Oedipus the King Sophocles Translated by David Grene CHARACTERS OEDIPUS, King of Thebes JOCASTA, His Wife CREON, His Brother-in-Law TEIRESIAS, an Old Blind Prophet PRIEST PART I: Scene: In front of the palace of Oedipus at Thebes. To the Right of the stage near the altar stands the PRIEST with a crowd of children. OEDIPUS emerges from the central door. OEDIPUS: Children, young sons and daughters of old Cadmus,1 why do you sit here with your suppliant crowns?2 the town is heavy with a mingled burden of sounds and smells, of groans and hymns and incense; 5 I did not think it fit that I should hear of this from messengers but came myself,-I Oedipus whom all men call the Great. [He returns to the PRIEST.] You’re old and they are young; come, speak for them. What do you fear or want, that you sit here 10 suppliant? Indeed I’m willing to give all that you may need; I would be very hard should I not pity suppliants like these. PRIEST: O ruler of my country, Oedipus, You see our company around the altar; 15 you see our ages; some of us, like these, who cannot yet fly far, and some of us heavy with age; these children are the chosen among the young, and I the priest of Zeus. Within the market place sit others crowned 20 with suppliant garlands3, at the double shrine of Pallas4 and the temple where Ismenus gives oracles by fire5. King, you yourself have seen our city reeling like a wreck 1
FIRST MESSENGER SECOND MESSENGER A HERDSMAN A CHORUS OF OLD MEN OF THEBES already; it can scarcely lift its prow 25 out of the depths, out of the bloody surf. A blight is on the fruitful plants of the earth. A blight is on the cattle in the fields, a blight is on our women that no children are born to them; a God that carries fire, 30 a deadly pestilence, is on our town, strikes us and spears us not, and the house of Cadmus is emptied of its people while black Death grows rich in groaning and in lamentation.6 We have not come as suppliants to this altar 35 because we thought of you as a God, but rather judging you the first of men in all the chances of this life and when we mortals have to do with more that man. You came and by your coming saved our city, 40 freed us from the tribute which we paid of old to the Sphinx,7 cruel singer. This you did in virtue of no knowledge we could give you, in virtue of no teaching; it was God that aided you, men say, and you are held 45 with God’s assistance to have saved our lives. Now Oedipus, Greatest in all men’s eyes, here falling at your feet we all entreat you, find us some strength for rescue. Perhaps you’ll hear a wise word from some God. 50 perhaps you will learn something from a man (for I have seen that for the skilled of the practice the outcome of their counsels live the most). Noblest of men, go, and raise up our city, go,-- and give heed. For now this land of ours 55 calls you its savior since you saved it once. So, let us never speak about your reign as of a time when first our feet were set secure on high, but later fell to ruin. Raise up our city, save it and raise it up. 6 7
Cadmus n. mythical founder and first king of Thebes, a city in central Greece where the play takes place 2 suppliant crowns wreaths worn by people who ask favors of the gods. 3 suppliant garlands branches wound in wool, which were placed on the altar and left there until the suppliant’s request was granted. 4 double shrine of Pallas the two temples of Athena. 5 temple where Isemenus gives oracles by fire Temple of Apollo, located by Ismenus, the Theban river, where the priests studied patterns in the ashes of sacrificial victims to foretell the future.
lamentation n. expression of deep sorrow Sphinx winged female monster at Thebes that ate men who could not answer her riddle: “what is it that walks on four legs at dawn, two legs at midday, and three legs in the evening, and has only one voice; when it walks on most feet, is it weakest?” Creon, appointed ruler of Thebes, offered the kingdom and the hand of his...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document