What is the situation in Thebes at the start of Oedipus? Why does Oedipus seek Laius' murderer?

Quick answer:

A terrible plague is killing people in Thebes as Oedipus begins. Oedipus wants to discover who murdered Laius because the oracle at Delphi has stated that the murderer must be exiled from the city to end the plague.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As the play opens, the priests and citizens of Thebes arrive outside the royal palace. They are distressed, because a plague has come to the city, people are dying, and nobody knows how to stop the carnage.

Oedipus tells the people that he is as distressed as they are. He informs them that he has sent Creon to the oracle at Delphi for advice and guidance. Creon returns as Oedipus is addressing the crowd and tells him that he has received an answer. Creon asks Oedipus if he would like to hear the news in private. Oedipus says no, because the information is of great interest to all the people.

Creon then states that Apollo informed him through the oracle that the murderer of Laius is still living in Thebes. The plague will not lift until this murderer is discovered and sent from the city.

As a responsible ruler, Oedipus wishes to find the murderer and enact justice, because he feels compassion for his people and wants to end the plague. Although he is warned that it might not be a good idea for him to probe too deeply into this incident, Oedipus is determined to find out the truth.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial