Notes on Characters from Oedipus the King

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Oedipus the King Major Characters

Oedipus Rex: The ruler of Thebes, Oedipus was destined to sleep with his mother and kill his father. Knowing this fate, his parents abandoned him, and he was raised by a different family. However, Oedipus had no knowledge of this, and after hearing of his fate he left his parents in order not to hurt them. After many years, he discovers that he has done exactly what his fate had predicted, as he has found and married his mother by chance, and killed his father on the road without knowing who he was.

Creon: Oedipus' brother-in-law, and Jocasta's brother. Oedipus accuses Creon of attempting to kill him and take his title. Creon also supported Tiresias, who predicted Oedipus' fate, so Oedipus resentments him even more. What Oedipus imagines to be Creon's murderous intentions, however, are discounted when it's revealed that Creon owns a third of Thebes but chooses not to rule (so he's not power-hungry). Creon turns out to be a true friend, as he agrees to take care of Oedipus' daughters when Oedipus goes into exile.

Jocasta: Oedipus' wife and mother. Jocasta was also Creon's sister, and was previously married to Laios. Although she wants Thebes to get better, she does not want Oedipus to pursue the path he has taken in finding out why Thebes is sick, as she is scared that what the oracles predicted when Oedipus was born is true. Jocasta, up to this point, does not believe in the oracles, since she thought that her son had died and could not live to do what the oracles had proclaimed he would do.

Minor Characters

The priest of Zeus: The priest that represents the people when they come to Oedipus to complain of the disasters that are befalling them and the city.

Gods: Many gods, such as Zeus and Ares, are offered prayers for many different reasons. When the people have problems, they turn to the gods for advice.

Apollo: The Sun god and Healer god. The people of Thebes ask Apollo for advice when they want to save Thebes. Since Apollo saved Thebes once before, the people believe he can do it again. It is Apollo's shrine that Jocasta goes to when she prays for the gods to help Oedipus cure Thebes.

Laios: Oedipus' father and Jocasta's first husband. It was his fate to be killed by his son, and therefore he tried to get rid of his newborn boy. However, his fate befell him when Oedipus (who never knew his true parents) got into a fight with Laios' party at a crossroads, and killed him.

Delphi: An oracle that predicts Oedipus will kill his father and sleep with his mother.

The elders: They represent the voice of Thebes, and give advice to Oedipus. They are very holy and pray to the gods all the time. They are disappointed with the sorry state of Thebes.

Ares: The Slaughter god of War. The elders pray to him to help stop Thebes from burning and being destroyed.

Tiresias: The blind prophet who predicts fate and can see the future. He is called on by Oedipus for advice, but when he reveals Oedipus' fate, the king gets angry, accuses him of conspiring with Creon to kill him and take his place as king, and tells him to leave.

Polybus: Oedipus' surrogate father in Corinth, and the ruler of Corinth. Oedipus left Corinth because he was destined to kill his father, whom he thought was Polybus. When Polybus died of natural causes, the people of Corinth came to Oedipus and asked him to rule.

Zeus: The elders call upon the god, Zeus, to give help to Thebes and Oedipus.

Corinthian: The man who brings news of Polybus' death and who asks Oedipus to rule Corinth. He also informs Oedipus that Merope and Polybus are not his real parents, and that he himself gave them the baby Oedipus, whom he'd received from a herdsman.

Merope: Oedipus' surrogate mother in Corinth, and current ruler of Corinth. Oedipus left Corinth because he was destined to sleep with his mother, who he thought was Melope.

Herdsman/Shepherd: Oedipus was given to the herdsman by Jocasta, who tried to get rid of her ill-fated child. This herdsman once grazed sheep in Mount Kithairon with the Corinthian, and had given him to Jocasta's child. Also, he was the only survivor of the fight between Oedipus and Laios.

Dionysos: A god who roams the hilltops and who the elders hope is Oedipus' father when they learn that he was found on a hill.

Labdakos: The ruling family of Thebes, consisting of Creon, Laios and Jocasta. Oedipus married Jocasta after Laios died, and therefore ruled as king of Thebes, since Creon didn't want to rule.

Antigone: One of Oedipus' daughters, who Oedipus asks Creon to take care of.

Ismene: One of Oedipus' daughters, who Oedipus asks Creon to take care of.

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