but must carry all the blame. (Read extended character analysis of Oedipus.)
Jocasta is the Queen of the city of Thebes and Creon’s sister. She is also Oedipus’s mother and wife, though neither she nor Oedipus knows this until too late. Just as Oedipus suffers a tragic downfall, so does Jocasta. However, unlike Oedipus, Jocasta attempts to shroud herself in ignorance. She cautions Oedipus against trusting oracles and pursuing knowledge. She wholeheartedly believes that her and King Laius’s painful decision to send the baby Oedipus away circumvented the prophecy. making the fulfillment of the prophecy all the more tragic. (Read extended character analysis of Jocasta.)
Teiresias, also spelled "Tiresias" in some translations, is a blind prophet of Apollo, called to Thebes by Oedipus in the hopes that he will reveal who murdered King Laius. Teiresias refuses to reveal the murderer’s identity. This frustrates Oedipus, who then accuses Teiresias of treason and mock his blindness. In response, Teiresias tells Oedipus that Oedipus will regret pursuing this knowledge. He also predicts Oedipus’s blinding and exile. (Read extended character analysis of Teiresias.)
Creon features in each story of the Sophocles's Oedipus Trilogy: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Creon is Jocasta’s brother and Oedipus’s brother-in-law. Oedipus sends him to consult the oracle at Delphi in the hopes of bringing an end to the plague. Upon returning to the city of Thebes, Creon reluctantly tells Oedipus that for the plague to end, King Laius’s murderer must be found and brought to justice. (Read extended character analysis of Creon.)
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 98
Choruses are a fixture of Greek tragedies, offering contextual information about the setting and providing audiences with a model for how to react to different events in the play.
The chorus in Oedipus Rex is made up of Theban elders. They respect and revere Oedipus, their king, who saved their city from the Sphinx. After it is revealed that Oedipus killed his father and married his mother, they are horrified but sympathetic. They bemoan Oedipus’s fate and remark on the tragedy of his fall from grace. Their response gives the audience license to pity Oedipus as well.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 107
The herdsman, or shepherd, of Laius was responsible for saving Oedipus’s life after his parents sent him to the mountain to die. Unable to condemn the child to death, the herdsman unbound Oedipus’s ankles and gave him to the messenger. The messenger then delivered Oedipus to the Corinthian King and Queen.
After learning from the messenger that the Corinthian King Polybos is not his father, Oedipus commands the herdsman to tell his side of the story. After he is threatened with execution, the herdsman reluctantly confirms that Oedipus really is Laius’s son. His testimony proves that Oedipus killed his father and married his mother.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 88
The first messenger arrives from Corinth and informs Oedipus that King Polybos of Corinth is dead. Oedipus, who believes that Polybos is his father, is briefly relieved that the prophecy seems to have been averted.
However, the messenger reveals that one of Laius’s shepherds gave the infant Oedipus to him before he delivered Oedipus to Polybos. Oedipus, disturbed to learn that Polybos is not his real father, commands the messenger to find the shepherd and convince him to testify to the truth of the messenger’s claims.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 39
The second messenger reports Jocasta’s suicide and Oedipus’s subsequent decision to blind himself to the chorus. The second messenger also predicts future woe for Jocasta and Oedipus’s children and announces Oedipus’s return to the stage.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 40
The priest of Zeus arrives at Oedipus’s palace in order to describe the suffering of the plague-wracked Theban people. He beseeches Oedipus, who saved Thebes once before by solving the riddle of the Sphinx, to help end the plague.
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