Instant Monologues
Sophocles Oedipus Instant Monologue

by Sophocles



My sire was Polybus of Corinth, and

My mother Merope, a Dorian;

And I was held the foremost citizen,

Till a strange thing befell me, strange indeed,

Yet scarce deserving all the heat it stirred.

A roisterer at some banquet, flown with wine,

Shouted "Thou art not true son of thy sire."

It irked me, but I stomached for the nonce

The insult; on the morrow I sought out

My mother and my sire and questioned them.

They were indignant at the random slur

Cast on my parentage and did their best

To comfort me, but still the venomed barb

Rankled, for still the scandal spread and grew.

So privily without their leave I went

To Delphi, and Apollo sent me back

Baulked of the knowledge that I came to seek.

But other grievous things he prophesied,

Woes, lamentations, mourning, portents dire;

To wit I should defile my mother's bed

And raise up seed too loathsome to behold,

And slay the father from whose loins I sprang.

Then, lady,-thou shalt hear the very truth-

As I drew near the triple-branching roads,

A herald met me and a man who sat

In a car drawn by colts-as in thy tale-

The man in front and the old man himself

Threatened to thrust me rudely from the path,

Then jostled by the charioteer in wrath

I struck him, and the old man, seeing this,

Watched till I passed and from his car brought down

Full on my head the double-pointed goad.


Yet was I quits with him and more; one stroke

Of my good staff sufficed to fling him clean

Out of the chariot seat and laid him prone.

And so I slew them every one. But if

Betwixt this stranger there was aught in common

With Laius, who more miserable than I,

What mortal could you find more god-abhorred?

Wretch whom no sojourner, no citizen

May harbor or address, whom all are bound

To harry from their homes. And this same curse

Was laid on me, and laid by none but me.

Yea with these hands all gory I pollute

The bed of him I slew. Say, am I vile?

Am I not utterly unclean, a wretch

Doomed to be banished, and in banishment

Forgo the sight of all my dearest ones,

And never tread again my native earth;

Or else to wed my mother and slay my sire,

Polybus, who begat me and upreared?

If one should say, this is the handiwork

Of some inhuman power, who could blame

His judgment? But, ye pure and awful gods,

Forbid, forbid that I should see that day!

May I be blotted out from living men

Ere such a plague spot set on me its brand!

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