Why do Laius and Jocasta abandon Oedipus at birth in the play Oedipus Rex?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, it is important to note that the birth and abandonment of Oedipus happened long before the action picks up in Oedipus Rex. With that in mind, Oedipus is abandoned as an infant by his parents because of the prophecy that he would go on to kill his father and marry his mother. Laius instructs a shepherd to kill the young Oedipus in a remote location, but the shepherd takes pity on the child and instead gives him to a messenger, who gave him to King Polybus of Corinth. Despite this cruel attempt to avoid the prophect, Oedipus grows to manhood and fulfills it to the letter, though he is unaware that he is doing so.