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Oedipus Rex | Quotes


And so you'll see how I will work with you, as is right, seeking vengeance for this land, as well as for the god.

Oedipus, Prologos

These lines in the Prologos, the introduction to the play, foreshadow just how far Oedipus will go to seek the truth even if it is painful for him. At this point in the play, he is trying to find Laius's killer to stop the plague that is tormenting the people of his city. He does not know yet that the gods will have their vengeance for his unwillingness to accept a prophecy long ago.


O Delian healer, for whom we cry aloud in holy awe, what obligation will you demand from me, a thing unknown or now renewed with the revolving years?

Chorus, Parados

In the Parados the Chorus comes in for the first time, chanting to the gods about the plague in Thebes and the destruction of its people. The Chorus calls on Apollo, the "Delian healer," to ask whether the plague is a form of punishment or whether they must pay some sort of debt to the god. The Chorus is terrified and wonders whether the cause of the plague is unknown or if it will prove to be something that has happened in the past and will come back. This idea foreshadows information about Oedipus's identity that will be revealed later in the play.


You have your eyesight, and you do not see how miserable you are.

Teiresias, Episode 1

Teiresias, a prophet, may be blind, but he can see that Oedipus is the cause of the plague. His admonition to Oedipus that he cannot see how miserable he is shows that Oedipus is in greater trouble than he can imagine. Oedipus thinks he has escaped his fate, but Teiresias's statement tells the audience otherwise.


And he will turn out to be the brother of the children in his house—their father, too, both at once, and the husband and the son of the very woman who gave birth to him.

Teiresias, Episode 1

This is the first time the audience hears the prophecy that both Oedipus and Jocasta have tried to escape. Unfortunately, Oedipus cannot understand that the prophecy is the same one he heard years ago. This is yet another example of Oedipus attempting to avoid his fate.


Listen to me, and ease your mind with this—no human being has skill in prophecy.

Jocasta, Episode 2

Jocasta is trying to calm Oedipus down by convincing him that Teiresias's prophecy cannot be true. She uses the prophecy given to her and King Laius about their son killing his father and sleeping with his mother as an example because she believes her son is now dead. She explains how Laius made sure that their son would die by sending him out into the wilderness with his ankles pinned. To Jocasta, this means that Laius was not killed by his son and, thus, that prophecies are useless. Jocasta displays her hubris here in doubting a prophecy. This is an example of dramatic irony, a literary technique used to great effect by Sophocles, where the audience can see or understand something that the characters in the play cannot.


In shape he was not all that unlike you.

Jocasta, Episode 2

The resemblance between Laius and Oedipus terrifies Oedipus. It is a clue that he is Laius's killer, but he does not yet realize just how pertinent this clue is. Oedipus has never seen a family resemblance between himself and Laius and Jocasta, but, now that Jocasta mentions it, the audience knows exactly where the story is going.


What man could be more hateful to the gods?

Oedipus, Episode 2

Oedipus is saying that any man who would kill someone and then take his crown and his wife is evil. He believes that, if he is that person, he is, in fact, hateful to the gods. In another example of dramatic irony, he does not yet realize that this is his own fate.


What man is there who does such things who can still claim he will ward off the arrow of the gods aimed at his heart?

Chorus, Stasimon 2

The Chorus sings of human arrogance and irreverence for the gods, which is exactly what Oedipus has shown in his efforts to avoid Apollo's prophecy. It is certain such a person will get his just rewards in the end, and it proves to be right.


I'll never speak another word again.

Jocasta, Episode 3

Oedipus thinks Jocasta is ashamed of him for not being of the lineage he claimed, and he brushes off her reaction. She is actually saying she know that Oedipus is her son, the baby Laius sent off with the shepherd. She is planning to kill herself, thus never speaking a word again.


O light, let me look at you one final time, a man who stands revealed as cursed by birth.

Oedipus, Episode 4

Oedipus now knows he has fulfilled the prophecy he tried to escape years before—the same prophecy Jocasta tried to avoid. He also knows Jocasta tried to kill her own child. His statement that he is looking at light one final time both shows how the darkness toward Jocasta has filled his heart and foreshadows his self-inflicted blindness.


Why should I have eyes when there was nothing sweet for me to see?

Oedipus, Episode 5

Oedipus is saying he blinded himself because Apollo's intentions for him were so horrible that there was nothing in his life worth seeing. His wife and his children, who were the sweetness in his life, now represent the awful prophecy the gods have forced him to fulfill.

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