Oedipus the King Notes & Analysis
The free Oedipus the King notes include comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. These free notes consist of about 27 pages (8,066 words) and contain the following sections:
Oedipus the King Plot Summary
Oedipus, the ruler of Thebes, approaches a group of unhappy citizens, represented by a priest, and asks them what is wrong. They answer that the city is dying and that they are sick and poor. Oedipus sympathizes and tells them that, as their ruler, he is also troubled by the sickness of the city, and has already taken steps to see that something be done about it. The first step he has taken was to send Creon to Apollo's shrine to see what the god recommends they do. As Creon appears, he tells them that the god, Apollo, said that there is bad blood in Thebes, and that until this blood is expelled Thebes will be a sick city.
This bad blood is the blood of the person who killed Laios. When Oedipus asks why the case was not investigated, as he had not come to Thebes at that point, the people answer that they were too busy trying to solve the Sphinx's riddle. Oedipus says that no matter what the cost is, he will get to the bottom of it, both because it harms Thebes, and because Laios was noble and loyal. The elders say that they do not have any knowledge of the murder, and suggest that Oedipus call Tiresias, a blind prophet, to help and advise him. Oedipus says that he has already done this, and Tiresias arrives promptly. Although reluctant to speak, Oedipus forces Tiresias to reveal what he knows. Tiresias says that Oedipus is Thebes' pollution and that he killed his father and sleeps with his mother, and that this is the truth. Oedipus accuses Tiresias of lying on Creon's behalf so that Creon can kill Oedipus and take over the position of ruler of Thebes.
Creon enters and says that Oedipus is not making any sense-of course he did not collaborate with Tiresias, because he also owns a third of Thebes but chooses not to rule it, leaving Thebes to Oedipus, which shows that he is not interested in ruling at all. Jocasta enters and stops the two men from arguing. When Creon leaves, she asks Oedipus what happened and he explains the whole story to her. She tells him not to believe the words of the oracle, as an oracle once predicted that her son would kill his father and share her bed, and this has never happened. She bore a son with Laios, but Laios had the feet of the child bound and had the child tossed in the wilderness.
Although this story is supposed to calm Oedipus down, it only worries him more. He asks about the place and time of Laios' death and for a description of Laios. Every answer adds to Oedipus' worry. Jocasta informs him that there was one survivor who was with Laios when he was attacked, so Oedipus calls for him. Jocasta also says that Laios had been killed by a group of people.
While waiting for the survivor, Oedipus tells Jocasta his life story, that a man had called him a bastard son, so he went to an oracle to inquire about it as no one would speak to him about it. The oracle, Delphi, told him that he was to kill his father and sleep with his mother. As a result, he left his hometown so that he would protect himself and his parents from this terrible prediction. On his journey to another town, he came to a three-pronged fork in the road, where a group of men attacked him. Oedipus killed all of them except for one.
At this time, a Corinthian enters and asks Oedipus to come back to Corinth and rule since his father has died. Afraid of his fate, Oedipus refuses, as he does not want to harm his mother. However, when Oedipus explains to the Corinthian his fate, the Corinthian says that Merope and Polybus were not Oedipus' real parents and that he had given Oedipus to them as a gift. When he asks where he was found, Oedipus is told that a herdsman had given him to the Corinthian in Mount Kithairon where he used to be a shepherd, and that his feet were tied together. When the survivor from Laios' killing enters, the Corinthian identifies him as the man who had given him Oedipus, and the herdsman admits that Jocasta had given him the baby to get rid of it, and that he had thought the Corinthian would take him far away, never to be seen again.
As a result of discovering all of the horrible prophecies have been fulfilled, Jocasta hangs herself. Oedipus discovers her body and takes her brooches off her dress and pierces his eyes until they bleed and he blinds himself. Then, he asks to be exiled from Thebes, which Creon grants, and he leaves to return to his starting place, Mount Kithairon. His daughters, Antigone and Ismene, are left in the hands of Creon, who proves to be a true friend of Oedipus.