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Oedipus Rex | Episode 4 | Summary

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Summary

The shepherd is called in and tells Oedipus he is a former slave of Laius. He was a shepherd in Cithaeron, where Oedipus was found. He claims not to remember Oedipus, and, when the messenger reminds him of the baby he found, the servant tries to get him to remain silent about it and calls the messenger a "busybody." Oedipus threatens to hurt him if he will not talk, and he has the shepherd's hands tied. The shepherd admits that he gave the child to the messenger, but he does not want to say where he got the child. He begs Oedipus to stop asking him questions, and Oedipus threatens to kill him. The shepherd then admits that the baby was born in Laius's house and that the child was Laius and Jocasta's son. He was supposed to have left the child on a rock to die, but Jocasta ordered him to kill the child. The shepherd told Oedipus she did it to avoid the prophecy that her son would kill his father, but the shepherd took pity on the child. Now the shepherd and Oedipus both know that Oedipus was the child and that the prophecy has come true.

Analysis

The shepherd's testimony is the final link in the chain of events that brings Oedipus down. Now Oedipus knows Jocasta was not afraid he would lose his noble lineage. Rather, she knew he was her son because the curse he received at the oracle has come true. When the shepherd says, "Alas, what I'm about to say now ... it's horrible," Oedipus replies, "but nonetheless I have to hear it." His reply shows how determined he is to discover the truth, no matter how it affects him, and to keep his promise to his people.

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