Oedipus Rex


Oedipus Rex By CLA010

Oedipus Rex

The Plague and the Oracle

PRIEST: Oedipus, lord of Thebes, you see us, the people of Thebes, your people, crowding in prayer around your altar,
 these small children here, old men bent with age, priests, and I, the priest of Zeus,
and our noblest young men, the pride and strength of Thebes.
And there are more of us, lord Oedipus, more-gathered in the city, stunned,
kneeling, offering their branches, praying before the two great temples of Athena 
or staring into the ashes of burnt offerings, staring, waiting, waiting for the god to speak.
look at it,
 lord Oedipus-right there,
 in front of your eyes -this city- 
it reels under a wild storm of blood, wave after wave battering Thebes.
We cannot breathe or stand.
 We hunger, our world shivers with hunger. A disease hungers,
 nothing grows, wheat, fruit, nothing grows bigger than a seed.
Our women bear dead things,
 all they can do is grieve,
 our cattle wither, stumble, drop to the ground,
 flies simmer on their bloated tongues,
 the plague spreads everywhere, a stain seeping through our streets, our fields, our houses,
 look-god’s fire eating everyone, everything,
 stroke after stroke of lightning, the god stabbing it alive- it can’t be put out, it can’t be stopped,
its heat thickens the air, it glows like smoking metal, 
this god of plague guts our city and fills the black world under us where the dead go with the shrieks of women, living women, wailing.
You are a man, not a god-I know.
 We all know this, the young kneeling here before you know it, too,
but we know how great you are, Oedipus, greater than any man.
When crisis struck, you saved us here in Thebes,
you faced the mysterious, strange disasters hammered against us by the gods.
This is our history- we paid our own flesh to the Sphinx until you set us free. You knew no more than anyone, but you knew.
 There was a god in it, a god in you. Help us. Oedipus, we beg you, we all turn to you, kneeling to your greatness.
Advice from the gods or advice from human beings -you will know which is needed.
But help us. Power and experience are yours, all yours.
Between thought and action, between
 our plans and their results a distance opens.
Only a man like you, Oedipus, tested by experience, can make them one.
That much I know. 
Oedipus, more like a god than any man alive,
 deliver us, raise us to our feet. Remember who you are.
Remember your love for Thebes. Your skill was our salvation once before.
 For this Thebes calls you savior.
Don’t let us remember you as the king-godlike in power- who gave us back our life, then let us die.
 Steady us forever. You broke the riddle for us then.
It was a sign. A god was in it.
Be the man you were-
rule now as you ruled before.
Oh Oedipus, 
how much better to rule a city of men than be king of empty earth.
 A city is nothing, a ship is nothing
 where no men live together, where no men work together.
OEDIPUS: Children, poor helpless children, 
I know what brings you here, I know. You suffer, this plague is agony for each of you, but none of you, not one suffers as I do.
Each of you suffers for himself, only himself. My whole being wails and breaks for this city, for myself, for all of you,
 old man, all of you.
 Everything ends here, with me. I am the man.
 You have not wakened me from some kind of sleep.
 I have wept, struggled, wandered in this maze of thought, tried every road, searched hard- finally I found one cure, only one:
I sent my wife’s brother, Kreon, to great Apollo’s shrine at Delphi; I sent him to learn what I must say or do to save Thebes. But his long absence troubles me. Why isn’t he here? Where is he?
 When he returns, what kind of man would I be if I failed to do everything the god reveals?

Some of the suppliants by the steps to the orchestra stand to announce KREON’s arrival to the PRIEST. KREON comes in by the entrance to the audience’s left with a garland on his head.

PRIEST You speak of Kreon, and Kreon is here.
Lord Apollo, look at him-his head is crowned with laurel, his eyes glitter.
Let his words blaze, blaze like his eyes, and save us.
PRIEST He looks calm, radiant, like a god. If he brought bad news, would he be wearing that crown of sparkling leaves?
OEDIPUS At last we will know. 
Lord Kreon, what did the god Apollo say?
KREON His words are hopeful. 
Once everything is clear, exposed to the light,
we will see our suffering is blessing. All we need is luck.
OEDIPUS What do you mean? What did Apollo say? What should we do? Speak.
KREON Here? Now? In front of all these people? Or inside, privately?

KREON moves toward the palace.

OEDIPUS Stop. Say it. Say it to the whole city.
 I grieve for them, for their sorrow and loss, far more than I grieve for myself.
KREON This is what I heard-there was no mistaking the god’s meaning- Apollo commands us:
 Cleanse the city of Thebes, cleanse the plague from that city, destroy the black stain spreading everywhere, spreading, poisoning the earth, touching each house, each citizen, sickening the hearts of the people of Thebes!
 Cure this disease that wastes all of you, spreading, spreading, before it grows so vast nothing can cure it.
OEDIPUS What is this plague?
 How can we purify the city?
KREON A man must be banished. Banished or killed. Blood for blood. The plague is blood,
blood, breaking over Thebes.
OEDIPUS Who is the man? Who is Apollo’s victim?
KREON My lord, before you came to Thebes, before you came to power, Laios was our king.
OEDIPUS: I know. But I never saw Laios.
KREON Laios was murdered. Apollo’s command was very clear: Avenge the murderers of Laios. Whoever they are.
OEDIPUS But where are his murderers?
 The crime is old. How will we find their tracks? The killers could be anywhere.
KREON Apollo said the killers are still here, here in Thebes. Pursue a thing, and you may catch it; 
ignored, it slips away.
OEDIPUS And Laios -where was he murdered? 
At home? Or was he away from Thebes?
KREON He told us before he left -he was on a mission to Delphi, his last trip away from Thebes. He never returned.
OEDIPUS Wasn’t there a witness, someone with Laios who saw what happened?
KREON They were all killed, except for one man. He escaped. But he was so terrified he remembered only one thing.
OEDIPUS What was it? One small clue might lead to others.
KREON This is what he said: bandits ambushed Laios, not one man. They attacked him like hail crushing a stalk of wheat.
OEDIPUS How could a single bandit dare attack a king
 unless he had supporters, people with money, here, 
here in Thebes? There were suspicions. But after Laios died we had no leader, no king. Our life was turmoil, uncertainty.
OEDIPUS But once the throne was empty, 
what threw you off the track, what kept you from searching until you uncovered everything, knew every detail?
KREON The intricate, hard song of the Sphinx 
persuaded us the crime was not important, not then. 
It seemed to say we should focus on what lay at our feet, in front of us, 
ignore what we could not see.
OEDIPUS Now I am here. I will begin the search again, I
 will reveal the truth, expose everything, let it all be seen. Apollo and you were right to make us wonder about the dead man.
 Like Apollo, I am your ally.
 Justice and vengeance are what I want,
 for Thebes, for the god.
 Family, friends – I won’t rid myself of this stain, this disease, for them-
they’re far from here. I’ll do it for myself, for me.
 The man who killed Laios might take revenge on me 
just as violently. So by avenging Laios’ death, I protect myself. Rise, children,
 pick up your branches,
 let someone announce my decision to the whole city of Thebes. I will do everything. Everything.
 And, with the god’s help, we will be saved.
 Bright Apollo, let your light help us see. 
Our happiness is yours to give, our failure and ruin yours.


CHORUS Teiresias sees what the god Apollo sees. Truth, truth. If you heard the god speaking, heard his voice, you might see more, more, and more.
OEDIPUS Teiresias? I have seen to that already.
 Kreon spoke ofTeiresias, and I sent for him. Twice. I find it strange he still hasn’t come.
CHORUS And there’s an old story, almost forgotten, a dark, faded rumor.
OEDIPUS What rumor? I must sift each story, see it, understand it.
CHORUS Laios was killed by bandits.
OEDIPUS I have heard that story: but who can show me the man who saw the murderer? Has anyone seen him?
CHORUS If he knows the meaning of fear,
if he heard those curses you spoke against him, those words still scorching the air,
you won’t find him now, not in Thebes.
OEDIPUS The man murdered. Why would words frighten him?
TEIRESIAS has appeared from the stage entrance to the right of the audience. He walks with a staff and is helped by a slave boy and attendants. He stops at some distance from center stage.
CHORUS Here is the man who can catch the criminal. They’re bringing him now- the godlike prophet who speaks with the voice of god. He, only he, knows truth.
 The truth is rooted in his soul.
OEDIPUS Teiresias, you understand all things,
what can be taught, what is locked in silence,
the distant things of heaven, and things that crawl the earth. You cannot see, yet you know the nature of this plague infesting our city. 
Only you, my lord, can save us, only you can defend us. Apollo told our messenger-did you hear? -
that we could be saved only by tracking down Laios’ killers, only by killing them, or sending them into exile.
Help us, Teiresias. Study the cries of birds, study their wild paths,
ponder the signs of fire, use all your skills of prophecy. Rescue us, preserve us.
Rescue yourself, rescue Thebes, rescue me.
Cleanse every trace of the growing stain left by the dead man’s blood.
We are in your hands, Teiresias. No work is more nobly human than helping others, helping with all the strength and skill we possess.
TEIRESIAS Wisdom is a curse
 when wisdom does nothing for the man who has it. Once I knew this well, but I forgot. I never should have come.
OEDIPUS Never should have come? Why this reluctance, prophet?
TEIRESIAS Let me go home.
That way is best, for you, for me. Let me live my life, and you live yours.
OEDIPUS Strange words, Teiresias, cruel to the city that gave you life. Your holy knowledge could save Thebes. How can you keep silent?
TEIRESIAS What have you said that helps Thebes? Your words are wasted. I would rather be silent than waste my words.
OEDIPUS Look at us, kneeling to you, Teiresias, imploring you.
In the name of the gods, if you know-
help us, tell us what you know.
TEIRESIAS You kneel because you do not understand. But I will never let you see my grief. Never. My grief is yours.
OEDIPUS What? You know and won’t speak?
 You’d betray us all, you’d destroy the city of Thebes?
TEIRESIAS I will do nothing to hurt myself, or you. Why insist? I will not speak.
OEDIPUS Stubborn old fool, you’d make a rock angry! Tell me what you know! Say it!
 Where are your feelings? Won’t you ever speak?
TEIRESIAS You call me cold, stubborn, unfeeling, you insult me. But you, Oedipus, what do you know about yourself, about your real feelings?
 You don’t see how much alike we are.
OEDIPUS How can I restrain my anger when I see how little you care for Thebes?
TEIRESIAS The truth will come, by itself, the truth will come
no matter how I shroud it in silence.
OEDIPUS All the more reason why you should speak.
TEIRESIAS Not another word.
Rage away. You will never make me speak.
OEDIPUS I’ll rage, prophet, I’ll give you all my anger. I’ll say it all- Listen: I think you were involved in the murder of Laios,
 you helped plan it, I think you 
did everything in your power to kill Laios, everything but strike him with your own hands,
and if you weren’t blind, if you still had eyes to see with,
 I’d say you, and you alone, did it all.
TEIRESIAS Do you think so? Then obey your own words, obey the curse everyone heard break from your own lips: Never speak again to these men of Thebes, 
never speak again to me. You, it’s
 you. What plagues the city is you. The plague is you.
OEDIPUS Do you know what you’re saying?
 Do you think I’ll let you get away with these vile accusations?
TEIRESIAS I am safe. 
Truth lives in me, and the truth is strong.
OEDIPUS Who taught you this truth of yours? Not your prophet’s craft.
TEIRESIAS You taught me. You forced me to speak.
OEDIPUS Speak what? Explain. Teach me.
TEIRESIAS Didn’t you understand?
Are you trying to make me say the word?
OEDIPUS What word? Say it. Spit it out.
TEIRESIAS Murderer. I say you, you are the killer you’re searching for.
OEDIPUS You won’t say that again to me and get away with it.
TEIRESIAS Do you want more? Shall I make you really angry?
OEDIPUS Say anything you like. Your words are wasted.
TEIRESIAS I say you live in shame, and you do not know it,
 do not know that you 
and those you love most wallow in shame,
you do not know
in what shame you live.
OEDIPUS You’ll pay for these insults, I swear it.
TEIRESIAS Not if the truth is strong.
OEDIPUS The truth is strong, but not your truth. 
You have no truth. You’re blind.
 Blind in your eyes. Blind in your ears. Blind in your mind.
TEIRESIAS And I pity you for mocking my blindness.
 Soon everyone in Thebes will mock you, Oedipus. They’ll mock you as you have mocked me.
OEDIPUS One endless night swaddles you in its unbroken black sky. You can’t hurt me, you can’t hurt anyone who sees the light of day.
TEIRESIAS True. Nothing I do will harm you. You, you and your fate belong to Apollo.
 Apollo will see to you.
OEDIPUS Are these your own lies, prophet -or Kreon’s?
TEIRESIAS Kreon? Your plague is you, not Kreon.
OEDIPUS Money, power, one great skill surpassing another,
 if a man has these things, other men’s envy grows and grows, their greed and hunger are insatiable.
Most men would lust for a life like mine-but I did not demand my life,
Thebes gave me my life, and from the beginning, my good friend Kreon,
 loyal, trusted Kreon,
 was reaching for my power, wanted to ambush me, get rid of me by hiring this cheap wizard,
 this crass, conniving priest, who sees nothing but profit, whose prophecy is simple profit.
what did you ever do that proves you a real seer? What did you ever see, prophet?
And when the Sphinx who sang mysteriously imprisoned us 
why didn’t you speak and set us free?
No ordinary man could have solved her riddle,
 it took prophecy, prophecy and skill you clearly never had. Even the paths of birds, even the gods’ voices were useless. But I showed up, I, Oedipus,
 stupid, untutored Oedipus,
 I silenced her, I destroyed her, I used my wits, not omens, to sift the meaning of her song.
And this is the man you want to kill so you can get close to King Kreon, weigh his affairs for him, advise him, influence him. 
No, I think you and your master, Kreon, who contrived this plot,
 will be whipped out of Thebes. Look at you.
 If you weren’t so old, and weak, oh I’d make you pay
 for this conspiracy of yours.
CHORUS Oedipus, both of you spoke in anger. Anger is not what we need. We need all our wits, all our energy to interpret Apollo’s words. Then we will know what to do.
TEIRESIAS Oedipus, you are king, but you must hear my reply. My right to speak is just as valid as yours.
I am not your slave. Kreon is not my patron.
 My master is Apollo. I can say what I please.
 You insulted me. You mocked me. You called me blind. Now hear me speak, Oedipus.
 You have eyes to see with,
but you do not see yourself, you do not see
the horror shadowing every step of your life, the blind shame in which you live,
 you do not see where you live and who lives with you,
lives always at your side.
 Tell me, Oedipus, who are your parents? 
Do you know?
 You do not even know 
the shame and grief you have brought your family,
 those still alive, those buried beneath the earth.
 But the curse of your mother, the curse of your father
will whip you, whip you again and again, wherever you turn,
 it will whip you out of Thebes forever,
 your clear eyes flooded with darkness.
 That day will come.
And then what scoured, homeless plain, what leafless tree, what place on Kithairon, 
where no other humans are or ever will be,
 where the wind is the only thing that moves,
 what raw track of thorns and stones, what rock, gulley,
 or blind hill won’t echo your screams, your howls of anguish when you find out that the marriage song, sung when you came to Thebes, heard in your house, guided you to this shore, this wilderness
 you thought was home, your home? And you do not see 
all the other awful things
 that will show you who you really are, show you 
to your children, face to face.
 Go ahead! Call me quack, abuse Kreon, insult Apollo, the god who speaks through me, whose words move on my lips.
 No man will ever know worse suffering than you, your life, your flesh, your happiness an ember of pain. Ashes.
OEDIPUS Must I stand here and listen to these attacks?
TEIRESIAS I am here, Oedipus, because you sent for me.
OEDIPUS You old fool,
I’d have thought twice before asking you to come if I had known you’d spew out such idiocy.
TEIRESIAS Call me fool, if you like, but your parents,
who gave you life, they respected my judgment.
OEDIPUS Parents? What do you mean? Who are my mother and father?
TEIRESIAS This day is your mother and father-this day will give you your birth, it will destroy you, too.
OEDIPUS How you love mysterious, twisted words.
TEIRESIAS Aren’t you the great solver of riddles? Aren’t you Oedipus?
OEDIPUS Taunt me for the gift of my brilliant mind. That gift is what makes me great. ‘
TEIRESIAS That gift is your destiny. It made you everything you are,
and it has ruined you.
OEDIPUS But if this gift of mine saved Thebes, who cares what happens to me?
TEIRESIAS I’m leaving. Boy, take me home.
OEDIPUS Good. Take him home. Here
I keep stumbling over you, here you’re in my way. Scuttle home, and leave us in peace!
TEIRESIAS I’m going. I said what I came to say,
 and that scowl, darkening your face, doesn’t frighten me. How can you hurt me?
I tell you again: the man you’ve been trying to expose -
with all your threats, with your inquest into Laios’ murder- that man is here, in Thebes. Now people think he comes from Corinth, but later
 they will see he was born in Thebes.
 When they know, he’ll have no pleasure in that news. Now he has eyes to see with, but they will be slashed out; rich and powerful now, he will be a beggar, poking his way with a stick, feeling his way to a strange country.
And his children -the children he lives with- 
will see him at last, see what he is, see who he really is: 
their brother and their father; his wife’s son, his mother’s husband; 
the lover who slept with his father’s wife; the man who murdered his father-
the man whose hands still drip with his father’s blood. These truths will be revealed.
Go inside and ponder that riddle, and if you find I’ve lied, then call me a prophet who cannot see.

923-1501 = the truth comes out

JOCASTA If you love the gods, tell me, too, Oedipus-I implore you- why are you still so angry, why can’t you let it go?
OEDIPUS I will tell you, Jocasta.
You mean more, far more to me than these men here. Jocasta, it is Kreon-Kreon and his plots against me.
JOCASTA What started your quarrel?
OEDIPUS He said I murdered Laios.
JOCASTA Does he know something? Or is it pure hearsay? 930
OEDIPUS He sent me a vicious, trouble-making prophet
to avoid implicating himself. He did not say it to my face.
JOCASTA Oedipus, forget all this. Listen to me:
 no mortal can practice the art of prophecy, no man can see the future.
One experience of mine will show you why.
 Long ago an oracle carne to Laios.
 It came not from Apollo himself but from his priests.
It said Laios was doomed to be murdered by a son, his son and mine. But Laios, from what we heard, was murdered by bandits from a foreign country, cut down at a crossroads. My poor baby was only three days old when Laios had his feet pierced together behind the ankles
and gave orders to abandon our child on a mountain, leave him alone to die 
in a wilderness of rocks and bare gray trees 
where there were no roads, no people.
 So you see -Apollo didn’t make that child his father’s killer, Laios murdered by his son. That dreadful act which so terrified Laios- it never happened.
All those oracular voices meant was nothing, nothing.
Ignore them.
Apollo creates. Apollo reveals. He needs no help from men.
OEDIPUS While you were speaking, Jocasta; it flashed through my mind
 like wind suddenly ruffling a stretch of calm sea. It stuns me. I can almost see it-some memory, some image. My heart races and swells-
JOCASTA Why are you so strangely excited, Oedipus?
OEDIPUS You said Laios was cut down near a crossroads?
JOCASTA That was the story. It hasn’t changed.
OEDIPUS Where did it happen? Tell me. Where?
JOCASTA In Phokis. Where the roads from Delphi and Daulia meet.
JOCASTA Just before you came to Thebes and assumed power. Just before you were proclaimed King.
OEDIPUS O Zeus, Zeus,
what are you doing with my life?
JOCASTA Why are you so disturbed, Oedipus?
OEDIPUS Don’t ask me. Not yet.
Tell me about Laios.
JOCASTA How old was he? What did he look like?
OEDIPUS Streaks of gray were beginning to show in his black hair.
He was tall, strong-built something like you.
No! O gods, 
it seems each hard, arrogant curse I spit out 
was meant for me, and I
 know it!
JOCASTA Oedipus, what do you mean? Your face is so strange. You frighten me.
OEDIPUS It is frightening-can the blind prophet see, can he really see?
 I would know if you told me. ..
JOCASTA I’m afraid to ask, Oedipus. Told you what?
OEDIPUS Was Laios traveling with a small escort or with many armed men, like a king?
JOCASTA There were five, including a herald. Laios was riding in his chariot.
OEDIPUS Light, o light, light
now everything, everything is clear. All of it. Who told you this? Who was it?
JOCASTA A household slave. The only survivor.
OEDIPUS Is he here, in Thebes?
JOCASTA No. When he returned and saw that you were king
and learned Laios was dead, he came to me and clutched my hand,
begged me to send him to the mountains
where shepherds graze their flocks, far from the city,
so he could never see Thebes again.
 I sent him, of course. He deserved that much, for a slave, and more.
OEDIPUS Can he be called back? Now?
JOCASTA Easily. But why?
OEDIPUS I am afraid I may have said too much – I must see him.
JOCASTA Then he will come. 
But surely I have a right to know what disturbs you, Oedipus.
OEDIPUS Now that I’ve come this far, Jocasta,
 hope torturing me, each step of mine heavy with fear, I won’t keep anything from you.
Wandering through the mazes of a fate like this,
how could I confide in anyone but you?
My father was Polybos, of Corinth. My mother, Merope, was Dorian.
Everyone in Corinth saw me as its first citizen,
 but one day something happened, something strange, puzzling. Puzzling, but nothing more. Still, it worried me.
 One night, I was at a banquet, and a man -he was very drunk- said I wasn’t my father’s son, called me “b*st*rd.” That stung me, I was shocked.
 I could barely control my anger, I lay awake all night.
 The next day I went to my father and mother, I questioned them about the man and what he said.
They were furious with him, outraged by his insult, 
and I was reassured. But I kept heating the word “b*st*rd” “b*st*rd”- 
I couldn’t get it out of my head.
 Without my parents’ knowledge, I went to Delphi: I wanted the truth,
 but Apollo refused to answer me.
 And yet he did reveal other things, he did show me
 a future dark torment, evil, horror, 
he made me see-
see myself, doomed to sleep with my own mother, doomed to bring children into this world where the sun pours down, children no one could bear to see, doomed 
to murder the man who gave me life, whose blood is my blood. My father. 
And after I heard all this, I fled Corinth, 
measuring my progress by the stars, searching for a place where I would never see those words, those dreadful predictions 
come true. And on my way 
I came to the place where you say King Laios was murdered.
Jocasta, the story I’m about to tell you is the truth:
 I was on the road, near the crossroads you mentioned, when I met a herald, with an old man, just as you described him.
 The man was riding in a chariot
 and his driver tried to push me off the road
 and when he shoved me I hit him. I hit him. 
The old man stood quiet in the chariot until I passed under
 then he leaned out and caught me on the head with an ugly goad- its two teeth wounded me -and with this hand of mine, this hand clenched around my staff,
 I struck him back even harder- so hard, so quick he couldn’t dodge it,
 and he toppled out of the chariot and hit the ground, face up. 
I killed them. Every one of them. I still see them.

If this stranger and Laios
 are somehow linked by blood,
 tell me what man’s torment equals mine? Citizens, hear my curse again -
Give this man nothing. Let him touch nothing of yours. Lock your doors when he approaches.
 Say nothing to him when he approaches. And these, these curses,
with my own mouth I spoke these monstrous curses against myself.

OEDIPUS turns back to JOCASTA.

These hands, these bloodstained hands made love to you in your dead husband’s bed, these hands murdered him.
If I must be exiled, never to see my family,
 never to walk the soil of my country 
so I will not sleep with my mother 
and kill Polybos, my father, who raised me-his son!- wasn’t I born evil -answer me!-isn’t every part of me unclean? Oh some unknown god, some savage venomous demon must have done this, raging, swollen with hatred. Hatred for me.
Holiness, pure, radiant powers, o gods don’t let me see that day,
don’t let it come, take me away
from men, men with their eyes, hide me before I see the filthy black stain reaching down over me, into me.
CHORUS Your words make us shudder, Oedipus, but hope, hope until you hear more from the man who witnessed the murder.
OEDIPUS That is the only hope I have. Waiting.
Waiting for that man to come from the pastures.
JOCASTA And when he finally comes, what do you hope to learn?
OEDIPUS If his story matches yours, I am saved.
JOCASTA What makes you say that?
OEDIPUS Bandits-you said he told you bandits killed Laios. So if he still talks about bandits, more than one, I couldn’t have killed Laios. One man is not the same as many men.
 But if he speaks of one man, traveling alone, then all the evidence points to me.
JOCASTA Believe me, Oedipus , those were his words. And he can’t take them back: the whole city heard him, not only me. 
And if he changes only the smallest detail of his story, that still won’t prove Laios was murdered as the oracle foretold.
 Apollo was clear -it was Laios’ fate to be killed by my son but my poor child died before his father died.
The future has no shape. The shapes of prophecy lie. I see nothing in them, they are all illusions.
OEDIPUS Even so, I want that shepherd summoned here. Now. Do it now.
JOCASTA I’ll send for him immediately. But come inside. My only wish is to please you.

JOCASTA dispatches a servant to fetch the shepherd. A messenger arrives from Corinth, reporting the death of Oedipus’ father. The messenger tells of how he received the baby Oedipus from a shepherd and gave him to the King and Queen of Corinth to raise. After this revelation, the shepherd arrives and Oedipus begins to interrogate him.

OEDIPUS Answer me old man. Did you work for Laios?
SHEPHERD I was born his slave, and grew up in his household.
OEDIPUS What was your work?
SHEPHERD Herding sheep, all my life.
OEDIPUS Where? 1420
SHEPHERD Kithairon, mostly. And the country around Kithairon.
OEDIPUS Do you remember ever seeing this man? .
SHEPHERD Which man?
 This man standing here. Have you ever seen him before?
SHEPHERD Not that I remember.
MESSENGER No wonder, master. But I’ll make him remember. 
He knows who I am. We used to graze our flocks together 
in the pastures around Kithairon.
 Every year, for six whole months, three years running.
 From March until September, when the Dipper rose, signaling the harvest.
 I had one flock, he had two.
 And when the frost came, I drove my sheep back to their winter pens
and he drove his back to Laios’ fold. Remember, old man? Isn’t that how it was?
SHEPHERD Yes. But it was all so long ago.
MESSENGER And do you remember giving me a baby boy at the time- to raise as my own son?
SHEPHERD What if I do? Why all these questions?
MESSENGER That boy became King Oedipus, friend.
SHEPHERD Damn you, can’t you keep quiet?
OEDIPUS Don’t scold him, old man.
 It’s you who deserve to be punished, not him.
SHEPHERD What did I say, good master?
OEDIPUS You haven’t answered his question about the boy.
SHEPHERD He’s making trouble, master. He doesn’t know a thing.
OEDIPUS takes the SHEPHERD by the cloak.
OEDIPUS Tell me or you’ll be sorry.
SHEPHERD For god’s sake, don’t hurt me, I’m an old man.
OEDIPUS You there, hold him. We’ll make him talk.
The attendant pins the SHEPHERD’s arms behind his back.
SHEPHERD Oedipus, Oedipus, god knows I pity you. What more do you want to know?
OEDIPUS Did you give the child to this man? Speak. Yes or no?
 And I wish to god I’d died that day.
OEDIPUS You will be dead unless you tell me the whole truth.
SHEPHERD And worse than dead, if I do.
OEDIPUS It seems our man won’t answer.
SHEPHERD No. I told you already.- I gave him the boy.
OEDIPUS Where did you get him? From Laios’ household? Or where?
SHEPHERD He wasn’t my child. He was given to me.
OEDIPUS By whom? Someone here in Thebes?
SHEPHERD Master, please, in god’s name, no more questions.
OEDIPUS You’re a dead man if I have to ask you once more.
SHEPHERD He was one 
of the children from Laios’ household .
OEDIPUS A slave child? Or Laios’ own?
SHEPHERD I can’t say it … it’s
 awful, the words are awful … awful
 I am afraid to hear them … but I must.
SHEPHERD He was Laios’ own child.
Your wife, inside the palace, she can explain it alL
OEDIPUS She gave you the child?
SHEPHERD My lord … yes.
SHEPHERD She wanted me to abandon the child on a mountain.
OEDIPUS His own mother?
SHEPHERD Yes. There were prophecies, horrible oracles. She was afraid.
OEDIPUS What oracles?
SHEPHERD Oracles predicting he would murder his own father.
OEDIPUS But why did you give the boy to this old man?
SHEPHERD Because I pitied him, master, because I
 thought the man would take the child away, take him to another country.
 Instead he saved him. Saved him for -oh gods,
 a fate so horrible, so awful, words can’t describe it. 
If you were the baby that man took from me, Oedipus, what misery, what grief is yours!
never again flood these eyes with your white radiance, oh gods, my eyes. All, all
 the oracles have proven true. I, Oedipus, I am the child of parents who should never have been mine-doomed doomed! Now everything is clear-I lived with a woman, she was my mother, I slept in my mother’s bed, and I murdered, murdered my father,
the man whose blood flows in these veins of mine whose blood stains these two hands red.

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