* Site-Outage Notice: Our engineering elves will be tweaking the Shmoop site from Monday, December 22 10:00 PM PST to Tuesday, December 23 5:00 AM PST. The site will be unavailable during this time.
Dismiss
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Oedipus the King

Oedipus the King

by Sophocles

Oedipus Timeline and Summary

  • Oedipus emerges from his palace at Thebes to see what’s up. He’s aware that the city is under a curse.
  • Oedipus talks to a priest, tells him not to worry, and lets him know that Creon, Oedipus’s brother-in-law, is off seeking the advice of Apollo.
  • Creon returns and Oedipus learns that in order to rid the city of the curse, the murderer of the former King, Laius, must be discovered and expelled from Thebes.
  • Oedipus promises to save the city.
  • Oedipus curses the murderer and demands information from anyone who knows about the crime.
  • Oedipus informs the Chorus that he’s called Teiresias for advice.
  • Oedipus briefly explains the city’s situation as well as Apollo’s advice. He asks Teiresias for help.
  • Oedipus is enraged by Teiresias's reluctance to talk and demands that he speak whether he likes it or not.
  • Teiresias informs Oedipus that it was he (Oedipus) who killed Laius.
  • Oedipus, now even more enraged, accuses Creon and Teiresias of framing him in order to seize the throne.
  • Oedipus threatens Creon with death.
  • Oedipus talks to his wife Jocasta about what’s going on after Creon leaves.
  • Jocasta tells Oedipus prophecies are bogus, citing a prophecy that Laius would be murdered by his own son. In retrospect, that was a poor example.
  • Oedipus, worried he might have murdered Laius, promptly freaks out.
  • Oedipus summons and questions a servant who escaped murder at the crossroads where Laius was killed.
  • Oedipus tells Jocasta that as a child, a man once told him that his supposed mother and father (King and Queen of Corinth) were not his real parents. It was also prophesized that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother.
  • At this point, Jocasta has revealed that her son was prophesized to kill his father. Oedipus has revealed that he was prophesized to kill his father. And no one finds this remotely suspicious. Perhaps it was a common prophecy back then.
  • Oedipus also reveals that he killed several men in a small incident at a crossroads. He hopes to find out from the servant whether Laius’s murderers were many or just one man. If it was a sole murderer, that will confirm his guilt.
  • Oedipus learns from a messenger that his father has just died of natural causes.
  • Oedipus concludes he could not have killed his father but is still worried about sleeping with his mother.
  • The messenger tells Oedipus that the King of Corinth and his wife, Merope, were not Oedipus’s real parents. Unable to have a child themselves, they adopted Oedipus.
  • Oedipus was discovered with his feet pierced and tied by a shepherd who then gave the wounded infant to the messenger. Oedipus learns the man who originally found him is still living.
  • Oedipus ignores Jocasta’s suggestion that he drop the issue. He’s confused when she runs off screaming.
  • Oedipus questions the old shepherd who found him. With lots of threatening, he gets some information.
  • Finally, Oedipus pieces things together and realizes that Jocasta is his mother. As predicted by the prophecy, he has slept with his mother and killed his father.
  • Oedipus finds Jocasta dead. In despair, he gouges his eyes out.
  • Oedipus pleads with Creon to watch over his daughters after he is exiled from Thebes.

Advertisement
Noodle's College Search
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement