King Oedipus A summary of the story

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The story about king Oedipus is a Greek myth that has been told since the 5th century B.C. Oedipus was a son born to king Laius and queen Jocasta of Thebes. Before he was born, his parents sought the intervention of the Oracle of Delphi after along wait for a child in their marriage. The Oracle prophesied that they will have a child and if the child is boy, he will kill his father Laius and marry his mother Jocasta. As soon as Oedipus was born, his father king Laius pinned his legs together causing swelling that prevented him from walking hence the name Oedipus from the Greek word "oedema" meaning swelling. The king then gave his son away to a servant to dump him to the mountains so that he dies due to cold weather and not live to fulfill the Oracle's prophecy.

The servant instead ,gave the boy (Oedipus) away to a shepherd from a neighboring state Corinth. The shepherd then presented the young Oedipus to childless king Polybus and queen Merope of Corinth. The two raised Oedipus as their own. Years later, Oedipus heard from someone that king Polybus and queen Merope were not his real parents and when asked the two denied it. It is in this regard that Oedipus decides to consult the Oracle of Delphi about his true parents. The Oracle does not disclose the true identity of his parents but affirms that he is destined to kill his father and marry the mother.

Oedipus is stunned by the Oracle's sentiments and decides not to return to Corinth and heads to Thebes, his place of birth. Along the way he comes across a place where three roads meet and encounters caravan lead by his (biological father) king Laius. Since none of the two is willing to pave way for the other, they engage in a fight that ends with Oedipus killing king Laius fulfilling part of the Oracle's prophecy.

Oedipus continues with his journey to Thebes and on the way he meets a sphinx that demanded an answer to a riddle as gate pass to Thebes. Oedipus is asked to give an answer to "to that which walks on fours in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night". Oedipus' answer is man. He crawls on fours when he is still young, walks on two legs during adulthood and uses a walking stick as an aid to his walking during his sunset days. The answer is correct and Oedipus is let into Thebes, enthroned king and presented with Jocasta (his biological mother)a widow, to marry. Oedipus accepts her hand in marriage fulfilling the remaining part of the prophecy. The queen bore two sons (Eteocles and Polynices) and two daughters (Antigone and Ismene). Years later, Thebes is struck by unprodutivity causing drought, hunger, and barrenness to women. The answer to this is that king Laius' murderer has to be found, killed or exiled. An inquest is launched to find the killer. The killer is revealed by the blind prophet Tiresias. The prophet identifies Oedipus the killer through feeling the marks of his legs. The queen Jocasta, on hearing this, she hangs herself while king Oedipus overwhelmed by his actions, agonizes and gouges out his eyes.


This classical story sums up quite clearly that man cannot escape his fate or destiny. Man's destiny is believed to be in the hands of a higher being; a supernatural being and an attempt to contest or correct one's destiny is deemed as an act of committing sin or an act of blasphemy. It's considered as an attempt to go against the authority of the supernatural being hence attracting wrath from the supernatural being. In king Oedipus mythology, both father and son tried to find a way out of their predicament but ended up being punished. King Laius clipped his son's legs and left him in the mountains to die in an attempt prevent his son Oedipus from killing him as earlier prophesied. This did not work out as the son found refuge in another place and came back to kill him. Oedipus also tried to prevent his fate from happening by going to Thebes to avoid killing his father(king Polybus) and in the process, he murders his biological father king Laius(unknowingly) and marries his mother Jocasta thus fulfilling the earlier prophecy by the oracle of Delphi. It's the fear of what life had in store for them that drove both father and son to go to such heights of trying to correct their destiny.

Oedipus was predestined to kill his father and marry his mother, but before the prophecy came to pass, he sought ways of preventing it from happening. He set out to find out about his true identity and when he fought and killed his father, then married the mother; he was absolutely in the dark about who his parents were. Thus his actions cannot be deemed as immoral as he was in the process of finding out his origin. This can be confirmed by the fact that when the oracle of Delphi revealed to him that he will kill his father and marry his mother, he did not go back to Corinth because he didn't want fulfill this prophecy because according to him, king Polybus and queen Merope of Corinth were his real parents and hence he chooses to go to Thebes. Later on, as the king of Thebes, he is relieved when news about the demise of king Polybus of Corinth reaches him; that he was not the one who killed his father (king Polybus).

Therefore, king Oedipus is not immoral as he was totally in the dark concerning his lineage. Indeed he is totally overwhelmed by what he had done and he decides to painfully gouge out his eyes.