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Oedipus questions the prophet Tiresias who, though blind, is able to see more and more profoundly than his questioner. At one point, forced to tell everything he knows, Tiresias points the finger of blame in the direction of the Theban king.

Oedipus complex

Jocasta tries comforting Oedipus and, in the process, informs him about the events which led to the death of her husband. However, things go from bad to worse, even before the servant is brought to him: a messenger from Corinth enters the court and informs everyone that Polybus had died. Still believing that Polybus is his real father, Oedipus is somewhat relieved to hear this; however, fearing that the second part of the prophecy may still materialize, he declines to attend the funeral in order to avoid meeting his mother. Jocasta needs no further evidence than this: she flees the scene in utter distress and hangs herself in her chamber.

Still unconvinced, Oedipus waits for the single eyewitness of the murder of Laius only to realize that the worst is true: he had, in fact, killed his father years ago and married his mother afterward. Oedipus tries to find Jocasta , and after locating her lifeless body, tears out two golden pins from her gown and pricks his eyes. As he had promised to do with the killer of Laius , he banishes himself from the city; guided by his daughter and sister Antigone , Oedipus reaches the court of King Theseus of Athens , where both are warmly welcomed.

Years afterward, after cursing his disobedient sons, the blind and weary-of-life Oedipus is mysteriously taken by the gods at a spot known only to his host Theseus. After Oedipus ' death, his sons Polynices and Eteocles decide to share the throne of Thebes , but when Eteocles refuses to give the throne once his time is over, Polynices leaves Thebes and returns with an army.

Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Legends were also sometimes employed to justify existing political systems or to bolster territorial claims. Oedipus is often cited as an example of the former, while Tiresias may be seen as an example of the latter. Eventually Oedipus gave the proper answer: man, who crawls on all fours in infancy, walks on two feet when grown, and leans on a staff in old age.

The sphinx thereupon killed herself. From this tale apparently grew the legend that the sphinx was omniscient, and…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The purport of the answer that the God Returned to us who sought his oracle, The messengers have doubtless told thee—how One course alone could rid us of the pest, To find the murderers of Laius, And slay them or expel them from the land.

Therefore begrudging neither augury Nor other divination that is thine, O save thyself, thy country, and thy king, Save all from this defilement of blood shed. On thee we rest.

Oedipus – Seneca the Younger – Ancient Rome – Classical Literature

Alas, alas, what misery to be wise When wisdom profits nothing! This old lore I had forgotten; else I were not here. We are all thy suppliants.

Oedipus the King (BBC 1986)

What then, thou knowest, and yet willst not speak! Wouldst thou betray us and destroy the State? Will nothing loose thy tongue? Can nothing melt thee, Or shake thy dogged taciturnity?

OEDIPUS: Sex with Mum Was Blinding

Yea, I am wroth, and will not stint my words, But speak my whole mind. Thou methinks thou art he, Who planned the crime, aye, and performed it too, All save the assassination; and if thou Hadst not been blind, I had been sworn to boot That thou alone didst do the bloody deed. Is it so? Then I charge thee to abide By thine own proclamation; from this day Speak not to these or me.

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Thou art the man, Thou the accursed polluter of this land. O wealth and empiry and skill by skill Outwitted in the battlefield of life, What spite and envy follow in your train! See, for this crown the State conferred on me. A gift, a thing I sought not, for this crown The trusty Creon, my familiar friend, Hath lain in wait to oust me and suborned This mountebank, this juggling charlatan, This tricksy beggar-priest, for gain alone Keen-eyed, but in his proper art stone-blind.

Say, sirrah, hast thou ever proved thyself A prophet? When the riddling Sphinx was here Why hadst thou no deliverance for this folk? This is the man whom thou wouldst undermine, In hope to reign with Creon in my stead. Methinks that thou and thine abettor soon Will rue your plot to drive the scapegoat out. Thank thy grey hairs that thou hast still to learn What chastisement such arrogance deserves.

To us it seems that both the seer and thou, O Oedipus, have spoken angry words. This is no time to wrangle but consult How best we may fulfill the oracle. King as thou art, free speech at least is mine To make reply; in this I am thy peer. Dost know thy lineage? Ah whither shall thy bitter cry not reach, What crag in all Cithaeron but shall then Reverberate thy wail, when thou hast found With what a hymeneal thou wast borne Home, but to no fair haven, on the gale!

Aye, and a flood of ills thou guessest not Shall set thyself and children in one line. Flout then both Creon and my words, for none Of mortals shall be striken worse than thou. A murrain on thee! Get thee hence! Begone Avaunt! Aye, take him quickly, for his presence irks And lets me; gone, thou canst not plague me more. I go, but first will tell thee why I came. Thy frown I dread not, for thou canst not harm me. Hear then: this man whom thou hast sought to arrest With threats and warrants this long while, the wretch Who murdered Laius—that man is here.

He passes for an alien in the land But soon shall prove a Theban, native born. And of the children, inmates of his home, He shall be proved the brother and the sire, Of her who bare him son and husband both, Co-partner, and assassin of his sire. Go in and ponder this, and if thou find That I have missed the mark, henceforth declare I have no wit nor skill in prophecy.

Oedipus the King

A foot for flight he needs Fleeter than storm-swift steeds, For on his heels doth follow, Armed with the lightnings of his Sire, Apollo. Like sleuth-hounds too The Fates pursue. Are they true, are they false? I know not and bridle my tongue for fear, Fluttered with vague surmise; nor present nor future is clear.

Or how without sign assured, can I blame Him who saved our State when the winged songstress came, Tested and tried in the light of us all, like gold assayed?

How can I now assent when a crime is on Oedipus laid? Friends, countrymen, I learn King Oedipus Hath laid against me a most grievous charge, And come to you protesting. If he deems That I have harmed or injured him in aught By word or deed in this our present trouble, I care not to prolong the span of life, Thus ill-reputed; for the calumny Hits not a single blot, but blasts my name, If by the general voice I am denounced False to the State and false by you my friends. But lo, he comes to answer for himself.

Dost thou presume To approach my doors, thou brazen-faced rogue, My murderer and the filcher of my crown? Come, answer this, didst thou detect in me Some touch of cowardice or witlessness, That made thee undertake this enterprise? I seemed forsooth too simple to perceive The serpent stealing on me in the dark, Or else too weak to scotch it when I saw. Not so, if thou wouldst reason with thyself, As I with myself. First, I bid thee think, Would any mortal choose a troubled reign Of terrors rather than secure repose, If the same power were given him?

As for me, I have no natural craving for the name Of king, preferring to do kingly deeds, And so thinks every sober-minded man. Now all my needs are satisfied through thee, And I have naught to fear; but were I king, My acts would oft run counter to my will. How could a title then have charms for me Above the sweets of boundless influence? I am not so infatuate as to grasp The shadow when I hold the substance fast. Now all men cry me Godspeed! Why should I leave the better, choose the worse?


That were sheer madness, and I am not mad. No such ambition ever tempted me, Nor would I have a share in such intrigue. But O condemn me not, without appeal, On bare suspicion. I would as lief a man should cast away The thing he counts most precious, his own life, As spurn a true friend.

Thou wilt learn in time The truth, for time alone reveals the just; A villain is detected in a day. When with swift strides the stealthy plotter stalks I must be quick too with my counterplot. To wait his onset passively, for him Is sure success, for me assured defeat. Cease, princes; lo there comes, and none too soon, Jocasta from the palace. Who so fit As peacemaker to reconcile your feud? Misguided princes, why have ye upraised This wordy wrangle? Are ye not ashamed, While the whole land lies striken, thus to voice Your private injuries?

Go in, my lord; Go home, my brother, and forebear to make A public scandal of a petty grief.

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My royal sister, Oedipus, thy lord, Hath bid me choose O dread alternative! No, by the leader of the host divine! Thou art as sullen in thy yielding mood As in thine anger thou wast truculent. Such tempers justly plague themselves the most. Ask me no more.

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