In classical mythology , a tragic king who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. The Delphic oracle predicted that King Laius of Thebes, a city in Greece , would be killed by his own son. To save himself, Laius ordered his newborn son placed on a mountaintop and left to starve. The infant was rescued by a shepherd and raised in a distant city, where he was given the name Oedipus. Years later, King Laius was killed while on a journey by a stranger with whom he quarreled. Oedipus arrived at Thebes shortly thereafter and saved the city from the ravages of the Sphinx . He was proclaimed king in Laius' stead, and he took the dead king's widow, Jocasta, as his own wife.
Theseus’s short speech from the end of Oedipus at Colonus argues that grieving might not be a good thing—a sentiment unusual in the Theban plays. Sophocles’ audience would have seen, before this speech, the most extreme consequences of excessive grief: Antigone’s death, Haemon’s death, Eurydice’s death, Jocasta’s death, Oedipus’s blinding, Oedipus’s self-exile. The rash actions of the grief-stricken possess both a horror and a sense of inevitability or rightness. Jocasta kills herself because she cannot go on living as both wife and mother to her son; Oedipus blinds himself in order to punish himself for his blindness to his identity; Eurydice can no longer live as the wife of the man who killed her children. Theseus’s speech calls attention to the fact that the violence that arises from this grieving only leads to the perpetuation of violence.