Oedipus Rex Plot outline

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					                            Oedipus Rex: Plot Outline

Prologue: Oedipus, Priest, Creon (Suppliants – nonspeaking)
Oedipus addresses the Suppliants, asking them what they are coming to him for.
He tells the Priest to speak for them. The Priest describes the sufferings of the city.
Oedipus sympathizes and tells them that Creon is coming from the Oracle with
advice. The Priest sees Creon approach and judges from his look that his news is
Creon enters and tells him the oracle has demanded that Laius’ murder be avenged
with blood or banishment. Creon tells Oedipus Laius was reported murdered by a
band of robbers and only one of his men escaped alive. The coming of the sphinx
made them give up the search. Oedipus swears he will find the truth. They exit.
The Priest bids the suppliants “let us hence” and they all leave.

Parode: The Chorus calls on the gods, first the Oracle, then Athene, Artemis,
Aries, Zeus, and finally Bacchus, to come to the aid of Thebes and describe the
city’s sufferings.

Episode 1: Oedipus, Teiresias
Oedipus enters. He declares that anyone who knows the man who slew Laius must
tell what he knows and warns anyone against protecting the killer. He asserts his
determination to find and punish the killer. The Chorus suggests he ask Teiresias.
He says he has sent for him. The Chorus mentions the rumors about Laius’ death
and Oedipus asks them to tell him all they know. He says they cannot find the one
witness but the Chorus says that if he has heard of Oedipus’ curse he will show
Teiresias enters, led by a boy. He refuses to tell them anything, asking to be
allowed to go home, but Oedipus presses him. When he is evasive in his answers
to Oedipus the king angrily suggests he killed Laius. Teiresias then says “Thou art
the man, thou the accursed polluter of this land.” He further accuses him of incest.
Oedipus become convinced that this is a plot of Creon’s. The Chorus tries to calm
him and suggests he return to the task of satisfying the oracle. Teiresias in a long
speech denies he serves Creon and predicts disaster for Oedipus. He warns that
he knows who the king’s parents are. Oedipus rebuffs him and then demands he tell
him who is parents are. Teiresias says, “This day shall be thy birthday and thy
grave.” When Oedipus taunts him for talking in riddles he says he will leave but
warns Oedipus again that the murderer lives in Thebes as a foreigner, but will be
unmasked as a native Theban. They exit.

Ode 2: The Chorus, perplexed by Teiresias’ words, wonders how they can credit
such a charge against Oedipus, who saved them.

Episode 2: Creon, Oedipus, Jocasta
Creon enters complaining to the chorus he has heard of Oedipus’ denunciation.
The chorus tells him that it was in haste and not to be taken seriously.
But when Oedipus returns he accuses Creon of plotting against him. He asks if he
was not the one who suggested calling Teiresias. He questions him closely about
the past and about whether Teiresias was in the city in those days. Creon
complains that he has no desire to take on the burdens of being king and is happy
with his state. He complains of Oedipus’ unjust treatment but Oedipus renews his
                        Oedipus Rex, plot outline, cont.                                2

attack. The Chorus tries to intervene in the quarrel and notes that Jocasta is
Jocasta enters and Creon tells her that Oedipus has threatened him with death or
banishment. The Chorus and Jocasta both urge Oedipus to believe Creon’s oath.
Oedipus reluctantly agrees to let him be, but bitterly predicts that Creon will be his
ruin and drive him into banishment. Creon leaves, unreconciled to the king.
Jocasta asks what the quarrel was about and Oedipus says that Creon used the
seer to plot against him, accusing him of killing Laius. She assures him not to take
prophecies seriously and cites as an example the prophecy that Laius would be slain
by a son she bore him, when in fact their infant son was exposed upon a mountain
and Laius was slain by highwaymen at a place where three roads met. This makes
Oedipus first suspect something and he asks her more, about Laius’ appearance,
how many retainers he had with him, and where this meeting of three roads was. He
asks when the murder happened and she tells him not long before he arrived in
Thebes. He is agitated at what he learns. She tells him that the one slave who
witnessed the attack asked to be sent far away when he returned to Thebes and
found Oedipus reigning in Laius’ place. Oedipus asks for that slave to be sent for.
Oedipus recounts how he was accused of not being his father, Polybus’, son and
went to the oracle to find the truth. There he was warned he would defile his
mother’s bed and slay his father. Returning from the oracle he was confronted by an
old man and a few retainers at the cross roads and in a fight with them killed them
all. He wonders now if he could be the killer he was seeking and prays that he will
not see it proven. The Chorus says they hope still that he is not. Oedipus says that
if the slave still holds that it was a band of robbers who killed Laius than he is
innocent. Jocasta reminds him of the falseness of the prophecy about her dead
infant son. They leave.

Ode 3: Chorus reflects on the sins of insolence and pride in rulers.

Episode 3: Jocasta, Messenger from Corinth, Oedipus
Jocasta enters with garlands and incense to take to the temple to console Oedipus
who is distressed within.
A Messenger arrives from Corinth looking for Oedipus with news that Polybus, the
king, is dead and the commons want Oedipus to return as king. Jocasta sends for
Oedipus, pleased that the prophecy that Oedipus would kill his father has proven
Oedipus enters and she tells him the news. He is pleased to hear that the prophecy
of his killing his father is disproved, but fears the second part, that he will sleep with
him mother. Jocasta reminds him that many men dream of loving their mothers and
he should not fear it. The shepherd asks if they can tell him of these prophecies or if
they are secret. Oedipus explains that it was prophesied that he would kill his father.
The messenger tells him he had no need to fear: he was not the son of Merope and
Polybus. He recounts how he was given him as a baby when he was a shepherd on
the slopes of Cithaeron and that he gave him to the royal couple who were childless.
He says that it was Laius’ shepherd who gave him to him. When Oedipus asks if
this man is still alive the chorus tells him it is the same man he has already sent for,
the survivor of Laius’ killing. When he turns to Jocasta to ask if this is true she
urges him not to continue inquiring. He insists and Jocasta leaves, calling him
                        Oedipus Rex, plot outline, cont.                              3

“unhappy Oedipus.”
The Chorus asks what has upset Jocasta and Oedipus tells them she is afraid he
will be proven low-born and the discovery will hurt her pride. He says he is the child
of Fortune, but is determined to find the secret of his birth.

Ode 4: The chorus addresses Cythaeron wondering who among the nymphs or
gods associated with the holy mountain were the parents of Oedipus.

Episode 4: Old Man, Oedipus, Messenger from Corinth
The Old Man is brought forth and the Chorus and the Messenger confirm that he
is the old shepherd they were looking for and the witness to Laius’ killing. The Old
Man does not at first acknowledge knowing the messenger, but the Corinthian
insists they were shepherds together on Cythaeron. Though he resists telling what
he knows he is forced by Oedipus to tell that he got the babe he gave his friend from
Jocasta who, fearing a prophecy, sent him to expose the child on the mountain.
Instead he gave it to his friend thinking it would be taken to a foreign land and raised
safely away from Thebes. Realizing the awful truth Oedipus exits to the palace.

Ode 5: Chorus anticipates disaster.

Episode 5: Messenger from Palace, Oedipus, Creon, (Antigone and Ismene,
The Messenger enters and tells the chorus that Jocasta has hung herself.
Oedipus, in a fury, came seeking her, and, finding her dead, he cut her down. He
then took the brooches from her dress and put out his eyes. Now the king is asking
that the doors be unbolted and he be shown to the people.
Oedipus enters from the palace, blinded and bloody. He thanks the Chorus for
standing by him. Though it was Apollo, he says, who brought this fate upon him, he
acknowledges it was his own hand who struck the blow. He curses the hand that
loosed his bonds and saved him from dying as a child. He tells them to cast him out
or kill him.
Creon enters and asks that he return to the palace so that only the family will see
the family’s shame. Oedipus thanks him for being so charitable to one who used
him vilely. Creon tells him they are inquiring of the oracle what they should do with
him now. Oedipus asks to have his daughters brought to him so that he may touch
When the girls enter he wonders what their lives will be like, how they will be reviled
for the crimes of their father, who will marry them. When Creon tells him he must
go in he asks that he be sent away. Creon tells him he must ask that of the Gods.
When Creon tells him he must let go the children, he asks that they not be taken
away. Creon aks, “Still the king? Master of all things? No more. Here your power

Exode: The Chorus tells us to count no man happy until he dies, free from pain.