Key Plot Points

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Last Updated on July 12, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 441

Creon Returns from Delphi: Having been sent to ask the oracle of Apollo for advice about the plague afflicting Thebes, Creon shares with Oedipus and the surrounding townspeople what he learned from the oracle: to end the suffering in Thebes, they must find Laius’s murderer. The former king of Thebes, Laius was killed allegedly by bandits while traveling away from Thebes years ago. 

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Oedipus Questions Tiresias and Accuses Creon: Committed to finding Laius’s killer, Oedipus questions a prophet of Apollo, Tiresias. Tiresias discourages his inquiry, and Oedipus grows angry, accusing Tiresias of plotting the crime. Tiresias tells Oedipus that he, Oedipus, killed Laius. Oedipus becomes suspicious that Creon and Tiresias are plotting against him, and Tiresias responds with a prophecy foretelling Oedipus’s downfall. Creon tries to convince Oedipus and the Chorus that he already has enough power in Thebes and doesn’t want to be king, but Oedipus threatens him with banishment and death, relenting only at the insistence of the queen and the Chorus. 

Jocasta Reassures Oedipus: Jocasta tells Oedipus that sometimes oracles and prophets are wrong. She recounts the story of the son she had with Laius, who was prophesied to kill his father. To prevent this, Jocasta and Laius had the baby abandoned in the mountains by a shepherd; years later, Laius was killed at a crossroads while traveling. Oedipus reacts strongly to her tale, especially her description of the place where Laius was killed. He asks her to send for the sole survivor of Laius’s party, and tells Jocasta about his past: that while he was Prince of Corinth, he had heard a prophecy that he was to kill his father and marry his mother, and while traveling, he killed a fellow traveler in a place and manner similar to the circumstances of Laius’s death. 

Oedipus Questions the Herdsman: When the King of Corinth dies of old age, a Messenger brings the news to Oedipus. The Messenger admits to having received an orphan from a Theban Herdsman years ago, taking that orphan to Corinth to be raised by the king and queen. Despite Jocasta’s warnings and grief-stricken departure, Oedipus insists that the Herdsman has revealed the truth: Oedipus is the child of Laius and Jocasta, raised by the King and Queen of Corinth. 

Oedipus Blinds Himself: Distraught by the revelation about his identity, Oedipus flees to his chambers where he finds that Jocasta has hanged herself. He uses the pins from her robe to blind himself. Lamenting the tragedy and its consequences for his family, Oedipus exiles himself from Thebes, and Creon ascends to the throne. 

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