you all know me, the world knows my fame:
I am Oedipus.
In the play’s opening lines, Oedipus introduces himself with this flourishing pronouncement. He accentuates how all those he speaks to would already know of him.
Oedipus’s language is a somewhat jesting take on a traditional… (259 more words in this explanation)
launched against our walls
you hurled the flame of pain
far, far from Thebes—you gods,
come now, come down once more!
The chorus enters suddenly into the play’s action. They beg the Gods to come to aid the city as they have before.
A chorus’s role is essential in every Greek tragedy: they function as an… (216 more words in this explanation)
and the suffering rises
wails for mercy rise
and the wild hymn for the Healer blazes out
clashing with our sobs our cries of mourning—
O golden daughter of god, send rescue
radiant as the kindness in your eyes!
The chorus continues to lament the current decrepit state of Thebes. They narrow their earlier general call for help from the gods to one toward a specific deity (seemingly Artemis, a daughter of Zeus, although… (237 more words in this explanation)
a lone man unknown in his crime
or one among many, let that man drag out
his life in agony, step by painful step—
Having learned that the plague is a punishment for the murder of Laius, Oedipus here condemns the killer. He spitefully demands that his life be drawn out in extended pain rather than lived freely or… (211 more words in this explanation)
I'll bear mine. It's better that way,
please believe me.
Tiresias comes to Oedipus to offer counsel on the plague. But when asked to share his wisdom, Tiresias asks to be allowed to depart without any comment.
As with the earlier scene, Oedipus here seems… (185 more words in this explanation)
you and your birds, your gods—nothing.
No, but I came by, Oedipus the ignorant,
I stopped the Sphinx! With no help from the birds,
the flight of my own intelligence hit the mark.
Tiresias and Oedipus begin to fight, each insulting the other about the way they have been negligent of Thebes. Here, Oedipus reprimands Tiresias for not having intervened when Thebes was previously crippled by the Sphinx.
… (192 more words in this explanation)
be rooted from the earth as brutally as you.
Tiresias speaks these condemning lines as his argument with Oedipus escalates. He predicts that Oedipus will suffer a horrifying end to his life.
This language is actually remarkably similar to that used by Oedipus earlier… (181 more words in this explanation)
he will grope his way toward a foreign soil,
a stick tapping before him step by step.
After pronouncing that Oedipus will suffer a terrible end, Tiresias tells this riddle about the killer of Laius. He describes the pitiful way the killer’s life will end.
As is characteristic in the play, the… (204 more words in this explanation)
whether a seer can fathom more than I—
there is no test, no certain proof
though matching skill for skill
a man can outstrip a rival. No, not till I see
these charges proved will I side with his accusers....
Never will I convict my king, never in my heart.
After Tiresias and Oedipus have finished fighting, the chorus expresses their sympathy for the king. They acknowledge the power of oracles, but also refuse to accept Tiresias's judgement until it has been proved certain.
The… (219 more words in this explanation)
you will go too far. It's perfect justice:
natures like yours are hardest on themselves.
Oedipus permits Creon to leave without punishment. But as he departs, Creon shouts this condemnation of Oedipus.
His insult points again to the crippling pride in Oedipus’s personality. That he is “sullen in yielding” speaks… (157 more words in this explanation)
straight on course. Now again, good helmsman,
steer us through the storm!
In the wake of Oedipus’s fight with Creon, the chorus continues to defend their ruler. They repeatedly call upon him to save them from the current plague.
Sophocles underlines, once more, how fully the populace… (129 more words in this explanation)
no skill in the world,
nothing human can penetrate the future.
Jocasta gives this consoling speech after Oedipus recounts his interaction with Tiresias. She claims that prophets have no real knowledge of events to come, and that Oedipus therefore should not be disturbed by what Tiresias… (197 more words in this explanation)
born for the brilliant vault of heaven—
Olympian Sky their only father,
nothing mortal, no man gave them birth,
their memory deathless, never lost in sleep:
within them lives a mighty god, the god does not
Jocasta and Oedipus have just finished discussing the significance of the prophecies that each has received. When they depart, the chorus offers a chilling and complex speech about the state of the gods in Thebes.
… (168 more words in this explanation)
now our masters strike them off the rolls.
Nowhere Apollo's golden glory now—
the gods, the gods go down.
After first contending that the gods are everlasting and all-powerful, the chorus rapidly shifts positions here. They claim that given the current state of Thebes, the relative power of Oedipus, and the potential falseness of… (206 more words in this explanation)
that is the only name I have for you,
that, no other—ever, ever, ever!
Jocasta has just concluded that Oedipus is her son and she repeatedly implores him not to continue his investigation. When he refuses to do so, she screams this at him.
This passage plays on the… (147 more words in this explanation)
you were born for pain.
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… (130 more words in this explanation)
More wed to pain and frenzy? Not a man on earth,
the joy of your life ground down to nothing
O Oedipus, name for the ages—"
Having now learned of Oedipus’s history and fate, the chorus renounces their earlier adoration of him. They reflect on the way Oedipus has shown himself to be predestined to a doomed and painful life.
This… (212 more words in this explanation)
At this point, Jocasta has committed suicide and Oedipus has blinded himself. In response, Oedipus bemoans his fate and how rapidly it has deteriorated.
That Oedipus refers to his “destiny” as a “dark power” implies… (159 more words in this explanation)
quickly, cast me away, my friends—
this great murderous ruin, this man cursed to heaven,
the man the deathless gods hate most of all!
Oedipus continues to disparage his fate and to speak of madness and darkness. He then asks to be thrown out of Thebes.
In contrast to his earlier proud position as a king, Oedipus has descended… (229 more words in this explanation)
count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.
After Creon has dealt with Oedipus’s fate, they both depart the stage to leave only the chorus. The chorus ends the play with these lines that reaffirm the power of the gods to dictate each… (223 more words in this explanation)