In Oedipus Rex, how does Oedpius respond to the long prayer by the Chorus?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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After the long prayer by the Chorus, King Oedipus responds with great emotion and intensity. He states that when whoever murdered King Laius is caught, he will be murdered or exiled; moreover, in his sentencing of this murderer or murderers, Oedipus offers himself as no exception, saying the same punishment applies to everyone.

At the beginning of the drama Oedipus Rex, supplicants have prostrated themselves on the steps of an altar outside the palace. They have brought "branches and chaplets of olive leaves," symbols of peace and symbols that judgment may be lifted from them, in order to beseech the king who once saved them from the Sphinx to again help them in their difficulties as a plague has beset their city. When Oedipus enters, he promises to help the people and asks the Priest to inform him of their plight. In an effort to calm them, Oedipus then says that he has sent his wife's brother Creon to Delphi to the altar of "Apollo's place of revelation" with the directive to possibly learn what "act or pledge" Oedipus himself can use to save Thebes. When Creon returns, Oedipus promises to perform "any actions the god orders" (ll.63-80).

After this, the Chorus, represented by the elders of Thebes, speak. In Antistrophe I, a prayer is sent to Athena, Artemis, her sister, and to Apollo to be "swift to bring us rest!" (l.169) Then, in Strophe 3, the prayer asks Zeus to send

...the besieger plunging from our homes
Into the vast sea-room of the Atlantic
Or into the waves that foam eastward of Thrace--
....Destroy our enemy, lord of thunder
Let him be riven by lightning from heaven! (ll.190-195)

Finally, in Antistrophe 3, Bacchus, god of wine and revelry, is called upon to 

Whirl upon Death, that all the Undying hate!

Come with blinding torches, come in joy! (ll.202-203)

In the subsequent Scene 1, Oedipus announces with profound dramatic irony that whoever knows "by whose hand Laius...met his death" must tell him everything, and he need not fear that any trouble will beset him for doing so. Further, Oedipus pronounces that the criminal will be "driven from every house" because he is a "corruption" to all Thebans. Oedipus declares that he "takes the side of the murdered king" (Laius), and he prays that the murderer find his life "consumed in evil and wretchedness," adding that this curse applies to him equally. With further dramatic irony, Oedipus adds that if he were the son of King Laius, he would "press the fight for him/and see it won!" Finally, Oedipus decrees that, if caught, the murderer(s) must be killed or exiled.

The satisfied Chorus replies to Oedipus, 

If killer can feel a particle of dread,
Your curse will bring him out of hiding! (ll.281-282)

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