The Oedipus Trilogy Oedipus the King, Lines 1 – 525 Questions and Answers
by Sophocles

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Oedipus the King, Lines 1 – 525 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is the condition of the people of Thebes when the play opens?

2. What is Creon’s relationship to Oedipus?

3. What is the meaning of the long prayer by the Chorus?

4. How does Oedipus respond to the long prayer by the Chorus?

5. What curse does Oedipus call down on the murderer of Laius?

6. What does Oedipus ask Tiresias to do when the seer arrives?

7. How does Tiresias first respond?

8. Why does Tiresias respond the way he does?

9. How does Oedipus change in his dealings with Tiresias?

10 What is the meaning of what Tiresias reveals?

Answers
1. When the play opens, the people of Thebes are sick, weak and dying. Their crops are blighted and there is a plague on the land.

2. Creon is the brother of Jocasta, the widowed queen of Thebes who married Oedipus. Along with being the brother-in-law of Oedipus, Creon is his uncle, because Oedipus is Jocasta’s son.

3. The long prayer by the Chorus invokes several of the gods worshipped by the ancient Greeks and asks them to help Thebes in their specialized ways. The prayer shows the devotion of the Chorus to a religion that was being challenged in rationalist intellectual circles.

4. In his response to the long prayer by the Chorus, Oedipus reveals himself as one who believes he is beyond the power of the gods. When he tells the people of Thebes to look to him for answers, he usurps the role of the gods in human affairs.

5. Oedipus curses the murderer of Laius with a life that is agony. He calls down a further list, including barren fields, infertility, and death to sons who are already born.

6. When the seer Tiresias arrives, Oedipus tells him that the Oracle requires justice for Laius and asks the prophet to rescue the city.

7. Tiresias first responds by saying that it is terrible to see the truth, as he does, because it brings only pain. He asks to be sent home.

8. Tiresias responds the way he does because he knows the truth and dreads the destruction it will bring if he reveals it.

9. Oedipus changes in his dealings with Tiresias from friend and patron to a hurler of insults, threats and accusations of envy and extortion.

10. On one level, the blind prophet’s revelation simply states the facts known to nobody but him. On the metaphorical level, the blind old man is presented as the person whose sight is more accurate than the king’s.