Compare and Contrast the Oedipus

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Oedipus the King

Oedipus the King is a play adaptation of an Athenian tragedy. Sophocles first staged the play in 429 BC. While Oedipus Rex is the second story in a series of plays, after Oedipus at Colonus, it comes first in terms of the ancient's activities. According to King Laius' prophecy, Oedipus' son is destined to destroy him as a kind of revenge for his promiscuity. Notably, Laius broke the holy law of hospitality by forcibly raping Chrysippus, who later committed suicide in shame. As a result, the land's gods cursed the king and his whole lineage. The story compares the life Oedipus as presented in the film version by Butler Yeats and Tyrone Guthrie with the text version translated by David Geen.

Background Information

After becoming the King of Thebes, Laius has a prophecy that he will be killed by his own son. The queen gives birth to a son and Laius orders the wife to kill his him (Seale, 1982). Due to mother’s child love, she hides the child who is later inherited by a barren queen, Merope. Oedipus grows to manhood and gets the information that he is not the biological son of King Polybus and Merope. Oedipus consults the oracles about his real biological father but they refuse to reveal the secret (Griffith, Most, Grene & Lattimore, 2013). Instead, the oracles reveal to Oedipus about the looming marriage between him and his mother and how he will kill his father. He is desperate to avoid the terrible action, hence, leaves Corinth for the city of Thebes (Grene, 2014). He still believes that Merope and Polybus are his biological parents. On his way to Thebes, he encounters the caravan of his father Laius and kills him.

The Plot of the Play and Film

At the beginning of the Geen’s version of the play, Thebes is suffering from plague that makes some women in the village barren. Oedipus, the King of Thebes, sends his brother-in-law to consult the oracles on mechanisms of ending the plague (Griffith, Most, Grene & Lattimore, 2013). The oracle reveals that the disaster shall end if the killer of the previous King is found. Conversely, the film begins in a dramatic action comprising of distinct demonstration from the actors. For instance, the actors put on masks made of monstrous and grotesque. Furthermore, the actors put on costumes with dominating colors which improve the overall quality (Grene, 2014). Douglas Campbell performs the character Oedipus in the film and outsmarts other characters in the scenes. Furthermore, the director has updated the City of Thebes to appear like industrialized and revolutionized state (Griffith, Most, Grene & Lattimore, 2013). Although some of the scenes in the film symbolize the Greek culture, the director intentionally removes the traditional masks that were deployed in the ancient Greek history.

The action of the Oedipus

The action of the Oedipus surprised the scholars, particularly, at the scenes he is carrying out inquiry regarding the affair with his mother and the killing of King Laius (Butler & Tyrone Guthrie, 1990). Notably, David outlines chronology of the events from the time the King leaves Corinth for Thebes to the time he is chased away from the kingdom due to shameless act of marrying his mother. Furthermore, the King promises to punish the killer of King Laius. For instance, the Oedipus replied to the King, ‘old man, I did not wish to kill my father (Seale, 1982).’ The film is universally accepted in different platforms which include cinematic events in United States.

Characters and Characterization

The film was produced by Betler Yeats and co-directed by Tyrone Guthrie and Abraham Polonsky. The characters of the play are Douglas Campbell and Eleanor Stuart who act as Oedipus and Jocasta respectively (Butler & Tyrone Guthrie, 1990). Other actors in the play are Douglas Rain, Robert Goodier, Donald Davis and William Hutt acting as the messenger, Creon, Tiresias and chorus leader respectively. The dressing style of the actors makes the film attractive and enthusiastic. For instance, Mr, Campbell acting as Oedipus is dressed in mask of cold expression with gold colored costume. The dressing makes him to appear like unearthly creature and resemble animated statue (Seale, 1982). Similarly, Stuart is dressed in glowing silver which makes her resemble the outlook of a traditional queen. Likewise, Mr. Martial is in a martial sheathing of bronze that makes him a fearful character in the play.


The film demonstrates the colorful and systematic movement of people on the stage. For instance, the director makes the whole story of Oedipus during early childhood age and his innocent marriage with the mother a pictorial. The characters distinguish the horror in the film through punching out of the eye and the inclusion of conspicuous masks. Furthermore, the movie generates great curiosity because of the extra-ordinary masks which the characters use. In the setting, Green gives a clear translation and commentaries which explains horror of the scene. For instance, the text version precisely outlines the plague during the reign of King Oedipus. Nevertheless, the film show little information regarding the horrific scenes as some of the actors do not perform to the expectation.


Butler Yeats and Tyrone Guthrie. (1990). Oedipus the King. Retrieved from:

David Grene (2014). Oedipus the King Sophocles. Retrieved from:

Griffith, M., Most, G. W., Grene, D., & Lattimore, R. (Eds.). (2013). Sophocles I: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. University of Chicago Press.

Seale, D. (1982). Vision and stagecraft in Sophocles. Taylor & Francis.

November 03, 2022



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