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.
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)