Oedipus Part THREE

  • CHORUS LEADER:                         Perhaps he charged you
          spurred on by the rash power of his rage,
          rather than his mind’s true judgment.

    CREON: Was it publicized that my opinions
          convinced Teiresias to utter lies?                                              

    CHORUS LEADER: That’s what was said. I have no idea
          just what that meant.

    CREON:                                     Did he accuse me
          and announce the charges with a steady gaze,
          in a normal state of mind?

    CHORUS LEADER:                         I do not know.                                [530]
          What those in power do I do not see.
          But he’s approaching from the palace—
          here he comes in person.

    [Enter OEDIPUS from the palace]

    OEDIPUS:                               You! How did you get here?
          Has your face grown so bold you now come
          to my own home—you who are obviously
          the murderer of the man whose house it was,                          
          a thief who clearly wants to steal my throne?
          Come, in the name of all the gods, tell me this—
          did you plan to do it because you thought
          I was a coward or a fool? Or did you think
          I would not learn about your actions
          as they crept up on me with such deceit—
          or that, if I knew, I could not deflect them?
          This attempt of yours, is it not madness—                                         
          to chase after the king’s place without friends,
          without a horde of men, to seek a goal                                     
          which only gold or factions could attain?

    CREON: Will you listen to me? It’s your turn now
          to hear me make a suitable response.
          Once you know, then judge me for yourself.

    OEDIPUS: You are a clever talker. But from you
          I will learn nothing. I know you now—
          a troublemaker, an enemy of mine.

    CREON: At least first listen to what I have to say.

    OEDIPUS: There’s one thing you do not have to tell me—
          you have betrayed me.

    CREON:                               If you think being stubborn               660
          and forgetting common sense is wise,
          then you’re not thinking as you should.                                              

    OEDIPUS: And if you think you can act to injure
          a man who is a relative of yours
          and escape without a penalty
          then you’re not thinking as you should.

    CREON: I agree. What you’ve just said makes sense.
          So tell me the nature of the damage
          you claim you’re suffering because of me.

    OEDIPUS: Did you or did you not persuade me                            670
          to send for Teiresias, that prophet?

    CREON: Yes. And I’d still give you the same advice.

    OEDIPUS: How long is it since Laius . . . [pauses]

    CREON:                                                             Did what?
          What’s Laius got to do with anything?

    OEDIPUS: . . . since Laius was carried off and disappeared,
          since he was killed so brutally?                                                           

    CREON:                                           That was long ago—
          many years have passed since then.

    OEDIPUS:                                           At that time,
          was Teiresias as skilled in prophecy?

    CREON: Then, as now, he was honoured for his wisdom.

    OEDIPUS: And back then did he ever mention me?                      680

    CREON: No, never—not while I was with him.

    OEDIPUS: Did you not investigate the killing?

    CREON: Yes, of course we did. But we found nothing.

    OEDIPUS: Why did this man, this wise man, not speak up?

    CREON: I do not know. And when I don’t know something,
          I like to keep my mouth shut.

    OEDIPUS:                               You know enough—                                [570]
          at least you understand enough to say . . .

    CREON: What? If I really do know something
          I will not deny it.

    OEDIPUS:                                                        If Teiresias
          were not working with you, he would not name me                 
          as the one who murdered Laius.

    CREON:                                                 If he says this,
          well, you’re the one who knows. But I think
          the time has come for me to question you
          the way that you’ve been questioning me.

    OEDIPUS: Ask all you want. You’ll not prove
          that I’m the murderer.

    CREON:                                     Then tell me this—
          are you not married to my sister?

    OEDIPUS: Since you ask me, yes. I don’t deny that.

    CREON: And you two rule this land as equals?

    OEDIPUS: Whatever she desires, she gets from me.                      700        [580]

    CREON: And am I not third, equal to you both?

    OEDIPUS: That’s what makes your friendship so deceitful.

    CREON: No, not if you think this through, as I do.
          First, consider this. In your view, would anyone
          prefer to rule and have to cope with fear
          rather than live in peace, carefree and safe,
          if his powers were the same? I, for one,
          have no natural desire to be king
          in preference to performing royal acts.
          The same is true of any other man                                            
          whose understanding grasps things properly.
          For now I get everything I want from you,                                         
          but without the fear. If I were king myself,
          I’d be doing many things against my will.
          So how can being a king be sweeter to me
          than royal power without anxiety?
          I am not yet so mistaken in my mind
          that I want things which bring no benefits.
          Now I greet all men, and they all welcome me.
          Those who wish to get something from you                             
          now flatter me, since I’m the one who brings
          success in what they want. So why would I
          give up such benefits for something else?
          A mind that’s wise will not turn treacherous.                                     
          It’s not my nature to love such policies.
          And if another man pursued such things,
          I’d not work with him. I couldn’t bear to.
          If you want proof of this, then go to Delphi.
          Ask the prophet if I brought back to you
          exactly what was said. At that point,                                        
          if you discover I have planned something,
          that I’ve conspired with Teiresias,
          then arrest me and have me put to death,
          not just on your own authority,
          but on mine as well, a double judgment.
          Do not condemn me on an unproved charge.
          It's not fair to judge these things by guesswork,
          to assume bad men are good or good men bad.                                  
          In my view, to throw away a noble friend
          is like a man who parts with his own life,                                 
          the thing most dear to him. Give it some time.
          Then you’ll see clearly, since only time
          can fully validate a man who’s true.
          A bad man is exposed in just one day.

    CHORUS LEADER: For a man concerned about being killed,
          my lord, he has spoken eloquently.
          Those who are unreliable give rash advice.

    OEDIPUS: If some conspirator moves against me,
          in secret and with speed, I must be quick
          to make my counter plans. If I just rest                                    
          and wait for him to act, then he’ll succeed                                         
          in what he wants to do, and I’ll be finished.

    CREON: What do you want—to exile me from here?

    OEDIPUS: No. I want you to die, not just run off—
          so I can demonstrate what envy means.

    CREON: You are determined not to change your mind
          or listen to me?

    OEDIPUS:                               You’ll not convince me,
          for there’s no way that I can trust you.

    CREON: I can see that you’ve become unbalanced.*

    OEDIPUS: I’m sane enough to defend my interests.                       760

    CREON: You should be protecting mine as well.

    OEDIPUS: But you’re a treacherous man. It’s your nature.

    CREON: What if you are wrong?

    OEDIPUS:                                     I still have to govern.

    CREON: Not if you do it badly.

    OEDIPUS:                                           Oh Thebes
          my city!

    CREON: I have some rights in Thebes as well—                                     [630]
          it is not yours alone.

    [The palace doors open]

    CHORUS LEADER:                         My lords, an end to this.
          I see Jocasta coming from the palace,
          and just in time. With her assistance
          you should bring this quarrel to a close.

    [Enter JOCASTA from the palace]

    JOCASTA: You foolish men, why are you arguing                          770
          in such a silly way? With our land so sick,
          are you not ashamed to start a private fight?
          You, Oedipus, go in the house, and you,
          Creon, return to yours. Why blow up
          a trivial matter into something huge?

    CREON: Sister, your husband Oedipus intends
          to punish me in one of two dreadful ways—                                      
          to banish me from my fathers’ country
          or arrest me and then have me killed.

    OEDIPUS:                                                 That’s right.
          Lady, I caught him committing treason,                                   
          conspiring against my royal authority.

    CREON: Let me not prosper but die a man accursed,
          if I have done what you accuse me of.

    JOCASTA:                                                       Oedipus,
          for the sake of the gods, trust him in this.
          Respect that oath he made before all heaven—
          do it for my sake and for those around you.

    CHORUS LEADER: I beg you, my lord, consent to this—
          agree with her.                                                                                    

    OEDIPUS:                                     What is it then
          you’re asking me to do?

    CHORUS LEADER:             Pay Creon due respect.
          He has not been foolish in the past, and now                           
          that oath he’s sworn has power.

    OEDIPUS:                                     Are you aware
          just what you’re asking?

    CHORUS LEADER:                         Yes. I understand.

    OEDIPUS: Then tell me exactly what you’re saying.

    CHORUS LEADER: You should not accuse a friend of yours
          and thus dishonour him with a mere story
          which may not be true, when he’s sworn an oath
          and therefore could be subject to a curse.

    OEDIPUS: By this point you should clearly understand,
          when you request this, what you are doing—
          seeking to exile me from Thebes or kill me.                             

    CHORUS LEADER: No, no, by sacred Helios, the god                          [660]
          who stands pre-eminent before the rest,
          may I die the most miserable of deaths,
          abandoned by the gods and by my friends,
          if I have ever harboured such a thought!
          But the destruction of our land wears down
          the troubled heart within me—and so does this,
          if you two add new problems to the ones
          which have for so long been afflicting  us.

    OEDIPUS: Let him go, then, even though it’s clear                        810
          I must be killed or sent from here in exile,
          forced out in disgrace. I have been moved                                         
          to act compassionately by what you said,
          not by Creon’s words. But if he stays here,
          he will be hateful to me.

    CREON:                               You are obstinate—
          obviously unhappy to concede,
          and when you lose your temper, you go too far.
          But men like that find it most difficult
          to tolerate themselves. In that there’s justice.

    OEDIPUS: Why not go—just leave me alone?

    CREON:                                                       I’ll leave—                 820
          since I see you do not understand me.
          But these men here know I’m a reasonable man.

    [Exit CREON away from the palace, leaving OEDIPUS and JOCASTA and the CHORUS on stage]