What is the priest doing at the beginning of the play?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Priest is at Oedipus' altar to pray. His furtive prayers puzzle Oedipus. He asks him: "Why here and kneels, what preys upon you so? / Some sudden fear? some strong desire?" (1.1.11-12).

After being helped to his feet, the Priest tells the King of the state of Thebes and the impending doom the future portends:

"Here are the boys,
still too weak to fly from the nest,
and here the old, bowed down with the years,
the holy one -- a priest of Zeus myself -- and here
the picked, umarried men, the young hope of Thebes...
kneeling before the two temples of queen Athena
or the river-shrine where the embers gl;ow and die
and Apollo sees the furture in ashes.

Our city--
look around you, see with your own eyes--
our ship pitches wildly, cannot lift her hed
from the depths, the red waves of death..
Thebes is dying." (1.1.18-30)

The priest goes on to plead with Oedpius:

"So now again,
Oedipus, king, we bend to you, your power--
we implore you, all of us on our knees:
find us strength, rescue! (1.1.50-53)

Read the study guide:
Oedipus Rex

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