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Oedipus Rex Summary

1-3 – Oedipus spoke as the father of Thebes, to his children—or citizens—asking why are
everybody gathered sacrificing their peace at these sessions as the city filled with incense-smoke
and hymns and people worshipping Apollo while there are also raging calamities. He said he
had came to the session as well to solve the city’s problem, and therefore, speaking to the priest,
Oedipus said the priest was privileged to have to speak for them, and told him to tell everybody
everything that he knew of the issue and if he can, he will afford all aids. Then, the priest
answered that he was the most experience out of all priests, and he knew that Oedipus the King
is the only one who can save the country and make it erect again and not let them remember that
the country was once erect and then fell, referring to the him answering the Sphinx’s riddle. He
told Oedipus that they beg for him to find some way to save the country, either by prophecy from
heaven or “haply of some man.”

3-4 – Oedipus told the crowd gathered outside that he was as upset as the crowd and he had find
through intricate ways of care that the only solution was to seek an answer from Pytho, Apollo’s
house, and that he had already sent Creon who had not yet returned yet but he promised the
crowd upon his return, they will solve the problem as fast as they can. The priest was pleased
that Oedipus already found help and wished Apollo will approach them nicely.

4 – Creon came back and Oedipus asked him to tell whatever Apollo asked for in front of the
entire crowd, and Creon said Oedipus was to punish somebody by exile or death. Oedipus asked
on to find out it was murderer of Laius’, or Thebes’ former king, that Apollo wanted to punish,
and Oedipus said he had never seen Laius before as Creon explained how they were to solve the

5-6 – Oedipus, now determined to find the murderer as quick as possible, asked Creon about how
did this ancient crime happen and was told that Laius was on pilgrimage when he was slain and
the only witness who didn’t die had fled frightened saying that a group of robbers had killed
Laius. They were unable to further investigate because the Sphinx was there and everybody was
frightened for their own life, but if Oedipus’ determination now, he was sure to find out who it is
and then punish that person as he would do to himself if he was the one who did it, a foreshadow
to what will happen next.

6 – The priest answered to Oedipus’ promise and said that was what the crowd had gathered for
in the first place, and now satisfied by the oracle sent by Apollo’s priests. Then comes a short
chorus part of the Theban Senators saying how sweet of Jove’s, or Zeus’s, prophecy but what
doomed had he sent to Thebes as they waited piously for Apollo’s guidance but frightened for the
continuously changing world. They wanted to know what will happen.

7-8 – Speaking to the gods, the senators had first praised Zeus, Athena, Artemis, and Phoebus
Apollo, then they complained about the horrible conditions they are facing from the plague of the
country, which caused famine, high death rates, and low birth rates. They saw people perished
pitiless while others grief and fearing how long would they survive, and therefore begged the god
to help them.
8 – The Chorus, or the group of Theban Senators, contemned Ares or Mars, the God of War as
the destroyer and had therefore asked Zeus to use his thunderbolt to destroy Ares. Later, they
also asked Apollo, Artemis and Dionysus to help.

9-10 – Oedipus, saying that he was a stranger to this tale and the deed, had asked for everybody’s
help in order to identify the murderer as quick as possible. Also, he said if the murderer himself
confesses, he will only be put into exile unscathed and no one should greet or entertain him so he
can die by himself anyway. Having succeeded Laius’ government and marriage-bed, Oedipus
became more determined to find the murderer, saving everybody from this malady. The priest
answered to Oedipus by saying that the only person who knows the identity of the murderer of
Laius was Phoebus Apollo.

11-12 Oedipus indicated that it is impossible to make the god do something unless they gods
themselves wanted to. A senator thought of Tiresias, a blind prophet whose rank is close to
Phoebus’s, but Oedipus said he sent somebody twice but never got an answer. Soon, Tiresias
entered, led by a little boy, so Oedipus asked him about the murderer right away, and Tiresias
answered saying that he wanted to go home rather than expose the facts that would make both
their lives harder. Oedipus accused Tiresias of being a traitor to the country.

13 – Tiresias questioned Oedipus why should they go into details with these matters when both
of them will regret it if he tells, but Oedipus angrily accused Tiresias of taking part in the murder
and equally angrily, Tiresias said Oedipus was the abominable contaminator of the country.
Since it happened so sudden with much nerve and Oedipus was quite sure at that moment he had
not killed a king, Oedipus concluded that Tiresias must be shamelessly lying and furiously asked
for Tiresias to give an appropriate explanation.

14-15 – Tiresias said plainly that Oedipus murdered Laius and Oedipus was extremely angry,
asking if it was his brother-in-law Creon’s idea for Tiresias to accuse Oedipus of murder and said
Tiresias must be blind also as mind but Tiresias said it was Oedipus himself that will cause his
own death. Oedipus insisted that it was Tiresias’ idea to help Creon rise to the throne.

15-16 – The Senator calmed the situation by saying that the two men were angered and did not
mean some of what they had said, and therefore they should figure out how to interpret god’s
oracle instead. Tiresias told Oedipus that soon Oedipus shall know what he is indicating and
karma will strike upon his cursed parents and children, thus no man shall suffer more than he.

16 – Oedipus had told his servants to send Tiresias away but Tiresias said that Oedipus’ parents
thought he was wise, and Oedipus will soon know how to solve this problem with his own
sacrifice, thus he will be his own ruin. Oedipus answered that death was not a matter if he can
save the city and Tiresias made the motion to leave.

17-18 – Oedipus was glad he is leaving and said that Tiresias’ confusing speech held them back,
but Tiresias answered that Oedipus will soon find out that his sons are related to him as brothers
and his mother would be his wife after he killed his father. Finally, he sworn that everything he
said was true and left. The chorus then echoed that everything is destined to be the way it is and
thus it will not stop.
18 – The Chorus chanted as Oedipus gathered more clues to Laius’ death, the fact will become
clearer to him. Moreover, they said, future events are unpredictable due to unknown fate, thus
indicating also that even heroes like Oedipus who act according to his moral principles can be
fated to be unfortunate too.

19-20 – The chorus said of Zeus and Apollo as wise men indeed but the mind of a seer exceeds
others in subtlety, but this event when Oedipus was accused shows that the seers are not all so
smart to put Oedipus to shame. Creon then entered saying that he did not expect his life to be
long with Oedipus’ blames on him for the prophet gave what they believed to be false answers
and everything was blamed on Creon.

20 – A senator told Creon that he does not see what his masters do all the time as Oedipus
entered. Oedipus immediately turned his eyes on Creon and asked Creon did Creon think him a
fool who would immediately defend himself after being accused of being the murderer of their
former king and he thought Creon wanted his throne. Creon asked for a chance to clear the
blame from Oedipus but Oedipus had already pinned to his mind that Creon was cunning about
the entire plot. They almost came to consent into summoning Tiresias for the truth.

21-22 – Oedipus asked Creon that since Laius’ death did Tiresias ever once mentioned about
Oedipus at all. Creon answered no so Oedipus concluded that the only possible explanation is
Creon was behind all these, but Creon told Oedipus to reason and drew on his sister Jocasta,
Oedipus’ wife, as a reason why Creon would not betray Oedipus. However, Oedipus denied their
friendship so Creon said that a well balanced mind would not turn to crime because he has no
longing to be the king nor will he suffer not being the king. He said if Oedipus would not
believe him, Oedipus should go ask the oracle if he is telling the truth and he would be willing to
pay his life for it if he had even the slightest thought of a rebel for time will eventually reveal
one’s honesty.

22-24 – After Creon’s speech, the Senator immediately supported him as well, but Oedipus said
he must protect himself when somebody plots against him and he wanted Creon’s death, which
pushed Creon to a dangerous level of anger, and they argued until the Senator announced
Jocasta’s arrival. Jocasta asked for the problem to be stated and Creon said Oedipus does not
trust him and he is left with two choices: leave the country or die. Oedipus admitted it and said it
was for Creon was joined with treachery.

24-25 – Creon fully objects to Oedipus’ charge and Jocasta told Oedipus to trust her brother. The
senator begged for Oedipus to listen to Jocasta, and that he should not put Creon into exile with
no clear proof. To Oedipus, however, it seemed that he will be in exile soon if he does not
remove Creon somehow but he said he will listen to the Senator just because he was a Senator.
Creon answered saying that Oedipus yielded but with anger that when he does overcome, he will
know how hard it was to bear with himself from such behavior.

25 – Oedipus then made Creon leave, and Creon said everybody there can tell that he was honest
except for Oedipus. Ready to solve the misunderstanding, Jocasta asked for the origin of the
problem, and the Senator explained how Tiresias had came before and gave his prophecy. After
the Senator finished his part, Oedipus said that he respects Jocasta but Creon was bringing him
down with such a disgrace that he must punish him. Looking to the problem from a third person
point of view, Jocasta had asked Oedipus for solid proof to accuse Creon for he did not say that
himself but it was Oedipus who had accused Creon.

26 – Oedipus complained to Jocasta that Creon kept his words blame-free, but Jocasta was
reminded of an oracle that was given a long time ago, in which it was said Laius would die in his
son’s hands. Moreover, Jocasta said three days passed before Laius pinned his son’s ankles and
cast him out, and Laius died at a place where three roads met called Phocis from an emergence of
Daulia and Delphi, which raised Oedipus to the question of the exact time of the incident.

27-28 – Jocasta told Oedipus that Laius died just before Oedipus came, and he was a man in his
late middle age carried in a carriage by four men and one herald. She also said the only servant
that survived begged her to let him go as far as possible when he saw Oedipus in reign.

28-30 – Oedipus asked to have the only witness of Laius’ death back and Jocasta consented right
away but wished to know why Oedipus was so frightened. Oedipus said that this all related back
then to when he was the son of Polybus of Corinth and a Dorian named Merope. One day, he
encountered a drunk man who claimed that Oedipus was a child secretly exchanged, and later
said it in his parent’s faces, who took it grievously as the rumor spread. Even though Oedipus
was given a satisfying explanation from his parents, the event still bothers him so he went to
Pytho and was sent away by Apollo, with warning that he shall marry his mother and have
children with her after he killed his father. Furthermore, Oedipus told Jocasta that he had fled
into exile and he came to a place where three roads met, and the man and herald in the colt-
carriage pushed him and therefore Oedipus struck back with a staff and slain them all. After this
speech, Oedipus called out to god for forgiveness and he begged that he should never live till the
day that he should wed his mother and kill his father.

30-31 – The Senator reassured Oedipus that everything should be solve when the herdsman
comes, and there’s still hope, so Oedipus said he should ask he herdsman how many “robbers”
were there for the herdsman is impossible to mix up the sight of a single robber as a number of
robbers. However, Jocasta said, if Oedipus did kill Laius, then her poor son who had probably
died must be the mistake of the soothsaying from Loxias.

31-32 – Oedipus and Jocasta urged for the herdsman as the Chorus spoke again, praising the
gods up in the sky who never grows old, followed by a speech about the pride in kings that
caused them to do vain things that builds up to hurry their downfall, and thereby begging god
never to take the prosperity of the city away from them. However, they chanted, if he did kill his
father and wed his own mother, then allow him to die an evil death for why should they exist if
actions like Oedipus’ were held for judgments.

32-33 – The Chorus continued their chants saying never ignores an oracle at Delphi for it can
never be changed once given and worshipping gods like Apollo after an oracle foretelling
misfortune is pointless. Jocasta brought garlands and incense to worship the deities as offerings
to petition for whatever the herdsman says should not be of despair because then there would be
nothing that Jocasta can do for Oedipus .
33 – A Messenger came and asked the senator for the way to Oedipus’ palace, Jocasta asked for a
reason and he said the citizens of Corinth, or land of Isthmia, intended to appoint Oedipus king.

34-35 – The Messenger told Jocasta that Polybus has died a natural death from sickness, and
Oedipus entered. Oedipus regretted leaving Corinth, leaving his sick father for an oracle that
proved untrue at that point.

35 – Jocasta told Oedipus never to let the oracles bother him anymore, for it is best to take things
easy. However, Oedipus still worried about his mother because of yet another prediction.

36 – Oedipus said Loxias had declared that he should one day marry his own mother and shed
his father’s blood, which was the reason for him to leave Corinth. Shocked, the messenger, an
old man, said that Oedipus was not Polybus’ son so Oedipus wanted to know the tale.

37-38 – The old man told Oedipus that Oedipus, a baby with jointed ankles at that time, was
found in Cithaeron’s small wooded valleys, where he tended flocks upon the mountains, but he
did not know who are his parents for he did not ask but he believed that only the shepherd who
gave Oedipus to him knows. Oedipus immediately asked for such man.

38-39 – The Senator said the herdsman was the shepherd that gave Oedipus to the messenger,
and Oedipus is eager to know who his natural parents were. Jocasta told Oedipus not to seek for
an answer for his own sake and left sadly and said “woe” was the last word she will say to him.
Not the Senator nor Oedipus understand why Jocasta was in such a bad mood but Oedipus was
excited to make her mother proud for knowing that her son is now so great.

39 – The chorus chanted that a true seer should be clear-minded. They also said that they shall
not live pass tomorrow night after they find out who Oedipus’ mother is, but Apollo should do
good to them for all their praises and worshipping to him. Moreover, they asked who Oedipus’
father was and who nursed him, was it Hermes or is it Dionysus who bear Oedipus with a
mountain nymph.

40-41 – Oedipus said he saw the herdsman they all seek for, and the Senator too, who recognized
the man, which was then confirmed by the messenger that it was the man who gave Oedipus to
him. Oedipus asked the old herdsman if he can identify the messenger from Corinth but the
herdsman did not recall until the messenger spoke of the event.

41 – The old man, realized what it was all about, did not want to be Oedipus’ ruin and refused to
say anything, but Oedipus had forced him to tell and he said it was a child from Laius.

42-43 – The old man told Oedipus that Jocasta should know best what everything is about, and
Oedipus realized he was Jocasta’s’ son and the oracle was true. The Chorus chanted that Oedipus
seemed so great before but then suddenly fall, not knowing what he had done the entire time.

43-44 – The Chorus said before that moment, Oedipus was the happiest guy but now he is the
saddest man feeling the hardest out of all with the many changes in life. Time reveals
everything, the unfortunate accuse of wrongness on Oedipus, his children all also Laius’ sons.
The chorus, or the senators chanted, that with this truth slowly revealed, they do not want to
know more.

44-46 – A second messenger entered and said that willful acts like Oedipus’ are even harder to
bear with, and he told the Senator that Jocasta had killed herself after she went straight to her
bed-chamber from the lobby, while her hands were tearing her hair and crying out for Laius for
his son had killed him and then, he said, then Oedipus entered and begged for a sword after he
saw Jocasta hanged herself, but instead snatched gold pins off her dress and stabbed his eyeballs
so that he cannot see the children he produced with his mother Jocasta.

46 – The messenger told the senators to see for themselves how unbearable now the sight of
Oedipus is after he had to revealed what he did to the citizens. The chorus chanted, as Oedipus
entered blind, that everybody felt sorry for him and Oedipus himself asked for a place to stay.

47-48 – Oedipus said staying in Thebes only gives him memories of this woe, and he begged for
a friend to tend to him now for Apollo filled his woe for there is no joy in sight if he sees his
children and he is hated by men and immortals for his cursed life.

48-50 – A Senator felt sorry for Oedipus but is unable to help, so he wished he never knew
Oedipus. Oedipus blamed his fate on the generous man who saved him for if he died, then many
unhappy lives would be saved, including his children’s. The Senator understood Oedipus but
Oedipus did not ask for forgiveness for he said he would only feel less ashamed meeting his
parents in the Underworld when he is blind, and it must be better if he is deaf as well, for that
keeps him in fancy, out of pain. Moreover, in his prolonged monologue, he begged for
somebody to slay him without because it was pointless living like now and if death will end all
woe, then let it end his misery.

50 – A senator told Oedipus that Creon should make Oedipus’ fate and Creon entered, already
having forgiven what Oedipus had done to him. Oedipus volunteered to be thrown out of the
country as far as possible, but Creon asked for god’s decision, which—to Oedipus—was death.

51-52 – Creon, however, wanted to seek an answer from God instead, a last chance to reasonably
spare Oedipus’ life. Oedipus said he wanted to feel his daughters Antigone and Ismene, and it
was granted immediately by Creon.

52-53 – Creon told Oedipus to enjoy it while he is with his daughters like he did before. Oedipus
wailed for he had brought bad fate to the girls, who will have no husbands, therefore, he said,
they should leave with him to a place where they can live freely.

53-54 – Creon had stopped Oedipus from wailing further and asked for a solution, which was
answered saying that he should be banish from the country. Creon granted his wish but he said
the children must stay here, for Oedipus—a man so wronged—should not have everything at his
pleasure. Then, the chorus entered after Creon exit with the children, saying that Thebans should
see this man who saved them from the Sphinx and but did not realize what was more serious to
himself than that wave of sickness in the country, and till the end of his life passed should one be
able to judge on his fortune and happiness.