Oedipus the King Scene 1
At an altar, outside his palace, Oedipus finds a delegation of citizens and a priest of Zeus. He approaches them in order to hear what they have to say, as he cares about them and does not want to send a messenger. He introduces himself as Oedipus, the king, and tells them that he wants to help in any way possible--and to find out why they are there. He asks the priest to speak (the priest's age makes him an obvious choice to represent the crowd).
The priest of Zeus has little strength, like the rest of the people gathered, who are all unmarried youth. He tells Oedipus the city is drowning and almost dead--the soil is infertile, the cattle pastures are burnt, and babies are all stillborn. The city, Thebes, is plagued, homes are empty, and people are in pain. The priest tells Oedipus that he knows nobody is equal to the gods, but that the children and people with him find Oedipus to be "among the foremost men in daily matters and in dealings with the gods" Line 34 and are therefore turning to him for help. They think he is great because he came to Thebes and loosened the city from the cruel Sphinx's riddle, which could only be done with a god's aid. Thus, people consider him a savior. The priest begs Oedipus for help, and asks him to set the city straight, to not let it fall. Since Oedipus has saved the city once before, the priest says that he can do it again, and he adds that even with towers, ships and other accomplishments, a city remains nothing without her people.
To this, Oedipus replies that he knows all about their sorrow, and knows that they are sick; and although they are sick, their pain is individual, whereas his pain 'bemoans' the city--he has thought much about the city's illness and cried much about it. He had come up with one possible cure, which he has acted on already. He sent his brother-in-law, Creon, to the prophetic shrine of Apollo to find out what must be done to save the city.
Oedipus says that Creon has been gone longer than expected, but that when he comes, Oedipus will do all that the god has revealed. The priest deems this appropriate, and Creon arrives within minutes.
Oedipus asks Creon what the god said. Creon is reluctant to speak in front of the crowd, but Oedipus urges him to do so, as he realizes that the people are suffering as much as he is. Creon says that the Sun-god, Apollo, stated that they must rid their land of the pollution that is festering there. He says that this must be done through banishment, as it is someone's blood that pollutes the city. Prior to Oedipus' rule, their leader, Laios, was killed by a band of robbers on his way to visit Delphi's oracle. Although one person lived to tell the tale, the case was not investigated because everybody was too busy with the Sphinx's riddle. Oedipus claims that he will make every effort to find this killer and punish him. The priest realizes that he, and the delegation, have accomplished what they came for, and leave.