Classical Greek Mythology

Sophocles and the Oedipus Cycle

Who was Sophocles, and how did he use use mythology?

As did Aeschylus, Sophocles (c. 497–406 B.C.E.) wrote many plays about heroes long known to the Greeks—heroes such as the epic warrior Ajax, and Elektra of the house of Atreus. Sophocles wrote three plays about the royal family of Thebes: Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex), Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. These plays were not written as a trilogy but were performed as parts of other trilogies in different years. Oedipus the King concerns Oedipus’ discovery of his polluted identity. Oedipus at Colonus is about the end of the blind Oedipus’ life when he is sheltered at a sanctuary outside Athens and protected by King Theseus. Antigone tells the tale of Oedipus’ heroic and ultimately tragic daughter Antigone. Aristotle held up Oedipus the King, performed at the City Dionysia in 429 B.C.E., as the model for Greek tragedy.


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