Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

in #reading3 years ago (edited)

Synopsis: The play begins In Medias Res, where a major plague has befallen Thebes, destroying all the crops and leaving the women infertile. Oedipus, the Protagonist and King of Thebes, sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to seek the advice of Apollo. Creon relays to Oedipus that the plague can only be lifted if the murderer of Laius(the former king of Thebes and previous husband of Jocasta) is found and prosecuted. Former King Lauis was killed in an accident years before.

Oedipus dedicates himself to the discovery and prosecution of Laius’s murderer, subjecting a series of unwilling citizens to interrogation until he finally speaks with the infamous blind prophet, Tiresias. The blind prophet informs Oedipus that it is in fact Oedipus himself that killed Laius years ago. This news instantly angers Oedipus, where he begins to question the motive of the prophet and his brother-in-law Creon. However, Jocasta cautions him not to believe the soothsayer, using an old prophecy that they beleived to be false at the time. She tells Oedipus about how she and King Laius had a son who was prophesied to kill Laius and marry her. They decided to kill the child.

The story gets stranger when Oedipus realizes that an old man once told him he was adopted, and that he would eventually kill his biological father and sleep with his biological mother. Additionally, Oedipus recalls once having killed a man at a crossroads years ago, in the same fashion that Lauis was believed to be killed.

Jocasta pleads with Oedipus not to look into the past any further, but he ignores her and continues the search. Oedipus goes on to question a messenger and a shepherd, both of whom have information about how Oedipus was abandoned as an infant and adopted by a new family. In a moment of clarity and cosmic misfortune, Jocasta realizes that she is in fact Oedipus’s mother and that Laius was his biological father. Horrified and confused at the realization, she savagely kills herself. Shortly thereafter, Oedipus, also realizes that he was Laius’s murderer and that he has been married to and having children with his own mother, just like in the prophecy. In horror and despair, he tragically gouges his eyes out and exiles himself from Thebes, where Creon takes his place.

Dramatis Personae:

Oedipus, King of Thebes
Creon, brother of Jocasta
Teiresias, a blind prophet
Priest of Zeus
Messenger from Corinth
Shepherd
Second Messenger
Jocasta, wife of Oedipus
Chorus of Priests and Suppliants

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