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Essential Quotes by Character: Oedipus

Essential Passage 1: Lines 410-418

So tell me, when are you the wise seer? (410)
How is it that, when the singing hound was here,
you never said how the citizens might be freed?
Even though the riddle could not be solved by
the first man who met it, but required prophecy.
But you did not come forth with this, knowing some clue (415)
from birds or gods; instead I came along,
the idiot Oedipus! I stopped her,
working from intellect, not learning from birds.

Summary

As the plague ravages the city of Thebes, Oedipus asks the prophet Tiresias to identify the cause of the plague. Tiresias has very reluctantly placed the blame on Oedipus himself. In anger, Oedipus rages against Tiresias for this accusation. Oedipus even accuses Creon, his brother-in-law and co-ruler, of plotting to remove Oedipus from the throne and thus retain the crown for himself. Boasting, Oedipus recalls how he saved the city of Thebes by solving the riddle of the Sphinx (the singing hound) that had held Thebes captive in the absence of its previous ruler, Laius. It was not by the prophecies of old, nor the priests’ reading of omens in the flights of birds, nor not even by the gods that Thebes was saved. Instead, it was by Oedipus using his own intellectual strength to rid the city of the threat of the Sphinx.

Essential Passage 2: Lines 648-660

CREON:
What do you want? To cast me from this land?
OEDIPUS:
Hardly—I want you to die, not flee.
CREON:
You are the form of jealousy. (650)
OEDIPUS:
You speak neither to concede nor to persuade?
CREON:
For I see well that you do not understand.
OEDIPUS:
I understand my own affairs well enough.
CREON:
You must know mine equally well.
OEDIPUS:
Not when they are false! (655)
CREON:
Do you understand nothing?
OEDIPUS:
Yet, there must be rule.
CREON:
Not if ruled badly!
OEDIPUS:
O city, city!
CREON:
The city is mine, too, not yours alone! (660)

Summary

Creon vehemently denies Oedipus’s charge of treason. At this point in the work, Creon holds the role of adviser, though he is one of the three named rulers of Thebes (along with Oedipus and Jocasta). Why would he want to be saddled with the pressures and burdens of ruling alone, he asks. His life is much easier, his sleep is much sounder, being in the shadows. Oedipus is the one who wants to rule alone, Creon states. When asked if he realizes he could be misjudging Creon, Oedipus in his pride says that being right is not important, just so long as he continues to rule. As Oedipus cries out to Thebes (“my city!”), Creon objects, stating that it is also his city, not Oedipus’s alone.

Essential Passage 3: Lines 1412-1435

Oh, Cithaeron! Why did you accept me? Why did
you not kill me at once, so that I would never
reveal to men my origins? O Polybus
and Corinth and my old ancestral home—(1415)
so-called—in what a pretty festering
of evils you brought me up! For now I
find myself evil and born from evil people.
O three paths and hidden groves and the
narrow oak coppice at the triple crossroads, (1420)
which drank my own blood from my father
from my own hands, do you still remember me?
What deeds I performed in your presence,
what deeds I was still to do! O marriage, marriage,
you brought me forth, and afterwards again (1425)
you harvested that same seed and revealed
father-brothers, children of kin blood,
brides who were wives and mothers, and all else
counted the most shameful acts by men.
But, since these matters are as foully said as done, (1430)
by the gods, quickly hide me from the sight of men
somehow, or kill me or cast me into the sea,
where you will never see me again.
Go, deem it worthy to touch a poor man!
Yield, do not fear; for my evils are (1435)
such that no one of men can bear but me.

Summary

Jocasta the queen is dead by her own hand. Oedipus—her son, her husband, and the father of her children—takes the pins that holds her gown and stabs out his eyes. He realizes that what Tiresias had said was true, despite his angry refusal and condemnation at the prophet and his words. He has lived his life considering himself blameless...

(The entire section is 1,154 words.)