Oedipus the King

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Unity of Action: Each of the incidents in this play is part of a tightly constructed cause-and-effect chain. The plague in Thebes prompts Oedipus to send Creon to consult the oracle of Delphi; the oracle¡¦s reply that the murderer of Laius must be banished from Thebes prompts Oedipus pronounce a solemn curse on the murderer and to send for Teiresias. Teriesias states that Oedipus is the murderer, but since the king knows himself to be innocent (or thinks he knows), he accuses Creon of plotting with Teiresias against him. The quarrel of Oedipus and Creon brings Jocasta from the house; seeking to calm down her husband and prove that oracles cannot be trusted, she tells again of how Laius died. When she mentions that he was killed ¡§at a place where three roads meet,¡¨ Oedipus suddenly begins to suspect that he may indeed have killed the king without knowing who he was. To settle the matter, they send for the Herdsman who is the only survivor of that attack. Meanwhile a messenger arrives from Corinth to inform Oedipus that his supposed father, King Polybus of Corinth, has died. When Oedipus rejoices that he did not kill his father as the oracle had prophesied but is still worried that he may marry his mother, the Messenger, seeking to relieve him of this fear, innocently tells him that Polybus and Merope were not his real parents. The arrival of the Messenger is the only action in the play that is not directly caused by a previous action. However, this is a perfect example of Aristotle's contention that if coincidences cannot be avoided, they should have ¡§an air of design,¡¨ for this messenger seems brought by fate, since he is the missing link in Oedipus¡¦ story, the very man who received Oedipus as a baby from the Herdsman. Thus, when the Herdsman arrives and they tell their respective stories, the whole truth emerges. This is the climax, or turning point, of the plot¡Xthe truth about Oedipus leads directly to the suicide of Jocasta and Oedipus¡¦ self-blinding...
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