In episode 2 and stasimon 2 of Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, of what does Oedipus accuse Creon, and how does Creon defend himself?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex, Tiresias tells Oedipus that Oedipus himself is the unintentional killer of his own father, Laius, and that he has also unknowingly wedded Laius’s widow, Jocasta, who is Oedipus’s own mother. Unwilling at first to accept the truth of Tiresias’s revelations, Oedipus initially accuses Creon, his brother-in-law, of plotting Oedipus’s overthrow and of using Tiresias as a tool:

Creon, my old trusted family friend,
has secretly conspired to overthrow me
and paid off a double-dealing quack . . .  (462-64)

Later, when Creon himself appears, Oedipus levels several charges against him, including the following:

  • murder of Laius (640)
  • treason against Oedipus and a desire to replace him as king (641)
  • conspiracy (643-44)
  • cunning deception (646)
  • madness (648)
  • verbal manipulation (655)
  • being a troublemaker (657)
  • disloyalty to an in-law (663-64)

In defending himself, Creon suggests that Oedipus is being stubborn and ignoring common sense (661-62). He defends himself persuasively by

  • agreeing with Oedipus whenever Oedipus seems reasonable (667)
  • asking reasonable questions rather than responding in anger (668-69)
  • admitting any claim that is really true (672)
  • claiming that he only likes to talk about what he knows is true (685-86)
  • showing that he can ask reasonable, probing, relevant questions (692ff)
  • offering reasonable arguments to prove that he has no desire to be king (703-19)
  • showing the real benefits of his own current rank (720-24)
  • confidently challenging Oedipus to double-check with the oracle to make sure that Creon hasn’t lied about the oracle’s words (728-30)
  • stating that he is willing to be arrested and executed if he is lying (733)
  • asking not to be condemned before proof of guilt has been established (736)
  • reminding Oedipus of the value of their friendship (739-40)
  • calmly urging Oedipus to take his time (741)

Creon speaks very reasonably and convincingly (unlike Oedipus), and thus it is not surprising that the Chorus Leader says to Oedipus:

For a man concerned about being killed,
my lord, he has spoken eloquently.  (745-46)

Most readers and audiences would clearly agree.  The fact that Oedipus nevertheless still continues to accuse Creon shows the depth of his own irrationality.