Born: c. 496 B.C.
Died: c. 406 B.C.
Birthplace: Colonus (now Kolonos), Greece
Best known as: Greek dramatist who wrote Oedipus Tyrannus
Sophocles was a Greek dramatist whose long career came between his contemporaries Aeschylus
and Euripides. A respected public figure of Athens, he was both a priest and a general (an elected position), but he is best known for the many dramatic prizes he won after 468 B.C. Like the elder Aeschylus, Sophocles was known as an innovator. He is credited with introducing a third actor (the tradition was two), expanding the chorus from 12 to 15 players and replacing the trilogy form with self-contained tragedies. It is estimated he wrote more than 120 plays, of which only seven are extant (hundreds of fragments survived also). His most famous play, Oedipus Tyrannus
(also known as Oedipus Rex
or Oedipus the King
), is considered by many to be the apex of Greek dramatic irony. His other plays include Antigone
(The Women of Trachis
) and Oedipus at Colonus
(produced after his death).
Sophocles was also an actor and performed in many of his early works… Reliable sources for the dates of his plays are scarce, other than for Oedipus at Colonus, produced in 401 B.C…. Because they involve themes associated with Thebes, the plays Antigone, Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Colonus are sometimes referred to as the “Theban plays” or “Theban trilogy” (though scholars are quick to point out the plays are not, in fact, a trilogy).
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