SOPHOCLES THE THREE THEBAN PLAYS ANTIGONE • OEDIPUS THE KING OEDIPUS AT COLONUS TRANSLATED BY ROBERT FAGLES. Plot summaries and analysis of Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex. the translation by Robert Fagles The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus . Robert Fagles. Introduction and notes by Bernard Knox. New York: Viking Press, PP. $ Oedipus the King. Trans. Stephen Berg and Diskin Clay.
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Oedipus the King (text) Fagles translation
I will speak out now as a stranger to the story, a stranger to the crime. So now, counted a native Theban years after the murder, to all of Thebes I make this proclamation: Nothing to fear, even if he must denounce himself, let him speak up and so escape the brunt of the charge — he will suffer no unbearable punishment, nothing worse than exile, totally unharmed.
Oedipus pauses, waiting for a reply. Next, if anyone knows the murderer is a stranger, a man from alien soil, come, speak up. I will give him a handsome reward, and lay up gratitude in my heart for him besides. Never let the holy water touch his hands. Drive him out, each of you, from every home. He is the plague, the heart of our corruption, as Apollo’s oracle has just revealed to me.
So I honor my obligations: I fight for the god and for the murdered man. Now my curse on the murderer. O Tiresias, master of all the mysteries of our life, all you teach and all you dare not tell, signs in the heavens, signs that walk the earth!
Full text of “Oedipus Rex”
Blind as you are, you can feel all the more what sickness haunts our city. You, my lord, are the one shield, the one savior we can find. Uncover the murderers of Laius, put them to death or drive them into exile. Rescue yourself, your city, rescue me — rescue everything infected by the dead. We are in your hands. For a man to help others with all his gifts and native strength: How terrible — to see the truth when the truth is only pain to him who sees!
I knew it well, but I put it from my mind, else I never would have come. Why so grim, so dire? Just send me home. I fail to see that your own words are so well-timed. We beg you, all of us on our knees. None of you knows — and I will never reveal my dreadful secrets, not to say your own. Out with it, once and for all! You criticize my temper. Who could restrain his anger hearing you? What outrage — you spurn the city! What will come will come.
Even if I shroud it all in silence. I will say no more.
Do as you like, build your anger to whatever pitch you please, rage your worst — oedipus: I charge you, then, submit to that decree you just laid down. You are the curse, the corruption of the land! You, shameless — aren’t you appalled to start up such a story? You think you can get away with this? The truth with all its power lives inside me.
Who primed you for this? You did, you forced me, twisted it out of me. Say it again — I’ll understand it better. Or are you tempting me to talk? I say you are the murderer you hunt. Shall I say more, so you can really rage? Much as you want. Your words are nothing — futile. You think you can keep this up and never suffer? Indeed, if the truth has any power.
Just for this, the crown the city gave me — I never sought it, they laid it in my hands— for this alone, Creon, the soul of trust, my loyal friend from the start steals against me O power — Come here, you pious fraud. Tell me, when did you ever prove yourself a prophet? When the Sphinx, that chanting Fury kept her death watch here, why silent then, not a word to set our people free?
There was oedipis riddle, not for some passer-by to solve — it cried out for a prophet.
Did you rise to the crisis? Not a word, you and your birds, your gods — nothing. With no help from the birds, the flight of my own intelligence hit the mark. And this is the man you’d try to overthrow? You think you’ll stand by Creon when he’s king? I would suggest his words were spoken in anger, Oedipus. The best solution to the oracle, the riddle posed by god — we should look for that. You are the king no doubt, but in one respect, at least, I am your equal: I am not your slave. So, you mock my blindness?
Let me tell you this. That day you learn the truth about your marriage, the wedding-march that sang you into your halls, the lusty voyage home to the fatal harbor! No man will ever be. Such filth from him? Insufferable — what, still alive? Get out— faster, back where you came from — vanish!
Well then, free yourself of every charge! Listen to me and learn some peace of mind: Here is ordipus, quick and to the point. But Laius, so the report goes at least, was killed by strangers, thieves, at a place where three roads meet. Apollo brought neither thing to pass. Brush them from your mind. Strange, hearing you just now. What do you mean? Why so anxious, startled? I thought I heard you say that Laius was cut down at a place where three fagled meet. That was the story.
Where did this thing happen? The heralds no sooner reported Laius dead than you appeared and they hailed you king of Thebes. My god, my god — what have you planned to do to me? What haunts you so? Laius — -how did he look? Had he reached his prime?
Oediphs my way toward this triple crossroad I began to see a herald, then a brace of colts drawing a wagon, and mounted on the bench I paid him back with interest! Oh, but if there is any blood-tie between Laius and this stranger. More hated by the gods? I am the man no alien, no citizen welcomes to his house, law forbids it — not a word to me in public, driven out of every hearth and home.
And you, his wife.