Oedipus Rex

Plot Summary

Oedipus is the son of Merope and Polybus, king and queen of Corinth. He moves away from home when the oracle reveals a prophecy that he will murder his father and have children with his own mother. On his way to Thebes, Oedipus gets into a fight with a man in a chariot, eventually killing him. When arriving in Thebes, he saves the city by solving the riddle of the Sphinx and is made king in Laios’ absence, and marries the widow Jocasta. Later in his reign, he is confronted by unhappy citizens who come to him to solve their plight. There is a plague, and a food shortage due to plight, and they wish to know why. Oedipus, being rather clever, has already sent his brother-in-law Creon to the Delphic god to ask for advice. Conveniently, Creon approaches then with the news that the gods are angry with them for not avenging the murder of Laios. Oedipus takes the endeavor upon himself, declaring that the person found guilty will be allowed to leave unharmed, but will be banished from Thebes. While trying to uncover the story behind the murder of King Laios, he is told unwillingly by the blind prophet Teiresias that he is the murderer of Laios. Enraged, Oedipus claims that all Teiresias says is untruth and says that he is blind in judgment as well as vision and assumes that Creon is plotting with the prophet against him. The prophet leaves, but not before implying that Oedipus should question his “parents”.
Creon then speaks out, claiming that he did not prompt Teiresias to say what he had seen and calls forth to Oedipus to judge him. After a brief battle of wits, Jocasta enters and settles the fight, appealing to the king’s better nature as his wife.
After this, Oedipus entreaties Jocasta to tell the details of Laios’ death and of the prophecy set upon her and her first husband. The oracle said that Laios was bound to die at the hand of his own son so he and Jocasta abandoned their firstborn son on the top of a mountain, with his ankles bound together at three days old. She then tells that Laios was killed on the side of the road heading to Delphi. For during a banquet one night in Corinth, a stray comment that Oedipus was not his father’s son stuck with him as he left to preserve his father’s life and his mother’s virtue. Whilst resting on the side of a road on the way to Thebes, Oedipus argued with the driver of a chariot and eventually killed him. At this point, Oedipus becomes suspicious and doubts his own words towards the prophet. He sends for the sole survivor of the king’s party, in the hopes that he can illuminate what had happened, and say whether or not they were ambushed by one man or many.
During a brief interlude, a messenger arrives and states that Polybus, king of Corinth has died, assumedly of old age. This messenger is reveals to Oedipus that Polybus is not in fact his true sire, and he know this because he delivered him as a babe to the childless couple. He tells his story, stating that a shepherd found the boy on the side of a mountain and gave the babe to the messenger, and Oedipus’ ankles were bound together.
Now the herdsman enters, and tells his tale, which matched that of the messengers. He was sent from Laios’ house with a baby, assumedly the child of the king and queen, given to him by Jocasta herself.
Putting all parts of the story together, Oedipus is horrified to find that both prophecies have come true, and that he has committed both parricide and incest. After this terrifying revelation a second messenger enters, telling of Jocasta’s suicide. Oedipus, enraged by his discovery, bursts into Jocasta’s rooms, to find her hanging by a noose. Pulling the queen down into his arms, he ripped off her brooch and gouged out his eyes. In a torrent of curses and woe, Oedipus fulfills his sentence and exiles himself as a murderer, beseeching Creon to send him far away and to take care of his daughters, Antigone and Ismene.

For the entire text of Oedipus Rex: Sparknotes' Oedipus Rex