OEDIPUS. Child of a blind old man, Antigone, to what
Lands have we come, or to the city of which men?
Who will today receive with scanty gifts
The wanderer Oedipus? (1-4)
In this epic
introductory speech, Oedipus uses a bunch of nicknames to get everyone up to
speed with what’s going on. He calls himself the “wanderer Oedipus” because
he’s exiled from his home city of Thebes. He’s not allowed to go home, so his
lot in life is to wander from town to town. Who says you can't go home? Lots of people (and Gods), in Oedipus'
STRANGER. Stay here, just where you appeared, until I
Go to tell these things to commoners of this place,
Not of the town. For these will judge
Whether you ought to remain or go away again. (77-80)
Here we go. Poor
Oedipus barely arrives to the new city when the stranger figures out who he is
and tells him there’s a good chance that he will be run out of town very soon.
This is because Oedipus has committed a big no-no and his curse will affect
anyone who’s near him. At least that’s the fear.
CHORUS. A wanderer,
Some wanderer, is the elder,
Not a native of this land. For otherwise he would never
Go to the inviolable grove
Of the indomitable Maidens [. . .]. (123-27)
The Chorus is the
voice of Athens; they recognize immediately that Oedipus must not be from
around here because of the way he acts. He has entered a sacred grove, where no
one is allowed to trespass, so they assume he’s an out-of-towner. Anyone who's anyone from Athens wouldn't be caught
dead—or alive—in the grove.
CHORUS. Who is the one who is led, laboring so much? What,
May we ask, is the land of your fathers?
OEDIPUS. Strangers, I have no city. But do not… (205-07)
Oedipus no longer
says that he’s from Thebes because he’s been driven out. His relationship with
his hometown is so broken that he has become an official exile, a man with “no
city.” This is a big deal for the Chorus, because they ask Oedipus where he’s
from because they want to figure him out.
CHORUS. Back! Away from this place! Depart from my land!
Lest you fasten some further debt
On my city! (234-36)
As soon as the Chorus
figures out that Oedipus is the Oedipus,
the one who married his mother and killed his father, they are ready to exile
him just like everyone else. This is because they are afraid that his presence
will cause calamity for Athens, like it did for Thebes.
OEDIPUS. [. . .] Many times she roams in the wild
Forests, without food, barefoot,
Afflicted by many storms and by the heat of the sun,
A wretched one. But she believes that having a life in a
Is of secondary importance, if her father has nurture. (348-52)
Oedipus is an exile,
which means that his entourage is, too. He describes his poor daughter,
Antigone, revealing more details about the exile life. Being homeless, or
exiled, means having no protection: no shoes, no roof, and no protective
clothes. It basically sucks, but Antigone chooses
exile in an attempt to provide her father with a little comfort. Someone's on
track to being daughter of the year.
OEDIPUS. [. . .] You took
Your stand as my faithful guard when I was driven out of the
Oedipus recalls that
traumatic moment when his son drove him out of Thebes. Losing your home is
pretty awful, so the fact that his daughter, Antigone, stood by him as his
“guard” at that moment makes her a very important figure in the poor, wandering
ISMENE. And the younger one, inferior in age,
Deprives the one born before, Polyneices, of the throne
And has driven him from the land of his fathers. (374-76)
Oedipus isn’t the
only one dealing with exiled life. His son, the one who kicked him out in the
first place, is now being exiled by his younger brother. Can't we all just get
along? Nope. Basically the only way to keep a throne that isn’t rightfully
yours is to make sure that everyone else who might want it stays very far away.
OEDIPUS. [. . .] I, who begot them—
Who without honor was thrust out of the land of my fathers—
They did not hold onto me or protect me! But by the two of
I was driven out! I was sent out and proclaimed an exile!
See the relationship
between family and home here? Oedipus is an exile, which means he was kicked
out of the “land of his fathers”—Thebes isn’t just where he is from, but where
his roots are. So exile is, for him, a major uprooting. He has lost everything
that makes him who he is.
OEDIPUS. You yourself drove
out your own father here
And made me a man without a city, so that I would wear these
Which now beholding you
shed tears over, because you happen
To undergo the same labor of evils that I do! (1356-59)
What goes around
comes around, in other words. Oedipus is ripping his son, Polyneices, a new
one. Mr. P. is the cause for Oedipus’ exile; he kicked his dad out of Thebes
and took his throne. But now that his brother kicked him out of Thebes,
Polyneices feels the pain and goes looking for sympathy with Oedipus. But it’s
too little, too late.