BiographySophocles was an Athenian tragedian of the 5th Century BC, about eight hundred years after Pyrrha's story takes place. Playwrights of Sophocles's time competed against each other in annual festivals, at which each contestant would present three thematically-linked tragedies plus one lighter-toned "satyr play." Sophocles competed in 30 festivals over his lifetime against such rivals as Aeschylus and Euripides. Sophocles won 24 of these contests and never placed lower than second place in the rest.
Sophocles and ThebesOf the 120 plays Sophocles wrote and presented, only seven survive complete. Three have Theban themes: Oedipus Rex depicts the unraveling of a king with a particularly infamous backstory; Antigone presents a young woman with the dilemma of choosing between family honor or compliance with the law; and Oedipus at Colonus gives the disgraced former king a final chance at redemption.
The PlagueOedipus Rex was composed during the 430 BC plague, the worst to hit Greece during the entire Classical period. In Athens, about a third of the population died as a result. The play is set during another plague, the Miasma attendant upon the tail end of King Oedipus's reign. Although regarded by Aristotle and other critics as the best Greek tragedy ever written, the play and its lost companion pieces earned Sophocles one of his rare competitive losses. Perhaps Sophocles was being a little too timely for his own good?
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