Study Guide to Sophocles' Oedipus the King

This page is an index to materials you will want to consult in connection with our reading assignments in and about this play.

Preliminary background information 

(1) Before undertaking the play, be sure to read Bernard Knox's illuminating essay "Greece and the Theater" -- the general introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Robert Fagles' translation (Sophocles,  The Three Theban Plays:  Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus).

There is a brief set of questions on this essay, designed to point you to important features of it.

(2) You will want to supplement this discussion with the page on Introduction to Greek Stagecraft, to get a sense of the physical layout of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens and a feel for how a play like Oedipus the King was staged.  (This discussion is produced by Didaskalia, an English-language publication about Greek and Roman drama, dance, and music as they are performed today..)

Don't omit a visit to Didaskalia's page on Recreating the Theater of Dionysus in Athens!

(3) Also:  before you read the play, you should read the first third of Knox's Introduction to the play itself (from p. 131 through the first paragraph on p. 138).

There is also a brief set of questions on this part of Knox's Introduction, designed to point you to important features of it.

Study Guides for use during your reading of the play itself

There is a brief outline of the play that you may find useful to print off.  This is a convenient way to "scope" the overall structure of the play.

There is also a set of pointers about imagery to be taking stock of as you read the play.

Choose one of the following as a way of immediately reviewing the sections of the play outlined above as you complete them.

There is an excellent passage-by-passage study guide to the Oedipus the King by Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Department of Classics, Temple University, designed for use with the translation by Robert Fagles.

Another fine resource is the chronological study guide to Oedipus the King by Roger Dunkle for Brooklyn College's Core Study Program.  Explanations, pointers, questions.

Following up your initial reading of the play

There is a series of pointers concerning Dramatic Irony in Sophocles' Oedipus the King.  Use it to test your grasp of how the play is structured to afford the audience repeated experience of dramatic irony.  How does this experience on the part of the audience contribute to Sophocles' overall thematic purpose in the play?

After you've read the play at least once, you should work your way through the last two-thirds of Knox's Introduction to Oedipus the King (Penguin Classics edition, from the second paragraph on p. 138 to the end, on p. 153).

There is a set of questions to point you to key elements of Knox's analysis here.

  Suggestions are welcome.  Please send your comments to .

   Contents copyright 2002 by Lyman A. Baker

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

  This page last updated 24 September 2002 .