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Oedipus Summary

by: Hannah James

Oedipus Summary Classics 320

Hannah James
GPA 4.0
The Greeks
Laura McClure

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About this Document

This is a summary of the literary work "Oedipus" by Sophocles
The Greeks
Laura McClure
75 ?




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This 7 page Bundle was uploaded by Hannah James on Monday October 19, 2015. The Bundle belongs to Classics 320 at University of Wisconsin - Madison taught by Laura McClure in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 40 views. For similar materials see The Greeks in Classical Studies at University of Wisconsin - Madison.

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Date Created: 10/19/15
W2 Oedipus steps out of the royal palace of Thebes and is greeted by priests and the impoverished citizens O Thebes has been struck by a plague the citizens are dying and no one knows how to put an end to it Oedipus asks a priest why the citizens have gathered around the palace O The priest responds that the city is dying and asks the king to save Thebes Oedipus replies that he sees and understands the terrible fate of Thebes and that no one is more sorrowful than he 0 He has sent Creon his brother in law and fellow ruler to the Delphic oracle to find out how to stop the plague Then Creon arrives and Oedipus asks what the oracle has said O Creon asks Oedipus if he wants to hear the news in private but Oedipus insists that all the citizens hear Creon then tells what he has learned from the god Apollo who spoke through the oracle the murderer of Laius who ruled Thebes before Oedipus is in Thebes 0 He must be driven out in order for the plague to end Creon goes on to tell the story of Laius s murder 0 On their way to consult an oracle Laius and all but one of his fellow travelers were killed by thieves Oedipus asks why the Thebans made no attempt to find the murderers and Creon reminds him that Thebes was then more concerned with the curse of the SphinX 0 Hearing this Oedipus resolves to solve the mystery of Laius s murder The Chorus enters calling on the gods Apollo Athena and Artemis to save Thebes O Apparently it has not heard Creon s news about Laius s murderer 0 Oedipus returns and tells the Chorus that he will end the plague himself 0 He asks if anyone knows who killed Laius promising that the informant will be rewarded and the murderer will receive no harsher punishment than eXile I No one responds and Oedipus furiously curses Laius s murderer and anyone who is protecting him 0 Oedipus curses himself proclaiming that should he discover the murderer to be a member of his family that person would be given eXile and harsh treatment that he has just stated 0 The Leader of the Chorus suggests that Oedipus call for Tiresias a great prophet O Oedipus responds that he has already done so 0 A boy leads in the blind prophet Tiresias O Oedipus begs him to reveal who Laius s murderer is but Tiresias answers only that he knows the truth but wishes he did not 0 Puzzled at first then angry Oedipus insists that Tiresias tell Thebes what he knows O Provoked by the anger and insults of Oedipus Tiresias hints at his knowledge 0 Finally when Oedipus furiously accuses Tiresias of the murder Tiresias tells Oedipus that Oedipus himself is the curse O Oedipus dares Tiresias to say it again and so Tiresias calls Oedipus the murderer 0 The king criticizes Tiresias s powers wildly and insults his blindness but Tiresias only responds that the insults will eventually be turned on Oedipus by all of Thebes 0 Driven into a fury by the accusation Oedipus proceeds to concoct a story that Creon and Tiresias are conspiring to overthrow him 0 The leader of the Chorus asks Oedipus to calm down but Tiresias only taunts Oedipus further saying that the king does not even know who his parents are 0 This statement angers Oedipus but he asks for the truth about his parents I Tiresias answers in riddles saying that the murderer of Laius will turn out to be both brother and father to his children both son and husband to his mother The characters eXit and the Chorus takes the stage confused and unsure whom to believe 0 They say they will not believe the accusations against Oedipus unless they have proof Creon enters soon followed by Oedipus O Oedipus accuses Creon of trying to overthrow him since it was he who recommended that Tiresias come Creon asks Oedipus to be rational but Oedipus says that he wants Creon murdered 0 Both Creon and the leader of the Chorus try to get Oedipus to understand that he s concocting fantasies but Oedipus is certain J ocasta enters and convinces Oedipus that he should not kill Creon though Oedipus is convinced that Creon is guilty 0 Creon leaves and the Chorus reassures Oedipus that it will always be loyal to him Oedipus eXplains that Tiresias condemned him and J ocasta responds that prophets are false 0 As proof she says that the Delphic oracle told Laius he would be murdered by his son while in reality his son was cast out as a baby and Laius was murdered by thieves Her narrative of Laius murder sounds familiar to Oedipus and he asks to hear more J ocasta tells him that Laius was killed at a three way crossroads just before Oedipus arrived 0 Oedipus stunned tells his wife that he may be the one who murdered Laius He tells J ocasta that when he was the prince of Corinth he heard at a banquet that he was not really the son of the king and queen 0 He went to the oracle of Delphi which did not answer him but did tell him he would murder his father and sleep with his mother I Hearing this Oedipus ed from home never to return I It was then on the journey that brought him to Thebes that Oedipus was confronted by a group of travelers whom he killed in self defense at the crossroads where Laius was killed Hoping that he will not be identified as Laius s murderer Oedipus sends for the shepherd who was the only man to survive the attack 0 Oedipus and J ocasta leave the stage and the Chorus enters announcing that the world is ruled by destiny and denouncing prideful men who would defy the gods 0 At the same time the Chorus worries that if all the prophecies and oracles are wrong if a proud man can triumph then the gods may not rule the world after all J ocasta enters from the palace to offer a branch wrapped in wool to Apollo A messenger enters looking for Oedipus 0 He tells J ocasta that he has come from Corinth to tell Oedipus that his father Polybus is dead and that Corinth wants Oedipus to come and rule there J ocasta rejoices convinced that since Polybus is dead from natural causes the prophecy that Oedipus will murder his father is false 0 Oedipus arrives hears the messenger s news and rejoices with Jocasta I They concur that prophecies are worthless and the world is ruled by chance However Oedipus still fears the prophecy saying he would sleep with his mother 0 The messenger says he can rid himself of that worry because Polybus and his wife Merope are not really Oedipus s natural parents The messenger eXplains that he used to be a shepherd years ago 0 One day he found a baby on Mount Cithaeron near Thebes The baby had its ankles pinned together and the former shepherd set them free 0 That baby was Oedipus who still walks with a limp because of the injury When Oedipus inquires who left him in the woods on the mountain the messenger replies that another shepherd Laius s servant gave him baby Oedipus 0 At this J ocasta turns sharply sensing some horrible revelation on the horizon Oedipus wants to find this shepherd so he can find out who his natural parents are 0 J ocasta begs him to abandon his search immediately but Oedipus is insistent After screaming and pleading to no avail J ocasta finally ees back into the palace O Oedipus dismisses her concerns as fears that he may be born of poor parents and Oedipus and the Chorus rejoice at the possibility that they may soon know his parents The other shepherd who turns out to be the same shepherd who witnessed Laius s murder comes onto the stage 0 The messenger identifies him as the man who gave him the young Oedipus Oedipus interrogates the shepherd asking who gave him the baby but he refuses to talk 0 Finally after Oedipus threatens him with torture the shepherd answers that the baby came from the house of Laius Questioned further he answers that it was Laius s child and that J ocasta gave it to him to destroy because of a prophecy that the child would kill his parents 0 But instead the shepherd gave him to the other shepherd so that he might be raised as a prince in Corinth Realizing who he is and who his parents are Oedipus screams that he sees the truth and ees back into the palace O The shepherd and the messenger slowly eXit the stage The Chorus enters and cries that Oedipus greatest of men was brought low by destiny for he unknowingly murdered his father and married his mother The messenger enters again to tell the Chorus what has happened in the palace O Jocasta is dead by suicide I She locked herself in her bedroom crying for Laius and weeping for her monstrous fate O Oedipus came to the door in a fury asking for a sword and cursing J ocasta I He finally hurled himself at the bedroom door and burst through it where he saw J ocasta hanging from a noose 0 Seeing this Oedipus sobbed and embraced J ocasta I He took the gold pins that held her robes and with them stabbed out his eyes 0 He kept raking the pins down his eyes crying that he could not bear to see the world now that he had learned the truth Just as the messenger finishes the story Oedipus emerges from the palace 0 With blood streaming from his blind eyes he fumes and rants at his fate He claims that though Apollo ordained his destiny it was he alone who pierced his own eyes 0 He asks that he be banished from Thebes The Chorus shrinks away from Oedipus as he curses his birth his marriage his life and in turn all births marriages and lives Creon enters and the Chorus eXpresses hope that he can restore order Creon forgives Oedipus for his past accusations and asks that Oedipus be sent inside so that the public display of shame might stop Creon agrees to eXile Oedipus from the city but tells him that he will only do so if every detail is approved by the gods 0 Oedipus embraces the hope of eXile since he believes that for some reason the gods want to keep him alive I He says that his two sons are men and can take care of themselves but asks that Creon take care of his girls whom he would like to see one final time The girls Antigone and Ismene come forth crying O Oedipus embraces them and says he weeps for them since they will be excluded from society and no man will want to marry the offspring of an incestuous marriage He turns to Creon and asks him to promise that he will take care of them 0 He reaches out to Creon but Creon will not touch his hand Oedipus asks his daughters to pray that they may have a better life than his 0 Creon then puts an end to the farewell saying that Oedipus has wept shamefully long enough Creon orders the guards to take Antigone and Ismene away from Oedipus and tells Oedipus that his power has ended Everyone eXits and the Chorus comes onstage once more 0 Oedipus greatest of men has fallen they say and so all life is miserable and only death can bring peace


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