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Greek Theatre

3. Oedipus the King

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In this module, we think about Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, focusing in particular on: (i) the two questions that haunt Oedipus throughout the play – “Who am I?”, “How do I know?”; (ii) the different ways Oedipus’ world collapses after he finds out he who is and what he has done, including the breakdown of language itself; (iii) the importance of Oedipus’ name, itself a kind of riddle; and (iv) the impact of dramatic irony on the audience’s judgement of Oedipus’ character – but are we really so different ourselves?


In this course, Professor Simon Goldhill (University of Cambridge) explores several aspects of Greek tragedy and comedy, focusing in particular on Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Euripides’ Bacchae, and Aristophanes’ Frogs. The first module provides an introduction to Greek tragedy and comedy, focusing in particular on the particular time and place in which these plays were written and performed ¬– fifth-century Athens. In the second module, we think about the rituals and ceremonies that preceded the performance of the dramatic works themselves – and why they are important in how we think about tragedy and comedy. Each of the three modules after that focuses on a single play –Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Euripides’ Bacchae, and Aristophanes’ Frogs – and we think about some of the play’s key issues and preoccupations. The sixth module provides some concluding thoughts on the genre as a whole.


Simon Goldhill is Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. His research interests include Greek Tragedy, Greek Culture, Literary Theory, Later Greek Literature, and Reception. His many publications include Reading Greek Tragedy (1986), Love Sex and Tragedy (2004), Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity (2011), and Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy (2012), the last of which won the 2013 Runciman Award for the best book on a Greek topic, ancient or modern.

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APA style

Goldhill, S. (2020, September 03). Greek Theatre - Oedipus the King [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Goldhill, S. "Greek Theatre – Oedipus the King." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 03 Sep 2020,

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