Category: Sophocles


Electra is a play written by the 5th-century BCE Greek tragedian Sophocles. Similar to AeschylusLibation Bearers, Electra focuses on the return of Electra’s brother Orestes from exile and the plot to murder their mother. Years earlier, their mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus killed their father Agamemnon upon his return from the Trojan War. In this version of the story, Electra has been treated as a slave since the death of her father. She tries to procure the assistance of her sister Chrysothemus in her plot but fails. With the return of Orestes and his friend Plyades, Electra is able to successfully avenge her father’s murder.

The play begins with Orestes, son of Agamemnon and brother of Electra, returning to Mycenae and plotting his revenge against his mother. He tells his old slave to go to the palace and announce to Clytemnestra that Orestes is dead. He and Plyades will use the urn containing his supposed ashes to gain access to the palace. Meanwhile, Electra is pacing before the palace, bemoaning her plight in life and ranting against her mother and her lover, Aegisthus. The years have not quelled her intense hatred. Her sister, Chrysothemis, exits the palace and is confronted by Electra. Over the years, Chrysothemis has become complacent and somewhat accepting of her mother’s role in her father’s death. Later, when asked to join in a plot to kill their mother and Aegisthus, she will refuse.

When Clytemnestra and Electra meet outside the palace, they argue; Electra is even threatened with exile. The old slave arrives and speaks to Clytemnestra, telling her of her son’s valiant death in a chariot race. Electra is heartbroken. When Chrysothemis returns from offering libations at their father’s grave, she tells her sister that she believes Orestes is still alive and in Argos. Electra informs her of the news of Orestes death. Shortly, Orestes and his friend Plyades arrive with the urn, and, after convincing Electra of his identity, they enter the palace, killing Clytemnestra. Later, when Aegisthus returns, he, too, is killed.

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Antigone was the third play in the Oedipus trilogy written by the great Greek playwright Sophocles (c. 496 – c. 406). Produced around 441 BCE and receiving first prize at the Dionysia festival, the tragedy was actually written long before both Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus.

In the play, Antigone returns to Thebes after the death of her father Oedipus. Her brothers Polynices and Eteocles have both been killed in the war between Argos and Thebes. Creon, Antigone’s uncle, has assumed the leadership of Thebes and by decree refuses to grant the traitor Polynices a proper burial. Antigone chooses to disobey Creon and bury her brother herself. Having violated Creon’s order, she is imprisoned and left to die, eventually hanging herself. Haemon, her fiancé and Creon’s son, joins her, taking his own life. Finally persuaded by a prophet to change his mind, Creon is too late to save either his son or Antigone. His wife Eurydice commits suicide, blaming Creon for the death of her son. In the end, Creon is left alone.

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Fragment of one of Sophocles’ plays, the Ichneutai. Only about half of the play has been found. We only have seven of Sophocles’ plays in their entirety – scholars know that he wrote at least 120. The Ichneutai appears to have been a satyr play, a type of play known for its raunchy humor, meant as comic relief amidst heavier tragedies.


OEDIPUS at Colonus was the third play of the Oedipus trilogy written by the great Greek tragedian Sophocles (c. 496 – c. 406 BCE). Although written in the years prior to his death, it would finally be presented by his son Iophon at a dramatic competition in 401 BCE. The play’s sequel Antigone was actually written years earlier in 441 BCE. Oedipus at Colonus accounts for the final years of the fallen king, 20 years after his exile from Thebes

Blind, weak and dressed in rags, he accepted his fate and wandered from town to town as an outcast accompanied only by his young daughter Antigone. Arriving outside Athens at Colonus, he is befriended by the king of Athens, Theseus, who offers him protection. Oedipus speaks of a prophecy that says whatever city grants him sanctuary will be given special protection. Knowledge of this prophecy comes to the attention of Creon, his brother-in-law, and his son Polyneices who want to take advantage of the blinded king. Both had coldly refused him shelter in the past but now travel to Colonus to offer him sanctuary.

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THE 5th-century BCE poet and dramatist Sophocles is considered one of the most successful tragedians of his time. Although Sophocles wrote at least 120 plays, only seven have survived. Of his surviving plays, the most famous is Oedipus the King, also known as Oedipus Rex or Oedipus Tyrannos (‘Tyrannos’ signifies that the throne was not gained through an inheritance). The play is part of a trilogy along with Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus.

The plot – an old myth already known to most of the audience – was simple: a prophecy claiming he would kill his father and lie with his mother forces Oedipus to leave his home of Corinth and unknowingly travel to Thebes (his actual birthplace). On route he fulfills the first part of the prophecy when he kills a man, the king of Thebes and his true father. Upon arriving in Thebes, he saves the troubled city by solving the riddle of the Sphinx, then he marries the widowed queen (his mother) and becomes the new king. Later, when a plague has befallen the city, Oedipus is told that to rid the city of the plague he must find the murderer of the slain king. Unknowingly, ignorant of the fact that he was the culprit, he promises to solve the murder. When he finally learns the truth, he realizes he has fulfilled the prophecy; he blinds himself and goes into exile.

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