HIS 104 Chapter 1.3: HIS 104 Chapter 1.: King Oedipus (Part 3)
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~ King Oedipus ~
o Oedipus’s wife, Jocasta, enters and convinces Oedipus that he should neither kill nor exile Creon,
though the reluctant king remains convinced that Creon is guilty.
o Creon leaves, and the Chorus reassures Oedipus that it will always be loyal to him.
o Oedipus explains to Jocasta how Tiresias condemned him, and Jocasta responds that all
prophets are false.
▪ As proof, she offers the fact that the Delphic oracle told Laius he would be murdered
by his son, while actually his son was cast out of Thebes as a baby and Laius was
murdered by a band of thieves.
• Her narrative of his murder, however, sounds familiar to Oedipus, and he
asks to hear more.
o Jocasta tells him that Laius was killed at a three-way crossroads, just before Oedipus arrived in
o Oedipus, stunned, tells his wife that he may be the one who murdered Laius.
▪ He tells Jocasta that, long ago, when he was the prince of Corinth, he heard at a
banquet that he was not really the son of the king and queen, and so went to the
oracle of Delphi, which did not answer him but did tell him he would murder his
father and sleep with his mother.
▪ Hearing this, Oedipus fled from home, never to return.
▪ It was then, on the journey that would take him to Thebes, that Oedipus confronted
and harassed by a group of travelers, whom he killed in self-defense, at the very
crossroads where Laius was killed.
o Hoping that he will not be identified as Laius’s murderer, Oedipus sends for the shepherd who was
the only man to survive the attack.
o Oedipus and Jocasta leave the stage, and the Chorus enters, announcing that the world is
ruled by destiny and denouncing prideful men who would defy the gods.
▪ At the same time, the Chorus worries that if all the prophecies and oracles are
wrong- if a proud man can, in fact, triumph- then the gods may not rule the world
o Jocasta enters from the palace to offer a branch wrapped in wool to Apollo.
o Whatever sympathy we might have lost for Oedipus amid his ranting in the second section, we regain
at least partially in the third.
o After Jocasta intercedes in the fight between Oedipus and Creon, Oedipus calms down and
recalls that there is a riddle before him that he, as the ruler of Thebes, has a responsibility to
▪ Consequently, his incessant questions become more purposeful than they were in
his conversations with Tiresias and Creon.
▪ We see that Oedipus logically and earnestly pursues the truth when he does not
have a preconceived idea of what the truth is.
• When Oedipus seizes upon the detail of the three-way crossroads (805-
822), he proves that he was not merely grandstanding in the first scene of
the play when he expressed his desire to be forthright with his citizens and
to subject himself to the same laws he imposes upon others.
• In his speech at lines 848-923, Oedipus shows that he truly believes he
killed Laius and is willing to accept not only the responsibility but the
punishment for the act.
o The speech is heartbreaking because we know that Oedipus has
arrived at only half the truth.
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