Oedipus Rex

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A Messenger Character Analysis

The messenger from Corinth informs Oedipus that King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth were not his actual parents. The messenger himself gave Oedipus as a baby to the Corinthian king and queen. He got the baby from a Theban shepherd whom he met in the woods. Oedipus's ankles were pinned together at the time—in Greek, the name "Oedipus" means "swollen ankles."

A Messenger Quotes in Oedipus Rex

The Oedipus Rex quotes below are all either spoken by A Messenger or refer to A Messenger. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Oedipus Rex published in 1982.
Lines 998-1310 Quotes
If you are the man he says you are, believe me
you were born for pain.
Related Characters: A Shepherd (speaker), Oedipus, A Messenger
Page Number: 1304-1305
Explanation and Analysis:

When interrogated by Oedipus, the shepherd at first resists his attempts to procure information. Yet eventually the shepherd gives in, condemning Oedipus to his terrifying fate.

These lines articulate an important new position on the role of fate in Oedipus’s destiny. Whereas other characters or critics may believe the tragic action occurred due to a mixture of destiny and human folly, the shepherd clearly attributes what will occur solely to a pre-determined narrative. That Oedipus was “born for pain” implies that his life's torment began precisely at the moment he came into the world: his later actions thus would only fulfill this pre-designed path, rather than carving a new one. This point builds on Jocasta’s claim that his name is “man of agony”—which makes his identity similarly equivalent to pain—and reiterates the power of the gods and fate to control each moment in human affairs. Thus Sophocles moves at this crucial moment in the tragedy to highlight the role of destiny over human action.

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A Messenger Character Timeline in Oedipus Rex

The timeline below shows where the character A Messenger appears in Oedipus Rex. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 998-1310
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
Jocasta enters and makes an offering to Apollo to appease Oedipus's mind. Just then, a messenger—an old man—arrives from Corinth, with news that the people there want to make Oedipus their... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
The messenger asks what Oedipus is afraid of. Oedipus tells him the prophecy—that he would kill his... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
The messenger tells Oedipus that he (the messenger) came upon a baby on the side of Mount... (full context)
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
...the secret of his birth, no matter how common his origins. A shepherd approaches. The messenger confirms that it's the same man who gave him the baby. Oedipus and the messenger... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
Action vs. Reflection Theme Icon
...to torture the shepherd does the shepherd admit that he gave the baby to the messenger. The shepherd then refuses to name the father and mother of the baby. Oedipus threatens... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
Finding Out the Truth Theme Icon
...come to pass, Oedipus lets out a terrible cry and rushes into the palace. The messenger and shepherd exit. (full context)
Lines 1311-1680
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Sight vs. Blindness Theme Icon
The chorus and the messenger are struck with grief and pity. Oedipus enters, but they can't bear to look at... (full context)