Literapedia Book Notes for

Oedipus the King by Sophocles

Scene Summaries

  • Prologue (lines 1–168) Oedipus enters and asks the Priest what is wrong. Creon reports from Delphi that Laius’s killer must be found.
    • Parodos—intro ode (lines 168–244) The Chorus, the citizens of Thebes, begs the gods for release from the plague.

  • 1st scene (lines 245–526) Oedipus exhorts the crowd and their Leader to deliver the killer. Tiresias arrives and under pressure tells Oedipus that he is the killer he seeks. Oedipus angrily accuses Tiresias of conspiring with Creon against him.
    • 1st ode (lines 526–572) The Chorus sings of their confusion at the prophesy but end with support of Oedipus.

  • 2nd scene (lines 573–953) Creon defends himself to the Leader and the chorus and then to Oedipus. Jocasta enters and calms Oedipus with the story of how the prophet was mistaken about her son. Oedipus realizes that he could have killed Laius and tells the story of why he left Corinth. They wait for the shepherd who was present at Laius’s death.
    • 2nd ode (lines 954–997) The Chorus sings against those who ignore the gods and the prophecies.

  • 3rd scene (lines 998–11947) Jocasta makes offering to the gods. The Leader presents to her a Messenger from Corinth, who tells her and Oedipus of the death of Polybus. The Messenger goes on to tell of how he found Oedipus when he was an infant. Jocasta, guessing the truth, exhorts Oedipus to stop his investigation, but he ignorantly refuses.
    • 3rd ode (lines 1195–1214) The Chorus celebrates Oedipus’s imminent happiness at finding his true parents.

  • 4th scene (lines 1215–1310) The Shepherd arrives and is recognized by the Messenger. Under the threat of torture, the Shepherd reveals to Oedipus that he is the son of Jocasta, who tried to have him killed as a baby.
    • 4th ode (lines 1311–1350) The Chorus bewails the fate of Oedipus, a man who had achieved so much, only to become so miserable.

  • epilogue (lines 1351–1677) A Messenger (a different one) tells the Leader of the suicide of Jocasta and Oedipus's discovery of the body. Oedipus explains to the Chorus why he blinded himself. Creon takes charge and allows Oedipus to "see" his daughters.
    • exodus (lines 1678–1684) The Chorus exhorts the audience to “count no man happy till he dies.”

Book Note Creator

Hal Waller, instructor