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Course Hero. "Oedipus Rex Study Guide." August 10, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2018.


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Oedipus Rex | Episode 1 | Summary



Oedipus orders his people to tell him what they know about Laius's killer. He warns them to bring forth the killer if they find him, and he admonishes them not to shelter the murderer. To aid in the search, the Chorus suggests to Oedipus that he consult the old, blind prophet, Teiresias, to find out what he knows. The Chorus informs Oedipus that Teiresias, a godlike seer, is the closest connection to Apollo it has. Apollo is the god of healing and prophecy, and Teiresias's prophetic abilities may help find the way to stop the city's suffering from the plague.

A young boy leads Teiresias to the king, and Oedipus is gracious to him at first. However, when Teiresias meets Oedipus, he immediately recognizes the king's true identity and repeatedly refuses to say what he knows because it will ruin lives if he does. Oedipus is furious and presses Teiresias, who finally relents and says Oedipus himself is the cause of the plague. Oedipus flies into a rage and accuses Teiresias of plotting with Creon to take over the throne. Teiresias says it is Oedipus's fault for forcing him to tell the truth. Oedipus is certain Teiresias is spreading lies and orders him to leave. Before he does Teiresias tells Oedipus that the killer is not originally from Thebes but is now in the city. The killer will become blind and will turn out to be both the son and the husband of his mother.


Oedipus appeals to his people to do the right thing, and he admonishes them for not having searched for the murderer of their king before. He says, "Even if a god were not urging us, it would not be right for you to simply leave things as they are." Still, he recognizes he is the person who currently has the most power, so he orders the people to find the killer, and he promises to "do everything I can to find him, the man who spilled his blood." It is admirable that Oedipus is willing to "fight on [Laius's] behalf," although he has no idea what really happened in Thebes before he arrived. He is also willing to take the Chorus leader's advice and consult Teiresias.

His flaws, however, get in the way as soon as Teiresias arrives. Rather than accept Teiresias's divine authority when he says he cannot tell Oedipus what is wrong, Oedipus becomes angry, revealing his pride. Understandably he thinks Teiresias is not being forthcoming, and he desperately wants to save his people from the plague. Once Teiresias is finally forced to say he knows Oedipus himself is Laius's killer, Oedipus flares up again with pride and anger and insists Teiresias must be lying. Instead of accepting the word of an esteemed prophet, Oedipus believes he knows better and could not have possibly done what Teiresias claims, though in fact he killed several people before he arrived in Thebes.

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