A monologue from the play by Sophocles

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904.
  • OEDIPUS: I am the son of Polybus, who reigns
    At Corinth, and the Dorian Merope
    His queen; there long I held the foremost rank,
    Honoured and happy, when a strange event
    (For strange it was, though little meriting
    The deep concern I felt) alarmed me much:
    A drunken reveller at a feast proclaimed
    That I was only the supposed son
    Or Corinth's king. Scarce could I bear that day
    The vile reproach. The next, I sought my parents
    And asked of them the truth; they too, enraged,
    Resented much the base indignity.
    I liked their tender warmth, but still I felt
    A secret anguish, and, unknown to them,
    Sought out the Pythian oracle. In vain.
    Touching my parents nothing could I learn;
    But dreadful were the miseries it denounced
    Against me. 'Twas my fate, Apollo said,
    To wed my mother, to produce a race
    Accursed and abhorred; and last, to slay
    My father who begat me. Sad decree!
    Lest I should e'er fulfil the dire prediction,
    Instant I fled from Corinth, by the stars
    Guiding my hapless journey to the place
    Where thou report'st this wretched king was slain.
    But I will tell thee the whole truth. At length
    I came to where the three ways meet, when, lo!
    A herald, with another man like him
    Whom thou describ'st, and in a chariot, met me.
    Both strove with violence to drive me back;
    Enraged, I struck the charioteer, when straight,
    As I advanced, the old man saw, and twice
    Smote me o' th' head, but dearly soon repaid
    The insult on me; from his chariot rolled
    Prone on the earth, beneath my staff he fell,
    And instantly expired! Th' attendant train
    All shared his fate. If this unhappy stranger
    And Laius be the same, lives there a wretch
    So cursed, so hateful to the gods as I am?
    Nor citizen nor alien must receive,
    Or converse, or communion hold with me,
    But drive me forth with infamy and shame.
    The dreadful curse pronounced with my own lips
    Shall soon o'ertake me. I have stained the bed
    Of him whom I had murdered; am I then
    Aught but pollution? If I fly from hence,
    The bed of incest meets me, and I go
    To slay my father Polybus, the best,
    The tenderest parent. This must be the work
    Of some malignant power. Ye righteous gods!
    Let me not see that day, but rest in death,
    Rather than suffer such calamity.