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Greek Drama and Oedipus Rex
Mr. Sweeney
Southwest High School
Drama – a story written to be performed
onstage by actors
◦ The plot is divided into acts, which are further
divided into scenes
◦ Dialogue – the conversations of the characters
Comedy vs. Tragedy
Comedy – a play with a happy ending;
usually deals with the struggles of
common people against social forces
 Tragedy – depicts the downfall of a main
character known as a tragic hero
Greek Tragedy
Qualities of a tragic hero
◦ Nobility
◦ Hamartia – a flaw that brings about the hero’s
downfall; all tragic heroes have one
◦ Hubris – also known as arrogance; it was the
most common flaw in Greek tragic heroes
Catharsis – the emotional cleansing we
experience as we watch the character
realize he has destroyed himself
Greek Plays
Only three actors were
used for all the main roles;
each often played multiple
 Actors wore masks so the
audiences knew which
characters they were
supposed to be in each
Greek Plays
A chorus of 10-15 people commented
on the action and divided the play by
reciting odes
 Each scene was, therefore, an episode
(“between the odes”)
Greek Playwrights
Three most
◦ Aeschylus
◦ Euripides
◦ Sophocles
Greek Theaters
Greek Theaters
Greek Plays
Plays were usually performed as part of
religious festivals
 Awards were given to the authors of the
very best plays at these festivals
(Sophocles won first place in 24 of the 62
festivals he entered)
 Oedipus Rex was first performed at the
Festival of Dionysius in Athens; Dionysius
was the Greek god of wine
The Tale of Oedipus
King Laius of Thebes learns from an
oracle that he will have a son, and that
this son will kill his father (Laius) and
marry his mother (Jocasta)
 When the baby is born, Laius has his feet
pinned together
 Laius then gives the baby to a servant and
instructs him to take the baby into the
wild and kills him
The Tale of Oedipus
The servant cannot bring himself to kill
the innocent child, so he passes him on to
a Corinthian shepherd he meets
 The shepherd takes the baby back to
Corinth and presents him to the
Corinthian king and queen
 They name him Oedipus (“swollen foot”)
because of the wound to his feet; they do
not tell him he was adopted
The Tale of Oedipus
When he has grown to a young man, a
drunken servant tells Oedipus that he
was adopted
 Since no one else will tell him the truth,
Oedipus goes to an oracle, who tells him
he will kill his father and marry his
 Distraught, Oedipus vows never to return
to Corinth
The Tale of Oedipus
On the road, Oedipus
meets a wealthy traveler,
who picks a fight with
him; Oedipus kills the
man, and the man’s
servant runs away
 Oedipus continues
traveling and meets the
Sphinx, who has
terrorized the city of
Thebes with his riddle
 Oedipus solves the
riddle and kills the
The Tale of Oedipus
The people of Thebes are overjoyed, but
their king has been killed – the do not
know who did it
 They name Oedipus their new king and
so he marries the old king’s widow,
 As the play begins, he has been king for
about 20 years, and has multiple children
with Jocasta