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

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Laius and Jocasta are told that their son Oedipus will grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. Hoping to prevent such horrible things from occurring, they give the baby to a shepherd, who they demand to kill the child out of sight. However, baby Oedipus is spared...

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Laius and Jocasta are told that their son Oedipus will grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. Hoping to prevent such horrible things from occurring, they give the baby to a shepherd, who they demand to kill the child out of sight. However, baby Oedipus is spared and eventually ends up adopted by the king of Corinth. He grows up believing the Corinth king and queen are his true parents, which is why he does not realize Laius is his father when he kills him nor does he know Jocasta is his mother before he marries and has children with her.

The irony of the situation is that by trying to prevent the prophecy from coming true, Laius and Jocasta set up the conditions for its fulfillment. In literature, this is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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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. 

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