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CREON: He said that bandits fell upon them and killed him,
not with one man’s strength, but the hands of many.
OEDIPUS: How did a bandit come to dare so much,
unless he acted with money from here?
These lines appear early in the first act of Oedipus Rex. After the people have begged Oedipus to help rid them of a plague that beseiges them, the king sends his brother-in-law to Delphi to receive the oracle of Apollo in order to obtain guidance. When Creon returns, Oedipus demands that he report what he has learned; so, against his will as he is in public, Creon informs the king that Laius, the former king of Thebes was slain. There was only one witness to this slaying of Laius by highwaymen; namely, a traveler, who fled for his life after seeing others' deaths, and he has reported that bandits have killed Laius. Suspecting an assassination plot, Oedipus Rex asks Creon if "a bandit " would dare so much unless he were paid to kill King Laius.
In this line, Oedipus implies that the individual bandits would only assassinate Laius if they were paid by someone to kill the king of Thebes. He says "a bandit," but implies "each bandit." Nevertheless, there does seem to be incipient dramatic irony here as unwittingly, Oedipus accuses only one man, who is, of course, himself. Although the witness of the murder of Laius saw only a young Oedipus, he exaggerates, claiming that Laius was murdered by "marauding strangers."
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