Quotes in Oedipus the King

Below are several of the most famous quotes from Oedipus the King by Sophocles. Each has an accompanying annotation with analysis.

Quotes Examples in Oedipus the King:

Oedipus the King 6

"Look ye, countrymen and Thebans, this is Oedipus the great, He who knew the Sphinx's riddle and was mightiest in our state...."   (Oedipus the King)

In the closing of this drama, the Chorus tells the audience that while Oedipus's deeds were good, Fate still prevailed. The Chorus's message reminds the audience that as long as Fate has control, there can be no true happiness. One's skills, qualities, and faithfulness to the gods mean little if Fate has already placed that person on a particular path.

"Why didst thou harbor me, Cithaeron, why Didst thou not take and slay me? Then I never Had shown to men the secret of my birth...."   (Oedipus the King)

Oedipus’s wife and mother, Jocasta, has killed herself, and Oedipus realizes that all Tiresias has said would come to pass has. Until this point, Oedipus had egotistically considered himself blameless and the hero of Thebes. Now that he has unassailable proof of the charges against him, Oedipus finally bows to Fate. He stabs his own eyes out with the pins that once held Jocasta’s gown, accepts responsibility for his actions, and begins to ask for forgiveness.

"My curse on him whoe'er unrived The waif's fell fetters and my life revived!..."   (Oedipus the King)

Having gouged out his own eyes after Jocasta’s suicide, Oedipus is led out before the people. Blinded and soon to be exiled, he curses the shepherd who saved him as a child, claiming that his life was not a mercy and that he has only condemned those he loves. The Chorus agrees. Oedipus accepts that his children have been cursed by Fate and that he alone is guilty for this.

"Why should a mortal man, the sport of chance, With no assured foreknowledge, be afraid?..."   (Oedipus the King)

Oedipus has grown up believing Polybus and Merope to be his parents. In this exchange, while Oedipus grieves over his father’s death, he is pleased that this part of prophecy has been proved false. He expresses his worry about the other part, and Jocasta tells him that it is chance, not Fate, that rules lives. She mocks Fate, telling Oedipus that no one can see the future and that all prophecies are false. Her belief is that it is best to live in the moment rather than in obedience to Fate.

"Thy Thebans? am not I a Theban too? ..."   (Oedipus the King)

At this point in the tale, Creon is an advisor and one of the three named rulers of Thebes. He vehemently denies Oedipus's charge of treason, saying that his life is easier without having the burden of leadership. Creon's words show that while he has no ambition for himself, he believes that the law should always be carried out because it is higher than the individual. Oedipus disputes this, however, claiming that the king is the king, regardless of whether he is right or wrong.

"but I came, The simple Oedipus; I stopped her mouth By mother wit, untaught of auguries...."   (Oedipus the King)

The quintessential tragic hero, Oedipus is destined by fate and pride to fall into infamy. In this passage, Oedipus boasts that his own intellectual powers saved Thebes and rages against Tiresias for claiming that Oedipus was to blame for the plague. This rage is clearly born of Oedipus’s pride and his fear that he may prove to be less capable than he presents himself to be.