Oedipus the King
Oedipus the King
by Sophocles

Oedipus the King Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Oedipus is aware that there is a curse on Thebes and has Creon gather insight into how to lift it

These are the circumstances at the beginning of the play. At first, it seems like this us just another "Thebes has a problem, Oedipus makes it go away," deal.

Conflict

No one wants to provide any information to Oedipus about Laius’s murder.

Oedipus struggles to get Teiresias, the messenger, and the shepherd to talk. He’s desperate to solve the mystery but he keeps being urged to drop it.

Complication

Oedipus begins to realize that he is somehow implicated in Laius’s murder.

The more Oedipus learns, the more he wants to know. Although he is inching closer to the truth, he is damaging himself in the process.

Climax

Oedipus realizes he’s slept with his mother and killed his father.

In a moment of horror, Oedipus understands what he’s done. This is the emotional and psychological climax of the play.

Suspense

Oedipus enters his bedroom and sees that Jocasta has hanged herself.

Oedipus sees that Jocasta, too, has realized what they’ve done. The suspense is inherent in the fact that we don’t know if Oedipus, too, will kill himself. Given that this is a Greek tragedy, we’re a little bit scared that everyone involved will suddenly commit suicide as well. It’s quite suspenseful.

Denouement

Oedipus gouges his eyes out with a brooch from Jocasta’s dress.

With complete knowledge of what he’s done, Oedipus inflicts injury on himself and begs to be exiled from Thebes.

Conclusion

Oedipus is exiled from Thebes.

In the last moments of the play, Oedipus is banished from his home.

Next Page: Booker’s Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Tragedy
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