Oedipus the King

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Summary of Oedipus

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Oedipus the King
  1. Oedipus limps out of the royal house to stand before the assembled people of Thebes and priests
    1. Oedipus speaks to the people - 'huddling at my altar, praying before me...' - 'I am Oedipus' - 'I would be blind to misery not to pity my people at my feet'.
      1. PRIEST : A priest of Zeus explains that 'black Death luxuriates in the raw, wailing miseries of Thebes'. Plague, crops and cattle are dying, women are dying in labour. They are praying to Oedipus to save them from the the plague for they rate him the first of men (the Sphinx)
        1. OEDIPUS : 'My children' - he has sent Creon to Delphi to find out how to save the city. 'But once he returns, then, then I'll be traitor if I do not do all the gods make clear'.
          1. Creon arrives and wants to take the discussion inside but Oedipus wants the people to hear.
            1. 'Drive the corruption from the land, don't harbour it any longer, past all cure, don't nurse it in your soil - root it out!'
              1. Creon reveals that the murderer of Laius is the reason for the plague. Laius was said to be attacked by a whole band thieves. When Oedipus questions why they did not search for the killer sooner, they say the Sphinx told them to let the mystery go.
                1. CHORUS : They call upon the gods - Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Artemis. They describe the plague - '...the miseries are numberless, grief on grief, no end...'.
                  1. OEDIPUS : 'You pray to the gods? Let me grant your prayer.' Oedipus calls for the murderer to reveal himself, he will only be exiled, the citizens should not hide him. Oedipus curses the murderer and 'if by any chance the proves an intimate or our house... may the curse I just called down on him strike me!'
                    1. LEADER : Suggests that Oedipus calls Tiresias, Oedipus has already sent escorts twice within in the hour but he still has not come
                      1. Tiresias enters. Oedipus is really nice to him - 'You, my lord, are the one shield, the one saviour we can find.'
                        1. Tiresias asks to be sent home because the truth is so cruel. Oedipus is upset that he would 'withhold the word of god' or even 'bent on betraying us, destroying Thebes'. Tiresias is addament and Oedipus calls him the 'scum of the earth' and eventually accuses him of killing Laius.
                          1. Tiresias tells Oedipus the truth, ' You are the curse, the corruption of the land!' but he doesn't believe it. When Tiresias pushes the truth- ' you and your loved ones live together in infamy', Oedipus accuses him further of having lost his power, that he has eyes as 'blind as stone'
                            1. Oedipus begins to believe that Creon is to blame and that together they wanted to usurp him. And he asks Tiresias why he didn't help against the Sphinx - 'No, but I came by, Oedipus the ignorant, I stopped the Sphinx'. - 'If you didn't look so senile the lash would teach you what your scheming means!'
                              1. LEADER : tries to solve the tension
                                1. Tiresias questions Oedipus' parents, calls him blind and suggests he will suffer terribly. Tiresias leaves.
                                  1. CHORUS - uncertain who to believe - 'I can't accept him, I can't deny him', but 'Never will I convict my king, never in my heart'
                                    1. Creon discusses with the leader his ruined reputation but the leader suggest that Oedipus was talking in anger, the leader introduces Oedipus' return/
                                      1. Oedipus accuses Creon of trying to kill him. Stichomythia. Creon asks him to hear him out. Oedipus asks him why he did not investigate the death of Laius sooner - he wants to know why Tiresias is accusing HIM. Creon suggests that he, Oedipus and Jocasta all rule as equals. Oedipus still wants Creon dead
                                        1. Jocasta enters and tells them off for the 'public outburst'. She makes Oedipus listen to Creon's oath of innocence. The chorus also tries to get him to forgive his friend and kin. Jocasta asks why Oedipus believes this - he says that he recieved word from the prophet. Jocasta tells him to relax, she was told by prophet that her husband would be killed by his son. But instead he was killed by Thebes at a place where three roads meet. Furthermore, the baby was left, fastened at the ankles, on a barren mountain.
                                          1. Oedipus realises the man he killed at Phocis (crossroads) may have been his father. He calls for the survivor. He believes he has cursed himself.
                                            1. Oedipus explains his bit of the tale - drunk guy, Delphi, the oracle, the crossroads. He needs to find out if it truly was band of thieves or not.
                                              1. CHORUS : 'Pride breeds the tyrant' they seem to chose the gods over men and that 'if any man comes striding, high and mighty in all he says and does... let a rough doom tear him down.' but they will only believe in oracles if they all come true
                                                1. Jocasta prays to Apollo to help her husband who won't disbelieve the prophecies.
                                                  1. MESSENGER : Comes to tell them that Polybus is dead. Because of this Jocasta believes that the prophecies can't come true. (He was not killed by Oedipus) However because Merope is still alive Oedipus stills fear returning. Jocasta implies that many men think of sharing a bed with their mothers.
                                                    1. They explain to the messenger why he is scared to return home but the messenger reveals that Polybus was not his father, and that he got baby Oedipus on Mount Cithaeron, and that he was named Oedipus because his ankles were pinned. Another shepherd has found him, the same one that survived Oedipus' attack. Jocasta figures out the truth and begs Oedipus not to pursue it - 'You are doomed - may you never fathom who you are!'
                                                      1. (Buttercup) CHORUS - they imply that maybe his parent is a god (Pan, Apollo, Hermes and Dionysus)
                                                        1. Oedipus questions the shepherd, whether he remembers who the messenger is. When the messenger reveals that Oedipus was the baby, the shepherd tries to avoid telling the truth - 'Damn you, shut your mouth - quiet!' but Oedipus threatens to torture him. He reveals that the boy was from the house of Laius and that Jocasta had given the baby to him, because they feared the prophecy. The shepherd gave the messenger the baby because he pitied him.
                                                          1. Oedipus realises the truth - 'I stand revealed at last'
                                                            1. CHORUS - highlight Oedipus' peripeteia, he was a king - 'We crowned you with honours' but now - 'Is there a man more agonised? More wed to pain and frenzy?'.
                                                              1. 'I count no man blessed'
                                                                1. 'Same wide harbour served you son and father both'
                                                                  1. The messenger reveals that the queen is dead. She was crying in the bed-chamber, Oedipus ran in asking for a sword, and then they saw her hanging by the neck. - 'He eased her down, in a slow embrace he eased her down...'. He then used her broach to blind himself
                                                                    1. Oedipus asked to be seen by all of Thebes He enters, led by a boy (like Tiresias)
                                                                      1. The chorus asks is repulsed by him - 'I shudder at the sight'. Oedipus - 'I am agony'. They ask why he blinded himself. 'Apollo - he ordained my agonies... but the hands that struck my eyes was mine, mine alone - no one else - I did it all myself!'. He further curses the one that freed him from death (Shepherd)
                                                                        1. He laments from his parents and for his children - 'The blackest things a man can do, I have done them all!'. The chorus shrink away from him as he beckons. Creon enters and Oedipus is very sorry about what he said. Oedipus asks to be exiled (to Cithaeron) and that Creon look after his daughters and that Oedipus can touch them with my hands.
                                                                          1. The children embrace him and Oedipus laments again for them, 'Who will marry you then?.
                                                                            1. When the guards wrench the children loose from Oedipus, Creon asks, 'Still the king, the master of all things? No more: here your power ends.'
                                                                              1. CHORUS - 'Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last'
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