Primary Source

Sophocles, Oedipus the King


Oedipus the King, also known as Oedipus Rex, is an ancient greek play written by the Athenian philosopher, Sophocles, around 420 BCE. The text presented is an excerpted portion from the second half of the play.

This source is a part of the Diversity and Change in Greco-Roman Religious Beliefs teaching module.

Sophocles, Oedipus the King, c. 420 BCE.


[OEDIPUS enters through the palace doors]

An awful fate for human eyes to witness,
an appalling sight—the worst I’ve ever seen.
O you poor man, what madness came on you? 1550
What eternal force pounced on your life [1300]
and, springing further than the longest leap,
brought you this fearful doom? Alas! Alas!
You unhappy man! I cannot look at you.
I want to ask you many things—there’s much
I wish to learn. You fill me with such horror,
yet there is so much I must see.

Aaaiiii, aaaiii . . . Alas! Alas!
How miserable I am . . . such wretchedness . . .
Where do I go? How can the wings of air 1560 [1310]
sweep up my voice? O my destiny,
how far you have sprung now!

To a fearful place from which men turn away,
a place they hate to look upon.

O the dark horror engulfing me,
this nameless visitor I can’t resist
swept here by fair and fatal winds.
Alas for me! And yet again, alas for me!
The pain of stabbing brooches pierces me!
The memory of agonizing shame! 1570

In your distress it’s not astonishing
you bear a double load of suffering, [1320]
a double load of pain.

Ah, my friend,
so you still care for me, as always,
and with patience nurse me now I’m blind.
Alas! Alas! You are not hidden from me—
I recognize you all too clearly.
Though I am blind, I know that voice so well.

You have carried out such dreadful things—
how could you dare to blind yourself this way? 1580
What god drove you to it?

It was Apollo, friends.
It was Apollo. He brought on these troubles— [1330]
the awful things I suffer. But the hand
which stabbed out my eyes was mine alone.
In my wretched life, why should I have eyes
when there was nothing sweet for me to see?

What you have said is true enough.

What is there for me to see, my friends?
What can I love? Whose greeting can I hear
and feel delight? Hurry now, my friends, 1590 [1340]
lead me away from Thebes—take me somewhere,
a man completely lost, utterly accursed,
the mortal man the gods despise the most.

Unhappy in your fate and in your mind
which now knows all. Would I had never known you!

How to Cite This Source
Sophocles, Oedipus the King in World History Commons,