The literal answer is that the event took place in the second play of the trilogy, Oedipus Rex. There are debates, however, over the exact timeline. The murder is never recounted in real-time in the play.
It is only referred to by various characters as Oedipus tries to find the truth about who killed the king. Two stories emerge as the play unfolds- Oedipus’ own story of killing a man along the road to Thebes before he meets the Sphinx, and a shepherd, who announced the king’s death to the City. It is never evident which version of the murder is the more accurate one.
To make things more complicated, Sophocles wrote the trilogy out of order. The plays were written in the order of Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus.
The events, in chronological order, are reversed. The events of the plays happen in order through Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone.
The story of Oedipus starts long before the plays were written. Laius, Oedipus’ father, brought tragedy down on his own home and family. His life was marked by the gods from the time he was a young man. While not all of the myth events are recounted in the plays, Sophocles was certainly aware of the myth as he wrote and cast Laius in both villain and victim roles.
What was Laius’ crime that resulted in his being fated to be murdered by his own son?
The mythology reveals that Laius violated Greek traditions of hospitality by assaulting a young man in his care. He was a guest in a home of a neighboring royal family and was given the task of looking after their son.
Who did Oedipus kill?
Laius was a rapist who became king and never accepted responsibility for his crime.
When the prophecy promised he would be punished, he did everything he could to avoid his fate. He even went so far as to try to force his wife to murder their infant son.
Why did Oedipus kill his father?
Laius was doomed from the start. Having broken the strict code of Greek hospitality, he had already earned the anger of the gods. When a prophecy told him that he would be punished for his crime, he tried to escape punishment rather than repent. Laius bound Oedipus’ feet by driving a pin through them and gave him to Jocasta and ordered her to kill him. Unable to murder her own son, Jocasta gave him to a shepherd. The shepherd, taking pity upon the infant, gave him to a childless king and queen.
The king and queen of Corinth took Oedipus in and raised him as their own. Oedipus was a young man when he heard the prophecy. He believed that his beloved adoptive parents were in danger if he stayed in Corinth. He set out for Thebes, leaving Corinth.
Ironically, like Laius, Oedipus wanted to avoid having the prophecy come true. Unlike Laius, Oedipus was trying to protect someone else- the people he believed to be his parents.
Unfortunately, Oedipus inherited his father’s one true failing- pride.
He sets out for Thebes to escape the will of the gods. Believing that he is the son of Polybus, the king of Corinth, and Merope, his wife, Oedipus sets out to distance himself and stop the prophecy from coming true.
Who is Oedipus’ father?
The man who gave him life, and tried to take it away, or the man who took him in and raised him?
The haughty, arrogant ruler of Thebes, or the kindly childless king of Corinth?
Oedipus was doomed by his father’s fate to flee from the one he believed to be his father and murder the one who gave him life. The themes of the cost of pride and arrogance and the inescapable nature of the will of the gods are both clear in Sophocles’ plays.
Where did Oedipus kill his father?
Along the road to Thebes, Oedipus meets a small entourage and is ordered to stand aside. Refusing out of nothing more than stubborn pride, he is set upon by the guards. Unknown to himself, the man he challenges is his own biological father, Laius. Slaughtering the man and the guards traveling with him, Oedipus travels on toward Thebes. To prevent the prophecy, Oedipus kills his father, fulfilling the first part unintentionally.
He does not even know that the man he has killed was his own biological father. He does not begin to suspect what happened until it is far too late. He travels on toward Thebes, not giving the dead men another thought. It is not until Thebes is besieged by plagues that kill both livestock and children that he begins to understand that the prophecy has come true. In a fierce twist of fate, Oedipus’ crimes- murdering his father and marrying his mother, have brought grief upon Thebes. The plague can not be lifted until Laius’ murder is brought to justice. Oedipus himself has inherited his father’s curse.
How did Oedipus kill his father?
The exact way in which the murder is carried out is never mentioned in the text. The murder is referred to at various points in the play, but there are at least two versions of the encounter recounted, and it is never entirely clear. Was Laius murdered by “robbers,” as was the commonly accepted view, or did Oedipus kill his father? The point is, one Sophocles seems to have left deliberately hazy in his writing. It is never entirely clear that Oedipus’ prophecy about him killing his father was truly fulfilled. Oedipus’ guilt is determined by circumstantial evidence- the similarities between the shepherd’s story and his own.
The murder of Oedipus’ father is an ongoing theme of tragedy in the royal family of Thebes. Not until it was far too late did Oedipus know he killed his father. By the time the murder was revealed- the first part of the prophecy he had tried to avoid, he had already fulfilled the second and more horrifying part. He had married his own mother, and she had borne his children. Oedipus was doomed from the start. Even if he had not murdered his own father, he bedded his mother, a crime against nature itself.
Overcome by the horror of the knowledge of what he had done, his mother committed suicide. Oedipus responded to her death by putting out his own eyes with the pins from her dress and begging the uncaring gods to be allowed to die as well.
Oedipus and Laius’ stories overlap and intertwine, and reveal many complex layers. The themes of pride and familial sin run strong through the plays. Laius’ crime against a young boy doomed him to die by his own son’s hand. Oedipus, made aware of the prophecy, carried it out unintentionally. By trying to defy the will of the gods, both men doomed themselves to fulfill their fates.