Oedipus Rex Lines 338–706 Summary
by Sophocles

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Lines 338–706 Summary

Tiresias enters led by a boy, and Oedipus addresses him, quoting Apollo’s instruction to bring the murderer of Laius to justice. He asks for a genuine response and demands that nothing should be hidden; however, Tiresias is reluctant to deliver the truth and begs Oedipus to send him home. Outraged, Oedipus interrogates Tiresias and threatens him until he is forced to reveal the truth: that Oedipus himself is the murderer. Oedipus rages against this prophecy, but Tiresias is adamant that his family are living in sin and that it is Oedipus who has brought this downfall upon himself. Furious, Oedipus turns upon Creon and accuses him of bringing a fraudster to discredit him in order to gain power for himself. He reminds them that Tiresias did nothing to release the city from the curse of the Sphinx and that it was he, Oedipus, who saved them by solving its riddle.

The Leader of the Chorus attempts to calm this heated debate, but Tiresias interrupts, claiming that he serves Apollo and deeming Oedipus blind to the corruption within his own home. He asks Oedipus whether he really knows who his parents are, claiming that the truth will shake the very foundations of his family. When Oedipus angrily states that the prophet is deranged, Tiresias retorts that Oedipus’s own parents never questioned his sanity. Intrigued as to how Tiresias knew his parents, Oedipus questions him further on this, but his temper rises when the prophet responds cryptically. Just as Oedipus turns his back on Tiresias, he delivers a final proclamation that Laius’s murderer is among them and that this person will soon find himself blind and destitute upon discovering that he is both father and brother to his own children.

After Tiresias is led off stage, the focus shifts back to the Chorus, who wonder who the guilty murderer must be. Faced with the wrath of the gods and the Furies, they advise whoever has committed this crime to run like the wind before he is struck down. The Chorus describe the murderer’s tormented state of mind, like that of a hunted animal, concluding that this person cannot escape the prophecy, nor outrun his miserable fate. Speaking as one, they question what could bring bloodshed between the house of Laius and Oedipus, whom they still assume to be the son of Polybus. We are told that Oedipus’s reputation is unblemished and that his brilliance was demonstrated when he defeated the Sphinx. Therefore, despite the prophecy of the all-knowing gods, the Chorus concludes that—without evidence—they will never move to discredit their king.

Creon now enters the scene and addresses the assembly to defend himself from Oedipus’s charge of treason. He claims that he feels compelled to speak out against such a damning accusation and blemish to his reputation. Addressing the Leader of the Chorus, Creon questions Oedipus’s state of mind when he branded him a traitor, but the Leader is reticent, stating that he never questions those in authority. Upon this, Oedipus himself enters and scolds Creon for having the indiscretion to show his face at court when, he believes,...

(The entire section is 812 words.)