The First and Last Dialogues of Oedipus

First Dialogue

OEDIPUS: My children, latest born to Cadmus old,
Why sit ye here as suppliants, in your hands
Branches of olive filleted with wool?
And laden thus with wreaths of supplication?
The city fills with incense, and the songs
Of birds, the altars are all rich with offerings,
The priests their hands a burden to the Gods,
And all the people their brows bowed to earth.

In the opening dialogue, Oedipus addresses the citizens of Thebes who have gathered as supplicants in front of his palace. Oedipus is portrayed as a concerned and caring king, acknowledging the distress of his people as the city is suffering from a plague. This initial interaction sets the stage for Oedipus's commitment to solving the crisis and underlines his role as a responsible and respected leader.

Last Dialogue

OEDIPUS: Now as we keep our watch and wait the final day, count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.

Oedipus's last dialogue occurs towards the end of the play, after the revelation of his true identity and the tragic consequences of his actions. In this poignant statement, Oedipus reflects on the nature of human existence. The line "count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last" encapsulates the profound realization of the inevitability of suffering and the transient nature of happiness. This statement is a manifestation of Oedipus's own tragic experience and serves as a universal reflection on the human condition.

Oedipus's first dialogue establishes him as a benevolent and caring leader who is genuinely concerned about the suffering of his people. The use of phrases like "My children" and the detailed description of the city's religious activities emphasize Oedipus's close connection to his subjects. At this point, Oedipus is confident in his ability to resolve the crisis and is unaware of the personal tragedy that awaits him.

In his final dialogue, Oedipus's tone has shifted from confidence to a somber and reflective state. The phrase "count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last" reflects Oedipus's acknowledgment of the profound suffering he has endured. The words convey a sense of resignation and acceptance of the tragic nature of life. Oedipus, once a king filled with hubris, now imparts a lesson about the impermanence of joy and the inevitability of pain.

These two dialogues mark the transformation of Oedipus from a proud and self-assured ruler to a man who has faced the harsh realities of fate. The juxtaposition of the first and last dialogues highlights the tragic arc of Oedipus's character and adds depth to the overall impact of the play.

About Author
Mohammad Ibrahim (Mike)

Educator, Author, Bilingual Poet, Translator & Scholar of Literature.
A senior faculty member at Institute of English, Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, Sindh, Pakistsn

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