Oedipus Rex

“Oedipus Rex”, my rust monotype on vintage linen is now on exhibit at Roby King Gallery, 176 Winslow Way E. Bainbridge Island, WA. Jan 3-Feb 2, 2020.

Oedipus was born to Laius, King of Thebes and his Queen Jocasta. At his birth, it was prophesied that this child, Oedipus, would murder his father and marry his mother.  So Laius, frightened, sent Oedipus to be exposed to weather and wild beasts on Mt. Cithaeron.  However, Oedipus did not die, instead he was found and adopted by the King Polybus of Corinth and his Queen.  When Oedipus is called bastard as a young man and told that King Polybus might not be his real father, he left Corinth and journeyed to Delphi and its’ Oracle in search of an answer to his true parentage.

The Delphic Oracle does not tell him who his true family is but does tell him that his destiny is to kill his father and marry his mother.  In order to thwart the prophecy, Oedipus decides never to return to Corinth and his eventual inheritance, but instead to travel and to live in Thebes.  On his way he meets a caravan at a cross roads.  When a man driving one of the caravan wagons orders him to move out of the way, Oedipus, in anger, slays him and the wagons flee before him.

Next, Oedipus encounters the accursed Sphinx who guards the road to Thebes and devours any who fail to answer correctly her riddle.  When she asks;

"A thing there is whose voice is one:
Whose feet are four and two and three.
So mutable a thing is none
That moves in earth or sky or sea.
When on most feet this thing doth go,
Its strength is weakest and pace most slow.",

Oedipus answers correctly, “Man, the ages of Man." and the Sphinx in anger bursts into flame!

When Oedipus reaches the city gates he is welcomed as a hero for defeating the Sphinx.  Thebes’s King had only just been murdered and the citizenry proclaim him their new King!  He accepts and following tradition marries the Queen of Thebes,  Jocasta.

The years pass. Jocasta and Oedipus the King have four children and live happily.  Eventually though, a plague infects the city. When Oedipus instructs his adviser Creon to seek advice from the Oracle at Delphi for its cause, he learns that the plague has happened because the murderer of King Laius has gone unpunished.  Oedipus recalls the man that he killed on his way to Thebes, contemplating the possibility that he is perhaps the killer and invites witnesses so that the issue can be resolved. 

While waiting, a messenger arrives with news that Polybus, King of Corinth, has died and that Oedipus is now King, Oedipus Rex!  When he tells the messenger that he cannot return while his mother is alive because of prophesy, he is told that the Queen of Corinth is not his mother and that as a baby he was given to Polybus by a Theban shepherd.  

Oedipus having now realized the truth, goes to tell Jocasta. She already has learned that the prophesy has been fulfilled and has killed herself.  Overwhelmed by guilt and grief, Oedipus abdicates the thrown to Creon,  blinds himself and begins his sojourn as outcast.

This in an intergenerational Greek tragedy that just keeps on giving but I will stop for now.  Check out my rust print “Oedipus Rex” at Roby King gallery during the month of January, 2020!


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