Study Guide

Oedipus the King Plot Analysis

By Sophocles

Plot Analysis

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 is just another "Thebes has a problem, Oedipus makes it go away," deal.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Oedipus is exiled from Thebes.

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