What is the background of Oedipus in "Oedipus Rex"?

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Oedipus is raised in Corinth and believes that he is the son of King Polybus and Queen Merope. As he approaches adulthood, he hears a rumor that this is not the case. Troubled, he seeks the Delphic Oracle and asks who his parents are. Ignoring his question, the oracle prophecies that he will kill his father and mate with his mother. Desperate to avoid this fate, Oedipus flees from Corinth.

On the road to Thebes, Oedipus encounters Laius and quarrels over which carriage has the right of way. Oedipus slays Laius in the ensuing fight. Before he arrives at Thebes, he finds that it is being terrorized by the sphinx. He ends the sphinx's terror by answering her riddle and is made king of Thebes. He is given the hand of Jocasta, the dowager queen. It is in this position that we find Oedipus at the beginning of the play, searching for a cure for the plague that ravages Thebes.

Little does Oedipus know that the rumor he heard in Corinth was true, and he is indeed not the son of King Polybus. Oedipus is actually the son of King Laius, the former king of Thebes. When Oedipus was born, Laius consulted the oracle, who told him that Oedipus would be his death. Oedipus is left exposed on a mountaintop, where he is found by a shepherd and presented to the childless King Polybus.

By the time of the play's opening, Oedipus has already unknowingly fulfilled the horrible Delphic prophecy.

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Oedipus, the king of Thebes at the beginning of the play, believes that he hails from Corinth and is the son of King Polybus and Queen Merope.  However, he is really the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta from Thebes.  His birth parents heard a prophecy that their son would kill his father and marry his mother, and so they sent the baby Oedipus away with a servant to be killed in the woods.  This servant instead gave him to another servant from house of Polybus.  Thus, Polybus and Merope raised Oedipus as their own. 

One day, when he's grown up, a drunken man tells him that he's been adopted, and so he goes to the oracle of Delphi to learn the truth.  Instead of answering his questions, the oracle tells him the same prophecy Laius had heard: that he would kill his father and marry his mother.  Oedipus decides, then, not to return home to Corinth so that he cannot fulfill the prophecy.  On the road, he gets into an altercation and kills all but one man in the party, and it turns out that one of the men he killed was Laius, his birth father.  Then, after he frees Thebes from the dreadful sphinx by answering her riddle, the Thebans make him the king and he marries the old king's wife, Jocasta, who is actually his mother.  In this way, he has fulfilled the prophecy before the play has even begun.

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What is Oedipus' background?  

In the course of his investigation of Laius's murder, Oedipus reveals that, many years prior, some drunkard at a banquet shouted out,

"Thou art not the true son of thy sire."

In other words, he told Oedipus that the man Oedipus knows as his father is not actually his father. Oedipus asked his parents about this the next day, and though they were angry and tried to comfort Oedipus, Oedipus was not actually satisfied by their answers to his questions. He decided to go to the oracle at Delphi to ask Apollo (via the oracle) about his parents, but, unfortunately, he didn't get the answers he wanted from the oracle either. Instead, he learned that he would

defile [his] mother's bed
And raise up seed too loathsome to behold,
And slay the father from whose loins [he] sprang.

The oracle tells him that he will have sexual intercourse with his own mother, fathering children with her (who, because they are the product of incest, are "loathsome"), and that he will kill his own father. Because of this, Oedipus determines not to return to his home in Corinth, and he makes his way to Thebes, where, unbeknownst to him, his biological parents—Laius and Jocasta—live. It is, ironically, his attempt to avoid his prophecy that actually enables it to come true.

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What is Oedipus' background?  

The background of Oedipus is important in understanding the play. The key figure is Oedipus' father, King Laius. When Laius was a child, Amphion and Zethus usurped the Theban throne. Loyal citizens managed to rescue Laius. King Pelops took in the young Laius who repaid his hospitality by abducting Pelops' son. This abuse of hospitality brought down a curse on the house of Thebes. 

After Laius regains his throne he marries Jocasta. The oracle at Delphi predicts that his son will murder him and marry Jocasta. He gives the baby Oedipus to a servant to be exposed on a mountainside and left to die. Instead, Oedipus is rescued and raised as the son of the King of Corinth. Oedipus hears a prophecy that he will murder his father and marry his mother. Not realizing that he is adopted, he leaves Corinth to avoid his fate, kills Laius (whom he does not realize is his father), and marries Jocasta. 

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