• [Enter OEDIPUS from the palace]

    OEDIPUS:                                           Ah, Jocasta,
          my dearest wife, why have you summoned me                                   
          to leave our home and come out here?

    JOCASTA: You must hear this man, and as you listen,
          decide for yourself what these prophecies,                              
          these solemn proclamations from the gods,
          amount to.

    OEDIPUS:                         Who is this man? What report
          does he have for me?

    JOCASTA:                               He comes from Corinth,
          bringing news that Polybus, your father,
          no longer is alive. He’s dead.

    OEDIPUS:                                                       What?
          Stranger, let me hear from you in person.

    MESSENGER: If I must first report my news quite plainly,
          then I should let you know that Polybus
          has passed away. He’s gone.

    OEDIPUS:                                     By treachery,
          or was it the result of some disease?                                        
    1140        [960]

    MESSENGER: With old bodies a slight weight on the scales
          brings final peace.

    OEDIPUS:                         Apparently his death
          was from an illness?

    MESSENGER:                         Yes, and from old age.

    OEDIPUS: Alas! Indeed, lady, why should any man
          pay due reverence to Apollo’s shrine,
          where his prophet lives, or to those birds
          which scream out overhead? For they foretold
          that I was going to murder my own father.
          But now he’s dead and lies beneath the earth,
          and I am here. I never touched my spear.                                
          Perhaps he died from a desire to see me—
          so in that sense I brought about his death.                                         
          But as for those prophetic oracles,
          they’re worthless. Polybus has taken them
          to Hades, where he lies.

    JOCASTA:                               Was I not the one
          who predicted this some time ago?

    OEDIPUS:                                     You did,
          but then I was misguided by my fears.

    JOCASTA: You must not keep on filling up your heart
          with all these things.

    OEDIPUS:                               But my mother’s bed—
          I am afraid of that. And surely I should be?                             

    JOCASTA: Why should a man whose life seems ruled by chance
          live in fear—a man who never looks ahead,
          who has no certain vision of his future?
          It’s best to live haphazardly, as best one can.
          Do not worry you will wed your mother.                                            
          It’s true that in their dreams a lot of men
          have slept with their own mothers, but someone
          who ignores all this bears life more easily.

    OEDIPUS: Everything you say would be commendable,
          if my mother were not still alive.                                             
          But since she is, I must remain afraid,
          although what you are saying is right.

    JOCASTA:                                                       But still,
          your father’s death is a great comfort to us.

    OEDIPUS: Yes, it is good, I know. But I do fear
          that lady—she is still alive.

    MESSENGER:                         This one you fear,
          what kind of woman is she?

    OEDIPUS:                                     Old man,
          her name is Merope, wife to Polybus.                                                 

    MESSENGER: And what in her makes you so fearful?

    OEDIPUS                                               Stranger,
          a dreadful prophecy sent from the god.

    MESSENGER: Is it well known? Or something private,               1180
          which another person has no right to know?

    OEDIPUS: No, no. It’s public knowledge. Loxias
          once said it was my fate that I would marry
          my own mother and shed my father’s blood
          with my own hands. That’s why, many years ago,
          I left my home in Corinth. Things turned out well,
          but nonetheless it gives the sweetest joy
          to look into the eyes of one’s own parents.

    MESSENGER: And because you were afraid of her                                [1000]
          you stayed away from Corinth?

    OEDIPUS:                                           And because                      1190
          I did not want to be my father’s killer.

    MESSENGER: My lord, since I came to make you happy,
          why don’t I relieve you of this fear?

    OEDIPUS: You would receive from me a worthy thanks.

    MESSENGER: That’s really why I came—so your return
          might prove a benefit to me back home.

    OEDIPUS: But I will never go back to my parents.

    MESSENGER: My son, it is so clear you have no idea
          what you are doing . . .

    OEDIPUS: [interrupting]             What do you mean, old man?
          In the name of all the gods, tell me.                                         

    MESSENGER: . . . if that’s the reason you’re a fugitive                          [1010]
          and won’t go home.

    OEDIPUS:                   I feared Apollo’s prophecy
          might reveal itself in me.

    MESSENGER:                                     You were afraid
          you might become corrupted through your parents?

    OEDIPUS: That’s right, old man. That was my constant fear.

    MESSENGER: Are you aware these fears of yours are groundless?

    OEDIPUS: And why is that? If I was born their child . . .

    MESSENGER: Because you and Polybus were not related.

    OEDIPUS: What do you mean? Was not Polybus my father?

    MESSENGER: He was as much your father as this man here,      1210
          no more, no less.

    OEDIPUS:                         But how can any man
          who means nothing to me be the same
          as my own father?

    MESSENGER:                               But Polybus
          was not your father, no more than I am.                                            

    OEDIPUS: Then why did he call me his son?

    MESSENGER:                                     If you must know,
          he received you many years ago as a gift.
          I gave you to him.

    OEDIPUS:                         He really loved me.
          How could he if I came from someone else?

    MESSENGER: Well, before you came, he had no children—
          that made him love you.

    OEDIPUS:                   When you gave me to him,                        1220
          had you bought me or found me by accident?

    MESSENGER: I found you in Cithaeron’s forest valleys.

    OEDIPUS: What were you doing wandering up there?

    MESSENGER: I was looking after flocks of sheep.

    OEDIPUS: You were a shepherd, just a hired servant
          roaming here and there?

    MESSENGER:                         Yes, my son, I was.
          But at that time I was the one who saved you.                                   

    OEDIPUS: When you picked me up and took me off,
          what sort of suffering was I going through?

    MESSENGER: The ankles on your feet could tell you that.          1230

    OEDIPUS: Ah, my old misfortune. Why mention that?

    MESSENGER: Your ankles had been pierced and tied together.
          I set them free.

    OEDIPUS:                               My dreadful mark of shame—
          I’ve had that scar there since I was a child.

    MESSENGER: That’s why fortune gave you your very name,
          the one which you still carry.

    OEDIPUS:                                                 Tell me,
          in the name of heaven, why did my parents,
          my father or my mother, do this to me?

    MESSENGER: I don’t know. The man who gave you to me
          knows more of that than I do.

    OEDIPUS:                               You mean to say                            1240
          you got me from someone else? It wasn’t you
          who stumbled on me?

    MESSENGER:                               No, it wasn’t me.
          Another shepherd gave you to me.                                                     

    OEDIPUS:                                                 Who?
          Who was he? Do you know? Can you tell me
          any details, ones you know for certain?

    MESSENGER: Well, I think he was one of Laius’ servants—
          that’s what people said.

    OEDIPUS:                                     You mean king Laius,
          the one who ruled this country years ago?

    MESSENGER: That’s right. He was one of the king’s shepherds.

    OEDIPUS: Is he still alive? Can I still see him?                             1250

    MESSENGER: You people live here. You’d best answer that.

    OEDIPUS: [turning to the Chorus]  Do any of you here now know the man,
          this shepherd he describes? Have you seen him,
          either in the fields or here in Thebes?
          Answer me. It’s critical, time at last
          to find out what this means.                                                               

    CHORUS LEADER:                   The man he mentioned
          is, I think, the very peasant from the fields
          you wanted to see earlier. But of this
          Jocasta could tell more than anyone.

    OEDIPUS: Lady, do you know the man we sent for—                  1260
          just minutes ago—the one we summoned here?
          Is he the one this messenger refers to?

    JOCASTA: Why ask me what he means? Forget all that.
          There’s no point in trying to sort out what he said.

    OEDIPUS: With all these indications of the truth
          here in my grasp, I cannot end this now.
          I must reveal the details of my birth.

    JOCASTA: In the name of the gods, no! If you have                                [1060]
          some concern for your own life, then stop!
          Do not keep investigating this.                                                
          I will suffer—that will be enough.

    OEDIPUS: Be brave. Even if I should turn out to be
          born from a shameful mother, whose family
          for three generations have been slaves,
          you will still have your noble lineage.

    JOCASTA: Listen to me, I beg you. Do not do this.

    OEDIPUS: I will not be convinced I should not learn
          the whole truth of what these facts amount to.

    JOCASTA: But I care about your own well being—
          what I tell you is for your benefit.                                            

    OEDIPUS: What you’re telling me for my own good
          just brings me more distress.

    JOCASTA:                               Oh, you unhappy man!
          May you never find out who you really are!

    OEDIPUS: [to Chorus] Go, one of you, and bring that shepherd here.
          Leave the lady to enjoy her noble family.                                           

    JOCASTA: Alas, you poor miserable man!
          There’s nothing more that I can say to you.
          And now I’ll never speak again.

    [JOCASTA runs into the palace]

    CHORUS LEADER: Why has the queen rushed off, Oedipus,
          so full of grief? I fear a disastrous storm                                  
          will soon break through her silence.

    OEDIPUS:                                           Then let it break,
          whatever it is. As for myself,
          no matter how base born my family,
          I wish to know the seed from where I came.
          Perhaps my queen is now ashamed of me
          and of my insignificant origin—
          she likes to play the noble lady.
          But I will never feel myself dishonoured.                                           
          I see myself as a child of fortune—
          and she is generous, that mother of mine                                
          from whom I spring, and the months, my siblings,
          have seen me by turns both small and great.
          That’s how I was born. I cannot change
          to someone else, nor can I ever cease
          from seeking out the facts of my own birth.

    CHORUS: If I have any power of prophecy
          or skill in knowing things,
          then, by the Olympian deities,
          you, Cithaeron, at tomorrow’s moon                                                  
          will surely know that Oedipus                                                 
          pays tribute to you as his native land
          both as his mother and his nurse,
          and that our choral dance and song
          acknowledge you because you are
          so pleasing to our king.
          O Phoebus, we cry out to you—
          may our song fill you with delight!

          Who gave birth to you, my child?
          Which one of the immortal gods
          bore you to your father Pan,                                                    
    1320       [1100]
          who roams the mountainsides?
          Was it some daughter of Apollo,
          the god who loves all country fields?
          Perhaps Cyllene’s royal king?
          Or was it the Bacchanalian god
          dwelling on the mountain tops
          who took you as a new-born joy
          from maiden nymphs of Helicon
          with whom he often romps and plays?

    OEDIPUS: [looking out away from the palace]
          You elders, although I’ve never seen the man                         
    1330        [1110]
          we’ve been looking for a long time now,
          if I had to guess, I think I see him.
          He’s coming here. He looks very old—
          as is appropriate, if he’s the one.
          And I know the people coming with him,
          servants of mine. But if you’ve seen him before,
          you’ll recognize him better than I will.

    CHORUS LEADER: Yes, I recognize the man. There’s no doubt.
          He worked for Laius—a trusty shepherd.

    [Enter SERVANT, an old shepherd]