Also called Oedipus the King

Lines 1-340

  • The play starts in the royal house of Thebes
  • Oedipus had killed the Spinx years ago and has been king of Thebes since
  • But he doesn’t know he killed is father and doesn’t know he married his mother
  • Priests enter saying the city is sick with plague
    • Crops are ruined, cattle are sick, women die in labor and children are stillborn, and people are perishing from the plague
    • The priest begs Oedipus to save Thebes, just as Oedipus once saved it from the Sphinx
    • Everyone believes Oedipus is a true hero, Oedipus knows this and thinks very highly of himself
    • Creon, his brother-in-law, to the oracle at Delphi
    • Oedipus had sent Creon, his brother-in-law to ask the oracle for advice
  • Creon tells all the priests what Apollo, though the oracle of Delphi said
    • He says before Oedipus became king, the earlier king, Laius, was murdered
    • He says the murder was never discovered and to stop the plague the murderer must be hunted down and punished
    • Creon tells Oedipus in regard to the circumstances of Laius’s death, Laius left the city to consult the oracle
    • Only one eyewitness survived who returned to Thebes
    • This man claimed that a band of thieves killed the king
    • They says they haven’t tried to find the killer because they were too busy dealing with the Sphinx
    • Oedipus promises to find the murderer
  • The Chorus who had not heard of this, sings
    • They call upon the gods to help the city
    • They mention Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Artemis, and Dionysus. But they don’t mention the god of death, Hades, and the god of war, Ares
  • Oedipus orders anyone who knows of anything to speak up
  • Oedipus curses the murderer
    • “Let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step.”
    • Going as far as to say even if the killer is in his own family, they will get the same harsh treatment, if they don’t speak up
    • He actually cursed himself
    • He says he will fight for Laius as if Laius were his own father
    • More and more irony
    • The leader of the chorus suggests that Oedipus send for Tiresias, the blind prophet
    • Oedipus says he already did

Lines 341-708

  • Tiresias, when asked for advice on how to find the killers of Laius, says he does know information, but won’t tell
    • Even though Oedipus gets mad, Tiresias wants to protect him
    • He refuses to tell his secret
  • Oedipus gets extremely mad and accuses Tiresias of being the murderer
    • Tiresias does not back down and says “You are the curse, the corruption of the land”
      • Pretty much cryptically saying Oedipus himself killed him
      • We know this is true, but Oedipus doesn’t believe him
    • Very present right now, is the idea that the blind man, Tiresias, sees the truth, while Oedipus, the physically not blind man, is blind to the truth
    • Oedipus wants to kill Tiresias now
    • This anger is a fatal flaw with Oedipus. Another example of this is killed his father because he got mad at the group for getting in his way.
    • He also accuses Creon, the person who got Tiresias, for scheming together to create this story
    • Very angry, lots of insults back and forth, Oedipus even goes as far as to mock Tiresias’s blindness
    • The leader of the Chorus tries to calm him down
    • He is the first of many people who act as a mediator to calm Oedipus
    • Tiresias warns Oedipus that Oedipus is the blind one
    • Tiresias prophesies that Oedipus will know who his parents are by the end of the day, and that this knowledge will destroy him
    • Ends with a riddle:
      • The killer of Laius is a native Theban whom many think is a foreigner; he will soon be blind; he is both brother and father to his children; he killed his own father.
  • The Chorus gives their stance on the situation
    • The Chorus acts as the common consensus of the people
    • After talking about the murder of Laius and the situation they talk about the situation they are in
    • They conclude they will not believe the claims again Oedipus without proof
  • Creon enters and gets upset at Oedipus’s accusations
    • Doesn’t back down
    • Oedipus refuses to listen, and declares he wants Creon dead
  • Jocasta—Oedipus’s wife and Creon’s sister enters

Lines 709-997

  • Jacosta is another mediator
  • Says it is shameful to argue on the streets
    • Jacosta tries to get Oedipus to listen to Creon
    • The Chorus agrees
      • Oedipus thinks the Chorus wants him to be overthrown, the Chorus disagrees
    • Creon is freed saying Oedipus is both wrong and stubborn
  • Oedipus tells what Tiresias told him
    • Jocasta responds that Oedipus shouldn’t worry about the seer’s accusation because the revelations of prophets are meaningless
    • He tells a story of how the fates told Laius (her earlier husband) that he would be killed by his own son
    • Continues saying how they took their infant child to a mountain and pinned his legs to die there
    • Then she finishes her point of how the seer don’t know what they are talking about by saying how Laius was killed by strangers at a crossroads
    • As she explains why she doesn’t believe in prophesies, she makes Oedipus think it might be true
    • Oedipus keeps asking for more information and continues to get more and more concerned as the story starts to make connections to his life
    • “Strange, hearing you just now … my mind wandered, my thoughts racing back and forth.”
    • Oedipus tells her his whole life story
    • After she describes Laius, he really becomes worried

Lines 998-1310

  • A messenger comes and tells him Polybus, king of Corinth is dead
    • This is the man Oedipus thinks was his father, so for now. it confirms the prophecies were false
  • The messenger asks why Oedipus is worried about
    • After Oedipus tell him Polybus was not his blood father
    • Tells him he was a gift the messenger got
    • Jocasta tries to convince him to stop, but Oedipus wants to know the truth, Jacosta runs away
    • The messenger got the baby from a Shepard
  • The Shepard comes
    • But refuses to speak about the baby
    • But after Oedipus threatens to kill him, he admits the baby was the son of Laius and Jacosta

Lines 1311-1680

  • The Chorus believes even though Oedipus saved them from the Sphinx, it would have been better without
  • Oedipus searches for Jacosta and finds she hung herself
    • He takes golden brooches (pins) from her robes, and stabs his eyes with them till he’s blind
      • His sight was not real how only now he can see clearly (“what good are eyes to me?”)
      • Tiresias predicted Oedipus would become blind
      • The Chorus asks why he doesn’t kill himself, he says he couldn’t bear to look at his father and mother in hell
    • _The messenger tells the audience this happened because they are not allowed to show gore on stage
  • As Oedipus does, he starts blaming people_
    • Blames the shepherd for saving him, the mountain Citheron for giving him shelter, his foster parents Polybus, and Corinth for raising him, the crossroads, and marriage
    • The crossroads is a Greek symbol for a decision
  • Creon (the last king of Thebes) enters
    • Oedipus begs to be cast out of Thebes
    • Creon agrees but not before consulting the oracle
    • Oedipus says his sons are old enough to take care of themselves, but begs Creon to take care of his daughters Antigone and Ismene
  • Goes to see Antigone and Ismene
    • Lots of crying
    • Oedipus tells them they will be shunned because of his terrible acts, and that as the result of a dishonorable marriage they will be unable to find husbands
    • In Greek literature, guilt is passed down though families
    • When he leaves, tries to tell Creon not to take them away from him
    • He still wants to be king and have authority even though he lost all of it
  • The Chorus concludes stating nobody is able to escape their destiny

Works Cited

Lichtenstein, Jesse. “Oedipus Rex.” LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 22 Jul 2013. Web. 3 Mar 2024.