The Oedipus Trilogy By Sophocles Summary and Analysis: Oedipus the King Lines 1215-1310

Summary

The shepherd arrives but resists telling what he knows. Only when Oedipus threatens violence does the shepherd reveal that long ago he disobeyed his orders and saved the baby out of pity. And, finally, he admits that the baby was the son of Laius and Jocasta.

With this news, Oedipus realizes that he has murdered his father and married his mother. Horrified by his crimes, Oedipus rushes wildly into the palace.

Analysis

This is the climax of the play. All previous action has moved toward this point of revelation, and this moment, in turn, will determine the outcome of the play. What remains after this scene is the unimaginable consequence of such terrible knowledge. Knowing what he knows, what will Oedipus do?

Note the energy and determination Oedipus manifests in uncovering the truth of his birth. When the shepherd refuses to speak, Oedipus threatens the man with torture and death. In fact, Oedipus appears to be totally in control of the situation — until the lowly shepherd reveals the truth about him.

The match between a king and a shepherd would seem, in another story, to be a fairly straightforward one. The shepherd would tell the king what he's asked out of fear for his life. But this shepherd knows that what he has to tell may drive the king to violence — probably against him. For this reason and because what he has to say would reveal his part in the plot, he tries to keep the truth to himself.

In his tragic downfall, Oedipus suffers from a very human dilemma. At one moment, he seems all-powerful and in charge of his destiny — but in the next moment he becomes vulnerable and powerless. The audience experiences the pity and terror that leads to catharsis.

Glossary

Arcturus a giant orange star in the constellation Bootes, the brightest star in the northern celestial sphere. Here, for the ancient Greeks, its appearance marked the beginning of the winter season.

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