OEDIPUS THE KING
An Abridged and Adapted Version of Sophocles' Play*
by Nick Bartel, 1999
(Intended for use as Readers' Theater in the Junior - Senior High School Classroom)
Oedipus, King of Thebes
Jocasta, His Wife
Creon, His Brother-in-Law
Teiresias, an Old Blind Prophet A Priest
A Chorus of Old Men of Thebes (three or more chorus
Servants of Oedipus (2)
Children and young priests who pray; one leads Teiresias
Antigone and Ismene, daughters of Oedipus
Scene: In front of Oedipus' palace in Thebes. To the right is an altar where a priest stands with a crowd of children in sorrowful prayer. Oedipus emerges from the palace door. The chorus is on the left.
Children, why do you sit here with such sorrow, crying out to the gods? The town is filled with the sounds of hymns and smells of incense! I, whom all men call the Great, came out to learn of this myself.
[He turns to the priest.] You're old and they are young. Come, speak for them. What do you fear or want that you sit here crying out? I'm willing to give all that you may need.
Lord Oedipus, these innocent children and I, the priest of Zeus, we come to pray at your altars. King, you have seen our city tossing like a wrecked ship in a storm. It can scarcely lift its prow out of the depths, out of the bloody surf. A disease is upon the plants of the earth and on the cattle in our fields. A blight is on our women that no children are born to them. Our city is emptied of its people while black Death reaps the harvest of our tears. We have come to speak to you, o king. You came and saved our city, and freed us from the monster Sphinx who enslaved us. This you did by your wisdom; some God was by your side. Oedipus, greatest in all men's eyes, we pray, find some strength again and rescue our city. Perhaps you'll hear a wise word whispered by some God, or in any human way you know. Noblest of men, keep our city from sinking. This land of ours calls you its savior since you saved it once. Before you brought us luck; help us again in this misfortune.
I pity you, children. I know you all are sick, yet not one of you suffers as much as I. My heart grieves and I have wept many tears due to this. I have thought of only one hope, one remedy: I sent Creon, my brother-in-law, to ask Apollo at his temple how I could save this city. He is gone far longer than he needed for the journey. But when he comes, then I shall do all the God commands.
Priest: Thank you for your kind words. Look, your servants signal that Creon is coming now.
Oedipus: His face is bright! O holy Lord Apollo, grant that his news will also be bright and will bring us comfort! [Creon enters.] Lord Creon, my good brother, what is the word you bring us from the God?
Creon: A good word. Apollo commanded us to drive out a pollution from our land, a pollution that is nourished here. Drive it out and we are saved.
Oedipus: How shall it be done?
Creon: By banishing a man or by taking blood, for it is a murder's guilt that holds our city in this destructive storm.
Oedipus: Who is this man whose fate the God reveals?
Creon: My lord, before you came to guide us, we had a king called Laius. Apollo commanded that someone punish this dead man's murderers.
Oedipus: Where are they? Where would a trace of this old crime be found?
Creon: The clue is in this land, so said the God.
Oedipus: Where did this murder take place?
Creon: The king was on a trip, but never returned.
Oedipus: Was there no messenger, no fellow traveler who knew what happened?
Creon: They were all killed, except one. He fled in fear and he could tell us nothing in clear terms of what he knew. Nothing, but one thing.
Oedipus: What was that? If we had a clue, we might discover more.
Creon: This man said that the robbers were many; it was not a single...
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