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Oedipus Rex | Episode 5 | Summary

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Summary

A second messenger comes out from the palace to tell the people, represented by the Chorus, that Jocasta, crying out to Laius, has hanged herself. Oedipus, who raged through the palace looking for Jocasta and asking for a sword, broke down her door and found her dead. The messenger reports that Oedipus then used the brooches from her clothes to gouge out his eyes so he would no longer see the horror in his life. The messenger says Oedipus continued to strike his eyes with the brooches to make sure they would be completely obliterated, and he now wants to have the gates opened so he can be revealed to the people as Laius's killer and his mother's husband. The Chorus tells Oedipus he should have also killed himself rather than live blind, but the Chorus leader pities him. Oedipus recognizes the Chorus leader's voice, and he blames Apollo for his fate but takes full responsibility for his blindness. He does not understand why the gods would allow this to happen.

Oedipus's daughters are brought to him by the kindly Creon, who knows Oedipus has always been comforted by them. Oedipus tells them he is their brother and begs Creon to take care of the girls because no one else will want them. Then he begs Creon to send him away. Creon takes pity on Oedipus and tries to keep him at the palace, but Oedipus says he wants to banish himself and live far from their sight. Creon agrees to let him go but tells him he must leave his children behind, for he now has no power over them.

Analysis

Jocasta, claiming she can no longer say a word, has silenced herself for good, as predicted. Oedipus does not take his life but gouges his eyes out to plunge himself into total darkness. It is possible he is punishing himself for his blindness to both the truth and the prophecy.

Creon did not want to be king but is forced now to take on that power. He pities Oedipus and shows his kindness by trying to comfort him and keep him at the palace. Oedipus wonders why Creon is making requests from the gods for him when he is "so depraved," and Creon states what Sophocles intends as the moral: "For even you must now trust in the gods." Oedipus replies, "Yes, I do," showing how his suffering has convinced him of the power of the gods. He is also amazed at Creon's kindness, especially considering Oedipus had distrusted Creon's devotion to family. However, he knows he cannot stay at Thebes. He tries to keep his children, but he must lose them, too, as he has lost everything else, because in his hubris he believed that he could challenge the gods.

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