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Oedipus' Monologue from "Oedipus the King"

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Sometimes called Oedipus Tyrannus, or Oedipus Rex, or sometimes just plain old Oedipus the King, this classic Greek tragedy by Sophocles is based upon the ancient legend of a fallen hero.

Although it was crafted thousands of years ago, the story still shocks and fascinates readers and audience members alike. Oedipus rules over the kingdom of Thebes. Yet all is not well. Throughout the land there is famine and plague. The gods are angry. Oedipus vows to find out the source of the curse. Unfortunately, it turns out that he is the abomination. Long story short: It turns out Oedipus murdered his father and married his mother. All of this, of course, was unbeknownst to him.

When he discovers the truth of his actions, he is wrought with horror and self-loathing. In this monologue, he has blinded himself after witnessing his wife’s suicide. He now devotes himself to his own punishment. He plans to walk the earth as an outcast until the end of his days.

The following excerpt is reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904

OEDIPUS: I care not for thy counsel or thy praise;
For with what eyes could I have e'er beheld
My honoured father in the shades below,
Or my unhappy mother, both destroyed
By me? This punishment is worse than death,
And so it should be. Sweet had been the sight
Of my dear children--them I could have wished
To gaze upon; but I must never see
Or them, or this fair city, or the palace
Where I was born. Deprived of every bliss
By my own lips, which doomed to banishment
The murderer of Laius, and expelled
The impious wretch, by gods and men accursed:
Could I behold them after this? Oh no!
Would I could now with equal ease remove
My hearing too, be deaf as well as blind,
And from another entrance shut out woe!
To want our senses, in the hour of ill,
Is comfort to the wretched. O Cithaeron!
Why didst thou e'er receive me, or received,
Why not destroy, that men might never know
Who gave me birth? O Polybus! O Corinth!
And thou, long time believed my father's palace,
Oh! what a foul disgrace to human nature
Didst thou receive beneath a prince's form!
Impious myself, and from an impious race.
Where is my splendour now? O Daulian path!
The shady forest, and the narrow pass
Where three ways meet, who drank a father's blood
Shed by these hands, do you not still remember
The horrid deed, and what, when here I came,
Followed more dreadful? Fatal nuptials, you
Produced me, you returned me to the womb
That bare me; thence relations horrible
Of fathers, sons, and brothers came; of wives,
Sisters, and mothers, sad alliance! all
That man holds impious and detestable.
But what in act is vile the modest tongue
Should never name. Bury me, hide me, friends,
From every eye; destroy me, cast me forth
To the wide ocean--let me perish there:
Do anything to shake off hated life.
Seize me; approach, my friends--you need not fear,
Polluted though I am, to touch me; none
Shall suffer for my crimes but I alone.

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