The messenger in scene IV arrives unexpectedly. His role is to bring Oedipus the news that his father, Populous, has died, and now the people of Corinth want Oedipus to rule over them as king. The messenger is seemingly informal yet polite when he addresses Jotas. He states in so many words that he has some good news and some bad news. First, he tells her what he seems to think is the “good” newsвЂ”the people of Corinth want Oedipus as their king. When asked why Populous is no longer in power, the messenger casually replies, “Death has got him in the tomb. (Sophocles 1467) He seems nonchalant and matter-of-fact when revealing that Populous is dead. His flat affect and calm demeanor are consistent with the tone of the fourth scene in relation to structure of the falling action of the play. He is not outwardly dramatic; he merely states the facts, which come as news not only to both Jotas and Oedipus but also to the audience as well. Jotas, seemingly elated at the news of Populous’ death, calls for a servant to go tell Oedipus.
Oedipus, true to character, is reluctant to believe it. He demands to hear it from the messenger’s lips. The messenger, who himself was slightly off-putting in his informal, unfiltered delivery of the news to Jotas, does not seem himself to be off- put by Jotas and Oedipus’ strange reaction and behavior. He merely insinuates he’s confused as to why Oedipus wants to hear the “bad” news first, not the “good” news. The messenger then repeats that Populous is dead, and he speculates it was due to old age.
There is a marked difference in the way this messenger communicates with the king in comparison to the way others, such as the priest and chorus of people of Thebes, addressed him. While everyone else chose their words carefully around Oedipus, always mindful of the consequences of upsetting the king, this messenger Just blurts out the truth. I believe that had the messenger been overly flattering towards Oedipus or regarded him with the same respect and reverence that the people of Thebes had, Oedipus probably would have questioned the motives behind the messenger’s news and whether or not it was true.
On the contrary, this messenger’s matter-of-fact delivery of the news to king Oedipus is accepted by Oedipus without question. This is even more interesting because to Oedipus, this man is a complete stranger. Oedipus accused his own brother-in-law of lying and plotting against him and withholding information, yet he accepts the news from the messenger without so much as knowing the messenger’s name. Obviously, this is because Oedipus thinks he is hearing what he’s wanted to hear all alongвЂ”he did not kill his father, and the prophecies were all a hoax.
Unfortunately for Oedipus, the messenger clarifies the actual truth in very simple terms with the same take-it-or-leave-it attitude: Populous was not Oedipus’ father. The mountain near Thebes, he came across another shepherd, a servant of Alias, who as ordered to leave King Alias’ baby, being Oedipus, on the mountain, his ankles pinned. Alias’ servant gave the baby to the messenger, who gave the baby to King Populous, who raised Oedipus as his own son, despite the fact that Oedipus was not actually his own blood.
Oedipus orders his servants to find the shepherd this messenger spoke of, and when the shepherd is presented to Oedipus, the messenger and the leader both confirm the shepherd’s identity. In Just a few brief sentences, the messenger effectively communicated the truth of his message to king Oedipus, hush leading Oedipus to discover the truth he’d been searching for all along, although he ends up regretting what he knows. 2. ) Initially, Oedipus and Jotas are almost giddy when they hear the news of Populous’ death.
Oedipus goes on a tangential rant about how relieved and happy he is at the news of his father’s death because he couldn’t possibly have caused it, after all he had been in Thebes all along, although maybe his absence from his father could have possibly contributed a little to his father’s death, but he didn’t actually stick a sword in his father so technically he didn’t kill him, and all the prophecies he ad feared were gone. However, when he remembers his mother is still alive and there’s still the possibility he could sleep with her, he goes back to brooding, stating as long as she’s alive, he can never be sure to escape the prophecy.
Jotas dismisses this, stating that lots of men have nightmares about sleeping with their mothers, and it’s a common fear among mean, but he can’t let it keep him from living. “Take such things for shadows, nothing at all–” she says, “live, Oedipus, as if there’s no tomorrow! ” (Sophocles 1469) The messenger then proceeds to reveal the truth that Populous was not Oedipus’ real ether, and he doesn’t need to worry about sleeping with Improper, because she is not his real mother. The truth unfolds from there.
With this information now out in the open, Jotas finally realizes that Oedipus is for sure her son, and Oedipus himself is about to hear the truth first hand from the mouth of shepherd who took Oedipus from her many years ago under her instructions to leave Oedipus for dead on the mountain. This revelation of the truth and the pending disaster about to take place prompt Jotas to intervene. She first tries to dispute the validity of the messenger’s words, then in desperation she begs ND pleads for Oedipus to stop talking to the messenger and stop looking for what is sure to be a very painful truth, and she wants what’s best for him.
When Oedipus refuses to stop, attributing her resistance to know the truth to her being stuck up and not wanting to be discovered as possibly married to someone lowly, she abandons her drastic attempts to stop him. She screams, then proclaims, “… Man of agonyвЂ”that is the only name I have for you, that, no otherвЂ”ever, ever, ever! ” (Sophocles 1471) She makes a dramatic exit, flinging herself through the palace doors and exiting the scene. Sat . The messenger from Corinth verbalizes in detail the context of his prior interactions with the shepherd, and the shepherd becomes angry with the messenger for speaking the truth so boldly.
Oedipus tortures the shepherd into finally telling Oedipus the entire truth. The shepherd concludes by telling Oedipus, “If you are the man [the messenger from Corinth] says you are, believe me, you were born for pain”(Sophocles 1475). Realizing the prophecy he had been so afraid of had come true– and had been true all this time– Oedipus cries out, “O godвЂ”all come true, all burst to light! O light – now et me look my last on you! I stand revealed at last – cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands! (Sophocles 1475) He then exits the same way Jotas exited, bursting through the palace doors while wailing. I am not surprised at the reactions of Jotas or Oedipus to the truth. They Just found out they’ve been in an incestuous relationship that had been prophesied to the both of them many times over their lives. Octant’s reaction is in direct proportion to the guilt, disgust and horror she feels knowing that her actions are essentially what enabled the prophecy to come true in the end.
Oedipus’ entire existence is based on the prophecy, so essentially, no matter what he did, his free will was never really free will, because in free will he left Corinth in an attempt to avoid fulfilling the prophecy, and in free will he killed the men at the intersection of the 3 crossroads, and in free will he accepted the kingship of Thebes and Jotas as his wife. I believe the helplessness Oedipus feels when he discovers that all of his efforts have been in vain is what makes this story truly tragic.
The dramatic conclusion to the story, while perhaps melodramatic in the context of today’s world, is a mere inevitable tragic outcome predestined to happen to two people who seem cursed from the beginning of the play. Had any of the elements contributing to the climactic end of the play been absent, perhaps their reactions would seemingly be interpreted as over reactive or disproportionate to the actual levity of the situation. However, collectively, the events leading up to the truth revelation and the audience’s understanding of the irony of the situation warrant the reactions of the characters in the end of the play.