Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Section 1 Summary (lines 1-244)

The opening scene is set in the royal house of Thebes, where Oedipus, the king of Thebes, discusses with a procession of priests the plague that has recently come to the city. The priests beseech Oedipus to save them from the plague, just as he saved them from the Sphinx (a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a woman that would eat those who could not answer its riddles.) Oedipus, ever a man of action, has already sent his brother-in-law, Creon, to Apollo the Prophet's oracle. The oracle is a way to communicate directly with the god Apollo, who can advise Oedipus how to save the city.

Creon arrives and says, according to the oracle, the only way to lift the plague is to exile or execute those who murdered Laius, the former king of Thebes. Oedipus does not yet realize that he killed Laius, or that Laius was his father. Creon relates to Oedipus that Laius was murdered while also traveling to visit the oracle, and that only one of Laius’s retainers survived the attack. The witness falsely stated they were attacked by a band of thieves (though it was actually Oedipus.) When Oedipus asks why the murder was not further investigated, Creon tells him the Sphinx persuaded them to worry about more pressing matters. Oedipus vows to rid Thebes of the corruption.

The Chorus, representing the citizens of Thebes, appears and begins chanting—they have not heard Creon's news from the oracle. The Chorus invokes several Greek gods, imploring them to end the plague.