Mohanan Nambiarath

September 3, 2011 

‘King Oedipus’ is a Katnakai adaption of the play by the same name, written 

by Scphocles. Sophocies was a dramatist and play writer who lived in 4th 

century B.C. in ancient Greece. He has written several plays. of which 4 of 

them are about the Trojan war. Besides these. he has also written other plays 

– ‘Antigone’ and ‘Oedipus at Colonnus’. Of all of his plays, ‘King Oedipus’ was 

the most popular and perfect. 

The present play was scripted into Kathakali format by Shri Late N. Sankaranarayanan and M..V Rajan

The story of Oedipus has aways been a fascination for writers and scientists 

alike. The term ‘Oedipus complex’ in psychology has been coined, for an 

unnatural mother- son relationship, based on the same story. 

The stOry of King Oedipus: 

King Layoos of the Country .of Thebes is childless and hence approaches the 

high priests of the Temple of Delphi for a divine solution. There a revelation is 

made to him that he would be killed by his own son and that it was better for 

him to not desire a child. The King is devastated by the revelation and decides 

to keep it to himself. His wife Jacosta is suspicious of his discretion. She 

drugs Layoos and forces herself upon him, with the desire to bear a child. 

Soon Jacosta gives birth to a son. Layoos decides to destroy the child. He 

orders his soldiers to impale the boy’s feet with iron nails and abandon him on 

the mountains of Betheron. 

A few shepherds find the injured child and take him to the King PoJybeus, of 

Corynth, who has also been childless. Polybeus names the boy Oedipus 

( meaning the one with injured feet) and raises him a~ his own son. 

As Oedipus grows older he is clouded by the doubt that he was adopted and 

that Polybeus, was not his true father. Therefore he sets out to the Temple of 

Delphi in search of-his true identity. At the temple it is revealed to him that he 

would kill his father and take his mother for a wife. Disturbed by the revelation 

Oedipus decides to leave his country and parents. As he wanders about, he 

arrives close to the city of Thebes. He accidentally confronts King layoos on 

his chariot. The charioteer finds Oedipus arrogant and there issues a combat 

between them. The Charioteer is killed by Oedipus and the nervous horses 

take off in great speed with Layoos in it. Oedipus continues his journey, 

unaware of t.ayoos’s death as the chariot crashes. 

Oedipus arrives at the city of Thebes, which is besiged by an evil sphinx. The 

Sphinx would riddle people and if the.answer was wrong it would kill them. 

Oedipus redeems the City from the Sphinx’s spell by solving the riddles. The 

relieved people of Thebes, decide to coronate Oedipus as their King and also 

offer Jacoste’s ( their queen’s }hand in marriage. 

Oedipus and Lacoste are happily married. unaware of their mother-son 

relationship. Soon Lacoste bears 4 sons, after which the city begins to be 

afflicted by various cararrrines such as diseases. famine. poverty etc. 

A corncerned Oedinnsdecides to consult Tnereseus. a blind yet powerfu: high 

priest of the temple of Oelphi. 

Kathakali version: 

In the Kathakali versions the script or attaa katha, begins with Oedipus 

grieving over the revelation at the temple of Delphi. There are seven 

characters in this play. 

Scene -1: (Oedipus) 

Oedipus is devastated by the revelation made by Lord Apollo which was that 

Oedipus would slay his father and wed his own mother. Oedipus prays to the 

Sun God to spare his parents from grief. He then decides to leave the country 

to avoid such a fate. 

Scene – 2 : ( Layoos and Oedipus) 

Oedipus accidentally finds himself face to face with Layoos who is riding in his 

chariot. Layooscommands Oeddipus to move out of the way. Oedipus 

refuses and there issues a combat between them. Layoos’s chariot crashes 

and he is killed. Oedipus continues his journey and on arriving at the city of 

Thebes, hears a command being addressed to him in a deafening roar. 

Curious, he decides to trace the source of the sound. 

Scene – 3 ( Sphinx and Oedipus). 

Sphinx’s Thiranottam.  The Sphinx asks Oedipus a riddle which has been 

unsolved for ages. Oedipus answers the riddle quite easily and the 

shocked Sphinx falls dead. The people of Thebes are overjoyed and 

they escort Oedipus in a grand procession to the palace. 

Scene – 4 ( Oedipus, Yacosta, Creon and the Priest) 

Oedipus marries Yacosta 

Scene – 5 ( Oedipus and Yacosta) 

The scene consists of a sringaara padam, or romantic scene between 

Oedipus and Yacosta. 

Scene – 6 ( Creon and messenger) 

A thiranottam by Creon. A messenger (spy) enters and informs Creon of the 

ominous calamities afflicting Thebes. 

Scene – 7 ( Oedipus, Creon and Yaccsta) 

Creon enters and lepOlts to Oedipus that the kingdom is afflicted by 

cai:amitie.s and these were ominous s!.gns. Oedious Orders–C~n to summon 

Thereseus the blind high priest of the temple of Delphi to the palace. 

Scene – 8 ( Oedipus, Thereseus and Yacosta) 

Thereseus enters and he is greeted by both Oedipus and Lacoste. 

Oedipus expresses his concern about the ominous calamities afflicting 

Thebes and requests an answer from Thereseus. Initially Thereseus is 

unwHling to discuss but on compulsion by Oedipus, ambiguously narrates the 

events of the past beginning from Oedipus’s birth, the prophecy and the 

subsequent abandonment. Thereseus leaves quickly after having sown seeds 

of doubt in Jacosta’s mind. The truth of the situation finally dawns on Yacosta 

and she rushes away to her quarters. Oedipusis is vexed by the situation and 

on arriving at Yacosta’s quarters finds her dead. Burdened by the reality and 

shame, Oeidpus blinds himself and submits it at his mother’s feet. 

(As posted in Facebook KATHAKALI group by Mr. Mohanan Nambiarath)

Categories: Essay

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