“King Oedipus” of Sophocles in brief summary

“King Oedipus” of Sophocles in brief summary

It’s a tragedy about fate and freedom: it’s not the freedom of a person to do what he wants, but to take responsibility for what he does not want.

The city of Thebes was ruled by King Laia and Queen Jocasta. From the Delphic oracle, King Laius received a terrible prediction: “If you bear a son, you will perish from his hand.” Therefore, when his son was born, he took him away from his mother, gave it to the shepherd and ordered him to be taken to the mountain pastures of Kieferon, and there to be thrown to be eaten by predatory animals. The shepherd felt sorry for the baby. On Kieferon, he met a shepherd with a herd from the neighboring kingdom of Corinth and gave the baby to him without telling who it was. He took the baby to his king. The king of Corinth

had no children; he adopted a baby and brought up as his heir. They called the boy Oedipus.

Oedipus grew strong and intelligent. He considered himself the son of a Corinthian king, but before him began to hear rumors that he was adopted. He went to the Delphic oracle to ask: whose son is he? The Oracle replied: “Whatever you are, you are destined to kill your own father and marry your own mother.” Oedipus was terrified. He decided not to return to Corinth and went where his eyes looked. At the crossroads he met a chariot, an old man with a proud carriage was riding on it, around him were several servants. Oedipus did not move aside in time, the old man hit him with a grenade, Oedipus hit him with a stick, the old man fell dead, a fight broke out, the servants were killed, only one escaped. Such road accidents were not uncommon; Oedipus went further.

He reached the city of Thebes. There was confusion: on the rock in front of the city settled monster Sphinx, a woman with a lion’s body, she asked passers-by riddles, and who could not guess, those who tore. King Lai went to seek help from the oracle, but was killed by someone on the road. Oedipus Sphinx puzzled the riddle: “Who walks in the morning on four, in the afternoon on two, and in the evening on three?” Oedipus answered: “This is a man:

an infant on all fours, an adult for two and an old man with a staff.” Defeated by the right answer, the Sphinx rushed from the cliff into the abyss; Thebes were released. The people, rejoicing, announced the wise Oedipus as king and gave him Laiev’s widow Jocasta as wife, and as assistants – brother of Jocasta, Creon.

Many years passed, and suddenly God’s punishment fell upon Thebes: people died from the disease, cattle fell, and bread fell. The people turn to Oedipus: “You are wise, you have saved us once, save us now.” This entreaty begins the action of the tragedy of Sophocles: the people stand before the palace, Oedipus comes to him. “I’ve already sent Creon to ask advice from the oracle, and now he’s hurrying back with the news.” The Oracle said: “This divine punishment is for the murder of Laia, find and punish the murderer!” – “Why was it not sought until now?” “Everyone thought about the Sphinx, not about him.” “Well, now I’ll think about it.” The people’s choir sings a prayer to the gods: turn your anger away from Thebes, spare the perishing!

Oedipus announces his royal decree: to find the murderer Laia, to separate him from fire and water, from prayers and sacrifices, expel him to a foreign land, and let the curse of the gods fall upon him! He does not know that by this he curses himself, but now he will be told about it. In Thebes, there lives a blind old man, the prophet Tiresi: will he not indicate who the murderer is? “Do not make me talk,” Tiresy asks, “it will not be good!” Oedipus is angry: “Are you yourself involved in this murder?” Tiresias flares up: “No, if so: the murderer – you, yourself and executions!” – “Well, is not Creon tearing to power, so he did not persuade you?” “I do not serve Creon, and not you, but the god who is alive, I’m blind, you see, but you do not see where you live in sin and who your father and mother are.” – “What does it mean?” – “Solve yourself: you are a master”. And Tiresias leaves. The chorus sings a frightened song: who is the villain? Who is the murderer? Really Oedipus? No, you can not believe this!

Enter the agitated Creon: does Oedipus suspect him of treason? “Yes,” says Oedipus. “Why do I need your kingdom?” The tsar is a slave of his own power, it is better to be a royal assistant, like me. ” They shower each other with cruel reproaches. On their voices from the palace queen Jocasta – sister Creon, the wife of Oedipus. “He wants to expel me with false prophecies,” Oedipus tells her. “Do not believe,” Jocasta replies, “all the prophecies are deceitful: Laia was foretold to perish from her son, but our son died on Kieferon, and Laia killed an unknown traveler at the crossroads.” “At the crossroads, where, when, what was Laia looking like?” – “On the way to Delphi, shortly before your arrival to us, and he looked like a gray, straight and, perhaps, like you.” “Oh, horror! And I had such a meeting; was not I that traveler? Is there a witness left? “-” Yes, one escaped; this is an old shepherd, after him has already been sent. “Oedipus in agitation, the choir sings a troubled song:” Unreliable human greatness; gods, save us from pride! “

And here in action there is a turn. An unexpected person appears on the stage: a messenger from neighboring Corinth. The Corinthian king died, and the Corinthians call Oedipus to accept the kingdom. Oedipus is clouded: “Yes, all prophecies are deceitful!” It was foretold to kill my father, but now he died his death, but I was also predicted to marry my mother, and while the queen mother lives, there is no way for me to go to Corinth. ” “If only it keeps you,” says the messenger, “calm down: you are not their own son, but a receptionist, I myself brought you a baby from Kieferon, and I was given to you by some shepherd.” “Wife,” Oedipus turns to Jocasta, “is not this the shepherd who was at Laie?” More likely! “Whose son am I really, I want to know!” Jocasta has already understood everything. “Do not prove yourself,” she pleads, “it will be worse for you!” Oedipus can not hear her, she goes to the palace, we will not see it. The choir sings a song: maybe Oedipus is the son of some god or nymph born on Kieferon and planted by people? so it happened!

But no. Lead the old shepherd. “This is the one you gave me in infancy,” the Corinthian messenger tells him. “This is the one who killed Laia before my eyes,” the shepherd thinks. He resists, he does not want to talk, but Oedipus is implacable. “Whose child was he?” he asks. “King Laia,” the shepherd answers, “and if it’s really you, then you were born on a mountain and we saved you on a mountain!” Now at last Oedipus understood everything. “Cursed is my birth, cursed my sin, cursed my marriage!” he exclaims and rushes to the palace. The choir sings again: “Unreliable human greatness! There is no happy in the world!” Oedipus was wise, was Oedipus the king, and who is he now? “A parricide and incest!”

A messenger runs out of the palace. For involuntary sin – voluntary execution: Queen Jocasta, mother and wife of Oedipus, hanged herself in a noose, and Oedipus in despair, embracing her corpse, tore off her gold clasp and stuck a needle in her eyes so that they did not see his monstrous deeds. The palace opens, the choir sees Oedipus with a bloody face. “How did you decide? ..” – “Fate decided!” – “Who inspired you? ..” – “I am my own judge!” Killer Laia – exile, the mother’s defiler – blinding; “O Kieferon, O mortal crossroads, O double-bed box!”. Faithful Creon, forgetting the offense, asks Oedipus to stay in the palace: “Only the neighbor has the right to see the sufferings of others.” Oedipus begs him to go into exile and says goodbye to his children: “I do not see you, but I’m crying for you…” The choir sings the last words of the tragedy: “On fellow citizens the Thebans!” Look: that’s Oedipus! / He, the mysterious resolver, he, the mighty king, / The one whose destiny happened, everyone looked enviously! .. / Hence, everyone should remember about our last day, / And you can call a man happy only / Who before she did not know the troubles in her life “.

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“King Oedipus” of Sophocles in brief summary