Oedipus the King is a murder mystery, a psychological mystery, and a political thriller. A story based on incest and patricide, Sophocles examines the irony of one man determined to capture the king’s murderer which ultimately turns out to be him. The play is a tragedy with Oedipus as the central figure and the tragic hero. Though Oedipus is a majestic king initially, he is reduced to a dejected man humbled by the horror of his actions. As predicted by the oracle, Oedipus kills Laius, his father and commits incest with his mother. When he finds out the truth, Oedipus chooses exile leaving Creon to assume the role of the king.
Sophocles develops the leading figure with unique characterization. He is not an evil, the man instead he looks out for the best for his family and his people. As a young man, Oedipus through his intelligence solves the great riddle of the sphinx and liberates his people by destroying the monster. After this, he sets out to find the king’s murderer so as to save the people of Thebes from the plague. Oedipus turned to the blind prophet Tiresias for information. However, the prophet accuses Oedipus of killing the king and hints of an incestuous marriage.
Oedipus seeks advice from his mother Jocasta who tells him to leave the matter alone as prophecies never come true. At this point, she tells him of the prophecy stating that Laius would die by the hand of his son which did not come true. This information distresses Oedipus as he recalls the man he killed resembled Laius. He also remembers the oracle telling him that he would kill his father which had led him to flee from home. When he is told that his father Polybus had passed away he rejoices to state that the prophecy was false. The messenger, however, also reveals to Oedipus that indeed he had was adopted and that Polybus and his wife were not his real parents.
Oedipus determined to find out the truth, sends for the only witness the shepherd. However, when the shepherded arrives, he reveals that he himself gave away Oedipus to Polybus according to instructions from Jocasta. Oedipus was the son of Laius and Jocasta. Despite his efforts, the prophecy turns out to be true. Oedipus is agonized by this fact and rushes to find Jocasta only to realize she had committed suicide. Tortured, Oedipus rakes his eyes out and sends himself to exile leaving Creon to be king.
Sophocles, David Grene, and Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Print.