The play opens and Thebes is struck by a plague. The people ask King Oedipus to deliver them from its horrors. Creon, the brother of Jocasta, returns from the oracle of Apollo and discloses that the plague is punishment for the murder of King Laius. King Laius was Oedipus’s father as well as the former king of Thebes. Creon further discloses that the citizens of Thebes need to discover and punish the murderer before the plague can be lifted. The people mourn their dead, and Oedipus advises them, in their own interest, to search out and apprehend the murderer of Laius.
Teiresias- the ancient, blind seer of Thebes- tells Oedipus that it would be better for all if he does not tell what he knows. He says that coming events will reveal themselves. Oedipus rages at the mystic’s reluctance to tell the secret. The old man eventually reveals that Oedipus is the one responsible for Thebes’s afflictions because he is the murderer. Not only is he the murder but also he is married to his mother. Oedipus accuses the old man of being in league with Creon, whom he suspects of plotting against his throne. However, Teiresias answers that Oedipus will be ashamed and horrified when he learns the truth about his true parentage. Oedipus defies the seer, saying he will welcome the truth as long as it frees his kingdom from the plague. Oedipus threatens Creon with death, but he banishes Creon instead due to warnings from his wife (Creon’s sister).
Jocasta, grieved by the hatred between her brother and Oedipus, tells her husband that an oracle informed King Laius that he would be killed by his own child. This child being the offspring of Laius and Jocasta. Jocasta assures Oedipus that this could not happen because the child was abandoned on a deserted mountainside soon after birth. When Oedipus hears further that Laius was killed by robbers at the same location he was passing through, he is deeply disturbed. He hesitates to reveal his suspicion, but he becomes more and more convinced of his own guilt.
Oedipus believed himself to be the son of Polybus of Corinth and Merope. His blind belief was shocked when a drunken man announced that the young Oedipus was not really Polybus’s son. Confused, Oedipus consulted the oracle of Apollo. The oracle foretold that Oedipus would kill his father and have children with his mother. After he left Corinth, at a meeting place of three roads, a man in a chariot offended Oedipus. He killed the man and all of his servants but one. From there he went on to Thebes, where he became the new king by answering the riddle of the Sphinx. The riddle asked what went on all fours before noon, on two legs at noon, and on three legs after noon. Oedipus answered, correctly, that human beings walk on all fours as an infant, on two legs in their prime, and with the aid of a stick in their old age. With the kingship, he also won the hand of Jocasta, King Laius’s queen. Oedipus summons the servant who reported King Laius’s death, but he awaits his arrival fearfully. Jocasta assures him that the entire matter is of no great consequence. A messenger from Corinth announces that King Polybus is dead. Oedipus and Jocasta are relieved for the time being because the so- called father is now dead and can no longer deny the claims.
The messenger reveals that Oedipus is not the son of Polybus and Merope but an orphan whom the messenger took to Polybus. The messenger relates how he received the baby from another shepherd, who was a servant of the house of King Laius. At that point Jocasta realizes the dreadful truth. Oedipus wants to confront the sheperhd. Within time after an encounter with Oedipus, the old servant confesses that King Laius ordered him to destroy the boy. However, out of pity he gave the infant to the Corinthian to raise as his foster son. Oedipus is furious after realizing the oracle was right. Upon returning to the palace and discovers his wife dead. She hung herself by her hair. He pokes out his eyes so that he will not be able to see the results of the horrible prophecy. Oedipus announces to the Thebeans the truth; he is the murderer of their king and the defiler of his own mother’s bed. Creon, returns from his travels to find the scene Oedipus is making. He orders the attendants to lead Oedipus back into the palace. Oedipus asks Creon to have him lead out of Thebes where no man will ever see him again. He also asks Creon to give Jocasta a proper burial and to see that the sons and daughters should be cared for. Creon leads the wretched Oedipus away to his exile of blindness and torment.