Summary and Analysis: Oedipus the King Lines 169-244



The chorus chants a prayer to the gods Zeus, Apollo, Athena, and Artemis, describing the horrors of the Theban plague. In the name of the people, they beg for deliverance from the gods, but worry about the sacrifice that may be demanded in return.


At this point, the chorus takes over the stage, providing a break in the action as they reflect the fear and foreboding implicit in the unfolding drama.

Most practically, this chanting denotes the passage of time, from Oedipus' command to assemble all the Thebans to their appearance before the palace in the next scene. The theme of the chorus — the suffering of Thebes — also develops in detail the reality of the plague, which has been discussed only in general terms so far. The poetic repetition — "Death / so many deaths, numberless deaths on deaths" (203-204) — arouses pity in the audience, as does the chorus' plaintive plea for help from the gods.

The chorus' anxiety about the price of deliverance also continues the dramatic irony begun in the first scene, foreshadowing the tragedy's climax, the disgrace and downfall of Oedipus.


Delos small island in the Aegean, legendary birthplace of Artemis and Apollo.

Artemis the goddess of the moon, wild animals, and hunting in Greek mythology. She is the twin sister of Apollo.

Muses the nine goddesses who preside over literature and the arts and sciences: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia, Urania, and Thalia.