Click this quilt piece to go to Litonline's home page.VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature
English 112 (English Composition II)
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Oedipus the Wreck

Objective for this Page: To summarize episode 3 and stasimon 3.

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Summary of Oedipus the KingMessenger - Shepherd - Survivor of the slaughter where 3 roads meet

Episode 3: A messenger from Corinth notifies Oedipus that his father is dead and the throne of Corinth is his.

Jocasta prays to Apollo to ease her husband's worries because the city looks to him for leadership. Immediately, a messenger arrives with the news that Polybus [POL-ee-bus], king of Corinth, has died. As far as anybody knows so far, Oedipus is his son.

Is Oedipus a True Leader

Click to archive on Oedipus's leadership.Oedipus was born a prince, raised to be a king. What does this play tell us about the nature of leadership and the qualities of a great leader? Does Oedipus possess the sort of concern for the downtrodden that Princess Diana Windsor tried to instill in her sons, or is he the sort of king who is more concerned with the outer image than the substance of his rule? Does Oedipus have a "messiah complex," or is he justifiably taking on the role of savior of Thebes?

Click to see archived answers on this issue.

Oedipus is relieved that he has not killed his father, but he still fears that he may end up somehow married to Merope [MAIR-oh-pay], the queen of Corinth, his mother. The messenger says he need not worry about that because Polybus and Merope were not his biological parents. The messenger himself had gotten Oedipus as a baby (he suggests that Oedipus can still see the scars from where his feet were bound together, giving him his name--"swollen feet") from a man who tended sheep on Mount Cithaeron [KITH-er-on]. This man worked for Laius.

Is Oedipus a Free Man or a Fool of the Gods?

Click for archived answers.Irony and coincidence also influence our view of Oedipus as a tragic protagonist. To what extent is Oedipus a fool of the gods, and to what extent is he free to choose his own way? In other words, do the gods simply know what Oedipus will do in a given situation because they know human nature, or do they actually manipulate events beyond likelihood and mere coincidence? Mention several incidents or decision points for Oedipus in your answer.

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Jocasta urges Oedipus to halt the investigation here; he assumes she is afraid he will find out he was born a commoner, and he demands the corroboration that the field hand can give, since that is the man who supposedly handed Oedipus to the Corinthian, as well as surviving the attack where three roads meet.

Jocasta, "hurled by a savage grief," flees inside the palace.

Jocasta's Shame

Click to archive on Jocasta.Is Jocasta actually willing to live in incest with her son as long as the information isn't public? Since it was Jocasta, according to the herdsman in the next scene, who actually gave the baby to him and commanded him to abandon it on the mountainside, does Jocasta kill herself because she can't face Oedipus or because she can't face the public shame of their incest?

Click to archived ideas on Jocasta.

Stasimon 3: The Thebans speculate on what idyllic rural episode might have led to Oedipus' birth.

Although the leader of the chorus is concerned about Jocasta, the townspeople are celebrating that Oedipus was saved on Mount Cithaeron. Maybe one of the gods sired Oedipus in one of those quaint stories about the gods changing to mortal form and siring offspring with pleasant wood nymphs. (Like most people, they don't want to believe the worst. It must be a relief to them to speculate about a very positive origin for their hero.)

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logotest.gif (2025 bytes) This site was developed by Professor Eric Hibbison of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia, under a Courseware Grant from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) in Fall, 1997, and renovated under a VCCS Commonwealth Course grant in 2003 with the addition of the archive for the 1997-2003 forum on Oedipus the King.  If you have comments or suggestions about this site, email them to Prof. Hibbison at jsrlogo.gif (7866 bytes)