Of Sophocles’ many plays, only seven have come down to us; two of these plays concern the character of Oedipus. The first of these, Oedipus Tyrannus, was written soon after a plague devastated Athens, when Sophocles was in late middle age. It shows Oedipus gradually uncovering the truth about himself—that he is not a tyrannos after all, but the rightful heir to the throne, killer of his father and husband of his mother. The second, Oedipus at Colonus, was written at the end of the poet’s life, when he was in his eighties. In that play Oedipus welcomes the death for which he was destined and, along the way, utters the curse that will kill his two sons. These plays have been especially interesting to philosophers because of their themes of self-knowledge, responsibility, and the struggle for serenity in old age.
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