Oedipus Essay, Research Paper
Oedipus the King
(c. 427 B.C.)
The play opens in front of the palace of Oedipus at Thebes. Oedipus asks a priest and his supplicants what they are wanting. The priest thanks him for saving them from the Sphinx, but tells him that the city needs saving again from a plague that has descended. Oedipus admits this and says that he has sent a messenger to Apollo’s shrine to find out what he must do to save the city. The messenger arrives just then. The messenger says that Apollo told him that the man who murdered former King Laius must be discovered and driven from the land. Oedipus vows to do so. All exit but the chorus. The chorus laments the plague.
Oedipus returns. He asks anyone knowing the identity of the murderer to step forward without fear of harm. He curses those who have knowledge and do not step forth. The chorus says he should ask the prophet Teiresias. Oedipus says that he has already sent for him. Teiresias enters. He says he knows something but refuses to speak. Oedipus is furious. He accuses Teiresias of having a part in the murder. Teirasias accuses Oedipus of being the murderer. Oedipus concludes that former king creon must have put Teiresias up to making the accusations. Teireaias tells Oedipus that his downfall will come when he learns the secret of his marriage, and asks him if he knows who his parents are. Oedipus orders him out of the house. Teiresias tells him that the murderer will be proved both father and brother to his children. Teiresian and Oedipus leave separately. The chorus sides with Oedipus.
Creon enters, denying the allegations that he has heard Oedipus made. Oedipus enters and accuses Creon of being the murderer and trying to take the throne. Creon denies this. He says that he’s happy with his position. He lives like a king without having to bear the fears of a king. Oedipus proposes to kill Creon. Oedipus’ wife, Jocasta, enters. Everyone, including Jocasta, begs Oedipus to spare Creon on the strength of Creon’s oath that he is innocent. Oedipus consents, but pledges to forever hate Creon. Creon exits.
Oedipus tells Jocasta that creon had sent the prophet to accuse him of the murder. She tells him that humans make poor prophets. As an example, she tells how an oracle one told king Laius that he would be killed by his own son, but Laius ensured that it wouldn’t happen by piercing his 3-day-old son’s ankles and leaving him for dead on a remote hillside. Oedipus asks for details of Laius’ death. Jocasta tells him. She says that the only living witness to the murder is a man who now works as a shepherd outside the city. oedipus tells Jocasta that when he was young he was told by an oracle that he was fated to kill his own father and sleep with his mother. He tells her that he believes that he quarreled with Laius and his men at the crossroads and he killed tham. The chorus says not to judge himself till he meets the shepherd. Oedipus reasons that if the shepherd says that they encountered a lone man, he is guilty; if many men, he is innocent. All exit.
A messenger arrives and tells Jocasta that Oedipus’ father Polybus has died and the Corinthians want Oedipus as their king now. Jocasta sends for Oedipus and tells him the “good” news — his father is dead, and it is not at Oedipus’ hand. Oedipus is comforted, but he is still afraid that he is fated to sleep with Polybus’ wife. He tells the messenger his fear. The messenger tells him that he is no blood kin to his parents. The messenger had given Oedipus to them when a shepherd had given him over as an abandoned baby. The chorus believes the messenger is referring to the shepherd that Oedipus wanted to see. Jocasta begs Oedipus not to seek the truth. Oedipus sends for the shepherd. Jocasta exits.
The old shepherd enters, led by Oedipus’ servants. The messenger asks if he remembers giving him a child. The shepherd remembers, but doesn’t want to tell the tale. Oedipus has his men twist the shepherd’s arm and threaten’s him with death if he does not tell all. He tells of how Laius’ wife gave him the child to do away with. Oedipus cries out that he is cursed. All exit but the chorus. The chorus weeps for Oedipus.
A second messenger enters and announces that Jocasta has hanged herself. When oedipus came upon the body, he tore her brooches off and gouged them into his own eyes, crying that they will never see the crime he has committed. Teh messenger says that Oedipus wants to show himself to the people of Thebes, and then leave the city forever. The doors open, and Oedipus enters. The chorus expresses their pity. Oedipus cries out about his evil deeds and asks the chorus to lead him away from the city or kill him. Creon enters. He tells a servant to take Oedipus inside. Oedipus asks creon to drive him from the city. Creon wants to wait for the gods to tell him what to do. Oedipus tells Creon to bury his wife, to let him live on the mountain where he was left as a child, and to take care of Oedipus’ daughters. Oedipus’ two daughters enter. Oedipus laments the difficult life they will lead now that their ancestry is revealed. He again begs Creon to take care of them. Creon tells Oedipus to go inside. Oedipus agrees on condition that Creon banishes him. Creon wants to leave the punishment to the gods. Oedipus says that the gods hate him. Creon agrees to lead him away from the city. Creon and Oedipus leave together.