Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Thebes is struck by a plague, the people ask King Oedipus to deliver them from its horrors. Creon, the brother of Jocasta, Oedipus’s queen, returns from the oracle of Apollo and discloses that the plague is punishment for the murder of King Laius, Oedipus’s immediate predecessor, to whom Jocasta was married. Creon further discloses that the citizens of Thebes need to discover and punish the murderer before the plague can be lifted. The people mourn their dead, and Oedipus advises them, in their own interest, to search out and apprehend the murderer of Laius.
Asked to help find the murderer, Teiresias, the ancient, blind seer of Thebes, tells Oedipus that it would be better for all if he does not tell what he knows. He says that coming events will reveal themselves. Oedipus rages at the seer’s reluctance to tell the secret until he goads the old man to reveal that Oedipus is the one responsible for Thebes’s afflictions because he is the murderer, and that he is living in intimacy with his nearest kin. Oedipus accuses the old man of being in league with Creon, whom he suspects of plotting against his throne, but Teiresias answers that Oedipus will be ashamed and horrified when he learns the truth about his true parentage. Oedipus defies the seer, saying he will welcome the truth as long as it frees his kingdom from the plague. Oedipus threatens Creon with death, but Jocasta and the people advise him against doing violence on the strength of rumor or momentary passion. Oedipus yields, but he banishes Creon.
Jocasta, grieved by the enmity between her brother and Oedipus, tells her husband that an oracle informed King Laius that he would be killed by his own child, the offspring of Laius and Jocasta. Jocasta assures Oedipus that this could not happen because the child was abandoned on a deserted mountainside soon after birth. When Oedipus hears further that Laius was killed by robbers at the meeting place of three roads and that the three roads met in Phocis, he is deeply disturbed and begins to suspect that he is, after all, the murderer. He hesitates to reveal his suspicion, but he becomes more and more convinced of his own guilt.
Oedipus tells Jocasta that he believed himself to be the son of Polybus of Corinth and Merope until a drunken man on one occasion announced that the young Oedipus was not...
(The entire section is 958 words.)
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