In Oedipus Rex, why does the news from the messenger from Corinth at first seem good? How is the situation reversed?

The good news is that Oedipus's father, King Polybus of Corinth, is dead, and that Oedipus had nothing to do with his death. The Oracle foretold that Oedipus would one day kill his father, and Oedipus thwarted the prophecy by fleeing Corinth and going to live in Thebes. The bad news is that Polybus wasn't Oedipus real father, and that Oedipus did kill his real father, Laius, when Oedipus was fleeing Corinth to avoid fulfilling the prophecy.

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When a messenger from Corinth arrives in Thebes, Oedipus is starting to believe that he might have killed Laius, the former king of Thebes, and evidence is starting to point in the direction of Oedipus's guilt.

The messenger tells Oedipus that his father, King Polybus of Corinth, has died, and...

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When a messenger from Corinth arrives in Thebes, Oedipus is starting to believe that he might have killed Laius, the former king of Thebes, and evidence is starting to point in the direction of Oedipus's guilt.

The messenger tells Oedipus that his father, King Polybus of Corinth, has died, and that Oedipus is now king of Corinth. Oedipus fled Corinth some years ago to avoid fulfilling a prophecy from the Oracle that Oedipus would one day kill his father and marry his mother.

The good news is not that Polybus is dead, but that Oedipus had nothing to do with his death.

Oedipus asks the messenger about his mother, Merope, and the messenger tells him that she's still alive. Oedipus tells the messenger that if she's still alive, he can't return to Corinth to be king.

Oedipus then tells the messenger about the prophecy from the Oracle about killing his father and marrying his mother.

MESSENGER. Was this the fear that exiled thee from home?

OEDIPUS. Yea, and the dread of slaying my own sire....

MESSENGER. My son, 'tis plain, thou know'st not what thou doest. ... Dost thou not know thy fears are baseless all?

OEDIPUS. How baseless, if I am their very son?

MESSENGER. Since Polybus was naught to thee in blood.

OEDIPUS. What reason had he then to call me son?

The Messenger tells Oedipus how he met with a herdsman of King Laius who had taken a boy-child of Laius and his queen, Jocasta, into the mountains to die. The herdsman felt sorry for the child, and didn't want to leave him to die, so the messenger took the child to Corinth to be adopted and raised by Polybus and Merope.

This is the reversal, or peripeteia, of the play, from good to bad.

The full realization, the anagnorisis, of Oedipus's change of circumstance becomes apparent when the herdsman tells his story, which confirms Oedipus's worst fears, that he did, indeed, kill his father, and marry his mother.

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