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Oedipus in Thebes

Proclaimed king by the people, Oedipus wisely reigned in Thebes. For a long time nothing disturbed the tranquility of Thebes and the royal family. But after all, fate promised misfortune to Oedipus. And so a great calamity befell Thebes, the God of the Arrow Apollo sent a terrible disease to Thebes. It ruined citizens, both old and small. Thebes became a huge cemetery. The corpses of the unburied lay in the streets and squares. Screams and groans were heard everywhere. The crying of wives and mothers could be heard everywhere. Not only was a terrible disease raging in Thebes, but famine also reigned in them, since the fields did not yield crops, and a terrible pestilence raged in the herds. It seemed that the last days of the great city had come Cadmus. In vain the citizens offered sacrifices to the gods and prayed for their salvation. The gods did not hear the prayers; the calamity was increasing.

A crowd of citizens came to their king Oedipus to ask him to help them, to teach them how to get rid of the disasters threatening death. After all, Oedipus once helped citizens get rid of the Sphinx. Oedipus himself suffered for Thebes and his family, he had already sent his brother Jocasta Creon in Delphi to ask Apollo how to get rid of disasters. Creon would be back soon. Oedipus was looking forward to it.

Now Creon has returned. He brought the oracle's answer. Apollo ordered the expulsion of the one who, by his crime, brought this calamity upon Thebes. Citizens must pay for the shed blood of King Lai by expelling or even executing the murderer. But how to find Lai's killer? After all, he was killed on the way, and all his companions were killed, with the exception of only one slave. By all means, Oedipus decided to find the killer, whoever he was, wherever he was hiding, even if he was in his own palace, even if the killer was a person close to him. Oedipus calls all the people to a meeting to consult on how to find the killer. The people point to the soothsayer Tiresias, who alone can help. They bring the blind soothsayer Tiresias. Oedipus asks him to name Lai's killer. What can the soothsayer answer him? Yes, he knows the killer, but he can't name him.

- Oh, let me go home, it will be easier for both of us to bear the burden that fate has placed on us, - Tiresias says.

But Oedipus demands an answer.

- Despicable, you don't want to answer! Oedipus exclaimed. - You can anger even a stone with your persistence.

Tiresias persists for a long time, he does not want to name the murderer for a long time. But finally, yielding to the angry words of Oedipus, he says:

- You yourself, Oedipus, have defiled this country by ruling in it. You're the killer you're looking for! Without knowing, you married the one who is dearer to each of us all, you married your mother.

Oedipus was terribly angry with Tiresias when he heard these words. He calls the soothsayer a liar, he threatens him with execution, says that Creon inspired him to say this in order to take over his kingdom. Calmly, with full consciousness that he told the truth, he listens to the angry speeches of King Tiresias. He knows that Oedipus, although sighted, still does not see all the evil that he unwittingly does. Oedipus does not see where he lives, does not see that he is his own enemy and the enemy of his family. Tiresias is not afraid of any threats; he boldly tells Oedipus that the murderer is here before him. Although the murderer came as a foreigner to Thebes, but in fact he is a born Theban. An evil fate will befall the murderer; from the sighted he will become blind, from the rich he will become poor - he will leave Thebes into exile, having lost everything.

The citizens of Tiresias listened with horror, they knew that his mouth had never been defiled by a lie.

Oedipus, full of anger, blames Creon for teaching Tiresias to say so. He sees Creon in an effort to seize power over Thebes. Jocasta also arrives; Oedipus tells her everything Tiresias said and accuses her brother of evil intent. He asks Jocasta about how Lai was killed, and about how Lai's only son was abandoned in the forest on the slopes of Kiferon. Jocasta tells him everything. The first doubts creep into the soul of Oedipus. A heavy premonition of something terrible squeezes his heart.

- Oh, Zeus, - Oedipus exclaimed, - what have you decided to doom me to! 0, was it really not I who was sighted, but the blind Tiresias!

Oedipus also asks about the escaped slave, where he is, if he is alive, and finds out that this slave is tending flocks on the slope of Kiferon. Oedipus immediately sends for him. He wants to know the whole truth, no matter how terrible it is. As soon as the slave was sent for, a messenger came from Corinth. He brings the news of the king's death Polyb, who died of an illness. It means that Polybus was not smitten by his son's hand. If Oedipus is the son of Polybus, then - but the dictates of fate have been fulfilled, because Oedipus is destined to kill his father. Or maybe Oedipus is not the son of Polybus? Oedipus hopes that he has escaped what fate promised him. But the messenger destroys this hope. He tells Oedipus that Polybus is not his father, that he himself brought it to the king of Corinth as a small child, and the shepherd of King Laius gave it to him.

Oedipus listens to the messenger with horror, the terrible truth becomes clearer and clearer.

But here comes the shepherd. At first he doesn't want to say anything, he wants to hide everything. But Oedipus threatens the shepherd with a terrible punishment if he hides the truth.

In fear, the shepherd confesses that the boy he once gave to the messenger was the son of Lai, who was condemned to death by his father; he also took pity on the unfortunate child.

How Oedipus would have liked to die then as an innocent child, how he complains about the shepherd for not letting him die as an infant! After all, everything is clear to Oedipus now. He already knows from Jocasta's stories about Lai's death, he knows that he killed his father himself, and from the shepherd's words it became clear to him that he was the native son of Lai and Jocasta. The decree of the judge was fulfilled,6 no matter how hard Oedipus tried to avoid it. In despair, Oedipus goes to the palace. He is the murderer of his father, the husband of his mother, his children to him at the same time and children and brothers on their mother's side.

In the palace, a new blow awaits Oedipus. Jocasta could not bear all the horror that opened up before her, she committed suicide by hanging herself in the bedroom. Distraught with grief, Oedipus tore the buckles from Jocasta's clothes and gouged out his eyes with their points. He didn't want to see the light of the sun anymore, he didn't want to see his children, he didn't want to see his native Thebes. Now everything has died for him, there can be no more joy in his life. Oedipus begs Creon to drive him out of Thebes and asks only one thing - to take care of his children.