Summary

The play starts off in front of the Theban palace. King Oedipus walks out of the palace to see that a crowd of people have gathered near his palace praying. Oedipus asks the priest of Zeus why all his followers are lamenting and praying. He realizes that the people are going through pain and agony, seeing that they are impoverished and in sorrow. The priest replies that they are praying to the gods to end the plague that has beset Thebes. The plague has wasted the city’s crops and pastures and rendered all the Theban women sterile. They gather in front of Oedipus palace for they see him as their king, a god like figure who once free them from the curse of the Sphinx. Being hopeless and helpless, they turn to him, wishing that he would once again free them from the disaster.

Analysis
Truth was often a terrifying concept, the Greeks saw it as a critical virtue. They honored the pursuit of knowledge and the theater was where the ideas of knowledge and truth were examined. Sophocles uses the character transformation of Oedipus, in tandem with the plot, to highlight the theme of his work. In the beginning of the story, the setting shows that Oedipus was treated like a God; he emerges from his palace with the citizens gathered around his palace praying. Oedipus appears to be a confident, valiant hero. He gained his respect through solving the Sphinx’s riddle. Despite the threat of death to anyone who fails to answer the riddle correctly, Oedipus still bravely takes the risk in answering her riddle. Oedipus succeeds in freeing the city from the Sphinx’s evil reign, and instantaneously became famous for his bravery and intelligence. Ironically, his intelligence, the answer to the Sphinx, is describing him, a human who walked on four feet when young, two feet when matured and three legs when old and weak. In the course of the play, Oedipus himself proves to be that same man, an embodiment of the Sphinx’s riddle. Oedipus is only human, and yet he is glorified and magnified, his knowledge made him prideful. He is idealized by the Thebans and at times spites the Gods, assuming authority that normally belongs to them. He tells the chorus which implores the Gods for deliverance from the plague, “You pray to the gods? Let me grant your prayers” (245). The people place their hopes in Oedipus for the Gods have not given them aid from the plague. Oedipus is merely the solver of the Sphinx’s riddle, he himself is the answer, from his rise to his fall.