Oedipus presents ceaseless paradoxes that have fascinated readers for centuries. He is proud of his intellect, but he does not know himself and succumbs easily to self-deceptions. As a ruler he expresses the greatest good will toward his people, but as an exile he will do nothing to save
them from their enemies. Faced with a damning prophecy, he tries to take destiny into his own hands and fails. Realizing this, he struggles at the end of his life for a serenity that seems to elude him. In his last misery, he is said to illustrate the tragic lament that it is better not to be
born, or, once born, better to die young than to live into old age.
Such are the themes a set of powerful thinkers take on in this volume-self-knowledge, self-deception, destiny, the value of a human life. There are depths to the Oedipus tragedies that only philosophers can plumb; readers who know the plays will be startled by what they find in this volume. There
is nothing in literature to compare with the Oedipus plays of Sophocles that let us see the same basic myth through different lenses. The first play was the product of a poet in vibrant late middle age, the second of a man who was probably in his eighties, with the vision of a very old poet still
at the height of his powers.
In the volume's introduciton, Paul Woodruff provides historical backdrop to Sophocles and the plays, and connections to the contributions by philosophers and classicists that follow.