The terrible deeds that are Oedipus's undoing actually took place long before the play begins. King Laius has been dead for many years, Oedipus has ruled for some time, and his marriage to Jocasta has produced four children. They might have all remained happy in their ignorance had the plague not come to Thebes and the oracle not commanded that the murderer of Laius be found. Good king that he is, Oedipus swears he will find the murderer. Every step of the way, people are reluctant to speak and try to tell him that it would be better if the past were left alone. Creon suggests that they discuss the oracle behind closed doors, not in front of everyone, but Oedipus wants to show that he is open to the truth and keeps no secrets from his people. Tiresias refuses to say what he knows, and only speaks when he has been insulted and accused of treachery. Jocasta begs Oedipus to cease his investigations. The old shepherd gives Oedipus the final pieces of the puzzle only when threatened with death. In his desire to seek out the truth and save his people from the plague, Oedipus becomes his own prosecutor, and then his own judge and punisher.
Finding Out the Truth ThemeTracker
Finding Out the Truth Quotes in Oedipus Rex
launched against our walls
you hurled the flame of pain
far, far from Thebes—you gods,
come now, come down once more!
a lone man unknown in his crime
or one among many, let that man drag out
his life in agony, step by painful step—
I'll bear mine. It's better that way,
please believe me.
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.
no skill in the world,
nothing human can penetrate the future.
now our masters strike them off the rolls.
Nowhere Apollo's golden glory now—
the gods, the gods go down.
that is the only name I have for you,
that, no other—ever, ever, ever!
you were born for pain.
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—"
quickly, cast me away, my friends—
this great murderous ruin, this man cursed to heaven,
the man the deathless gods hate most of all!
count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.