Based on the tragedies
Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone by Sophocles
The Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
and The Phoenician Maidens by Euripides
This screenplay has been published in the book 4 SCREENPLAYS. For ordering information, please click here.
INTERIOR CORINTHIAN PALACE - DAY
POLYBUS and MEROPE are sitting on their thrones. Oedipus comes hobbling in on his damaged feet to which he has become accustomed. He approaches Polybus and Merope.
Mother, father, I must talk with you.
My friends are saying that
I don't look like either one of you,
and they have implied I may not be your son.
Polybus and Merope look at each other knowingly.
Have you been fighting again?
When will you learn to control your anger?
What else could I do when they lie?
Of course you are our child, dear Oedipus.
Can you remember any other home or parents?
No, none at all. But what is to come of me?
You are my heir, my son.
You will rule when I have died.
But that is not likely to happen for a long time.
Didn't you tell me once
that one can consult the oracle of Apollo
to find the answer to difficult questions?
Yes, the temple at Delphi is not far from here.
INT. DELPHIC TEMPLE - DAY
Oedipus is consulting with a PRIESTESS.
The gods are offended by your presence here.
You should not be alive at all,
for your fate is horrible and shameful.
Me? What have I done?
You may not have done anything bad yet,
but the signs show you will slay your father
and mate with your own mother.
How awful! I could never do that.
I will never see my parents again.
I will stay away from Corinth from now on.
Depart as quickly as you can!
Or you will pollute this temple.
Oedipus goes out.
EXTERIOR ROADS EXTENDING IN THREE DIRECTIONS - DAY
Oedipus carrying a spear is walking toward Thebes where the three roads meet when a chariot with LAIUS and his charioteer POLYPHONTES arrive on the road from Thebes. A HERALD jogs in front of the chariot and a SERVANT jogs behind it.
Is that the road to Delphi?
Yes, it is. I've just come from there.
Out of the way, young man!
Make way for your betters.
That would be only the gods or my father,
and since you are neither---
You dare defy us?
Get out of our way.
Polyphontes whips the horses, and the wheel of the chariot runs over one of Oedipus's deformed feet, while Laius lashes Oedipus on the head.
By the gods, I'll get you for that.
Oedipus hurls his spear and kills Polyphontes. He then mounts the chariot and wrestles with Laius overcoming the older man. Oedipus pushes Laius off the chariot, but he is entangled in the reins. In anger Oedipus whips the horses, and they take off trampling over the herald and dragging Laius to his death. The servant behind runs away back toward Thebes. When Oedipus realizes that two more men are dead, he gains control of the horses and goes after the other servant on the road; but the servant looks back and then runs off the road into the woods. Oedipus stops the chariot, thinks for a moment, and then drives back to where the three dead men lay. He gets off the chariot and overturns it near the bodies. Then Oedipus takes up his spear and begins to hobble down the road toward Thebes.
INT. PALACE AT THEBES - DAY
JOCASTA sits on the secondary throne and two servant GUARDS are by the door as CREON comes in.
My dear brother Creon,
any reports about the death of King Laius?
They say a servant escaped
and will be returning here soon.
But now my son Haemon has been beaten bloody
by that Egyptian sphinx with the riddle.
What are we going to do
about that Egyptian tribute collector?
Yes, it is oppressive to have
a foreign country sucking our blood
pretending they are civilizing us.
Their kings marry their sisters
thinking they're keeping their family lines pure.
And sometimes even their mothers too.
It's awful. We could never do that.
I know that kings are often killed.
Isn't there a prophecy that
Laius will be killed by his son?
Yes, but we made sure that could not happen.
We have no sons or daughters.
What do we do now without Laius?
You can rule as queen.
I will, if you will assist me.
Of course. I will do all I can.
We must do something about that sphinx.
Announce that whoever rids us of that pest
might win this throne here and my hand
now that we know Laius no longer lives.
Creon nods and goes out.
EXT. MAIN GATE OF THEBES - DAY
Oedipus is stopped by an EGYPTIAN OFFICIAL.
Halt, young man! What gift do you offer?
Must I bring an Egyptian a gift
to enter a Greek city?
Yes, unless you want to try
to answer the riddle of the Sphinx.
I have no gift to offer.
What is the riddle?
What creature has one voice but walks
on four legs, two legs and three legs?
And walks on most when weakest?
I crawled on four legs when a baby.
Now I walk on two legs,
and when I'm old I'll use a staff.
I am that creature.
You are a wise man.
What is your name?
They call me Oedipus,
because my feet are damaged.
You may pass without a gift
for knowing the riddle.
Oedipus walks into Thebes and seeing a small crowd gathered being addressed by HAEMON he approaches to listen.
And so the queen has proclaimed
that whoever can liberate us
from this Egyptian domination may rule with her.
FIRST THEBAN CITIZEN
But we must solve the riddle.
You and many others have been beaten
for not knowing the answer to it.
I solved the riddle.
What did you say?
I answered the riddle just now.
The answer is a man, or a woman.
Why do you allow these Egyptians
to take your goods?
We trade with them,
and their great king has demanded tribute
to pay for his large armies.
I see no large army here.
Most of them have left now.
Then why do you submit to them?
Why don't we tell them to go home?
You have a good point.
SECOND THEBAN CITIZEN
Yes, let's throw the foreigners out.
Will you lead us, young man?
Oedipus walks back to the gate followed by the crowd.
We've decided that it's time for you to leave.
I think you are right.
The Egyptian official walks out the gate. The crowd throngs around Oedipus congratulating and cheering him.
Young man, who are you?
My name is Oedipus.
INT. PALACE AT THEBES - DAY
Creon is conferring with Jocasta again.
And then they went from gate to gate
and expelled every one of the Egyptian officials.
Remarkable. Who is this young man?
He calls himself Oedipus,
and he is a prince from Corinth.
Here he comes with Haemon now.
Haemon and Oedipus come in.
Welcome Corinthian stranger,
and thank you for your leadership,
your wisdom and your courage.
Do you plan to stay in Thebes long?
When do you plan to return to Corinth?
I must not go back to Corinth at all.
Why? Did you commit some crime there?
No, but I fear a prophecy.
I know that prophecies can be fearsome things.
Won't you please stay with us here in Thebes?
Thank you. I think I will.
Please dine with us and be our guest.
INT. PALACE AT THEBES - DAY
Jocasta on the same secondary throne is interviewing the servant who escaped when Laius was killed.
We came to a place where three roads meet.
What happened there?
Oedipus comes in.
Excuse me. May I listen?
Certainly, dear Oedipus.
I'm questioning this man about the death of Laius.
Apparently he was killed on the road to Delphi.
Please sit there on the throne.
I know how your feet can hurt you.
Oedipus sits on the king's throne, as Jocasta turns back to the servant. The servant looks at Oedipus in fear, but Oedipus does not recognize the servant.
Who committed this terrible murder?
They were robbers - several of them.
You were lucky to escape.
Your service to this house will be rewarded.
You shall have a better position.
No, please, I would rather work in the fields.
Let me return to being a shepherd in the hills?
If that is what you want, certainly.
Yes, thank you.
The servant goes out quickly. Jocasta gets up and goes over to Oedipus, sitting next to him on the large throne and putting her arm around him.
My dear Oedipus, you know
I've grown fond of you already.
Now that we know for sure that Laius is dead,
will you marry me and rule here as king?
I know I am older than you are,
but won't you please consider it
for the good of all Thebes?
This seems to be my destiny.
An exile I have fallen into a kingdom.
I would be a fool not to accept your offer.
Jocasta kisses Oedipus while embracing him.
INT. PALACE BEDCHAMBER - NIGHT
Jocasta and Oedipus are in bed together.
You see, Laius was so afraid of the prophecy
that he would not have relations with me.
Now at last I can have children
who will be able to rule after you.
And I can be safe here
far from my parents in Corinth.
EXT. MAIN GATE AT THEBES - DAY
Super: TEN YEARS LATER
Creon approaches the gate which is now attended by a THEBAN GUARD.
Welcome, noble Creon.
Thank you. How is the plague here?
There is no relief; many die every day.
Are you warning strangers who come to visit?
Oh yes, no one comes through the gates
without knowing of the danger.
Did the Delphic oracle offer any hope?
Yes, I've learned the cause of the pollution.
I must speak to King Oedipus.
He saved us from the Egyptian tribute.
May he save us from the plague as well.
INT. THEBAN PALACE - DAY
Oedipus and Jocasta sit on their thrones.
Let us hope that the message your brother brings
will help us to end this terrible pestilence.
I'm sure it will, dear Oedipus.
Thebes has prospered since you came here,
and we've been blessed with four healthy children.
Creon comes in with some THEBAN ELDERS who sit on benches.
Welcome, noble Creon and gentlemen.
What message do you bring from the god?
Good news. If all goes well now,
our troubles may be over.
What did the oracle say?
I waver between hope and fear.
Will you hear the report
before these elders of our city?
Yes, speak before all,
for it is for them more than for me.
They may sit on the benches and listen.
The elders sit down.
These are the words of Apollo:
Pollution caused by a hidden sore
is festering in our city.
We must stop it before it's too late.
Pollution? What must we do?
Murder is the cause of this despair.
We must banish the murderer,
or he must pay with his blood.
Murder? Of whom? Did the god say?
Before you came to rule here,
we had a king named Laius.
I know, but I never saw him.
He was murdered.
The god's command is clear:
we must find the assassin and punish him.
But it's been years since then.
How can he be found now?
He still lives among us.
If we search, we will find him.
Where was Laius killed?
The last we knew he was on his way to Delphi.
Did anyone report what happened?
Was there a witness?
All were killed except one servant who ran away.
What did he say?
He said robbers murdered them.
That's right; I remember that.
Robbers? But why would they murder?
Were they paid assassins?
We considered that,
but we had trouble then
with the riddle of the Egyptian sphinx
and we had no king to lead us.
I intend to get to the truth of this.
Apollo has shown us what we must do.
I thank you for this report,
and together we shall pursue the murderers.
Not just for Laius' but for my own sake,
because such assassins might attack me too.
Summon the witness and investigate the crime.
I will leave nothing untried.
Go make this public proclamation:
If anyone knows who murdered Laius,
let him tell us now.
If he fears for his life,
a confession will bring only banishment.
Let no one protect the assassin with silence.
Any helpful information will be rewarded.
No one may speak to this assassin
or welcome him into their home in Thebes.
We must drive him out
in obedience to the will of Apollo.
For this vicious act I call down curses
on the assassins and everlasting shame.
No one, not even myself, is to be exempt.
I will avenge Laius as I would my own father.
I will leave nothing untried in this investigation.
On those who disobey I call down this curse:
may God make their harvests and women barren;
may they be haunted and know no peace.
As for this city, I pray for justice always.
I have taken an oath also,
and I swear I did not kill the king.
Apollo knows the murderer.
Yes, but who can make a god speak?
There is a possibility.
Tell me, please, anything.
There is a seer who could help us search.
His name is Teiresias.
Yes, by all means, send for him
and search for that servant too.
I'll do it right away.
Creon goes out.
The blind TEIRESIAS is led in by a BOY.
Teiresias, we turn to you as our only hope,
you who can know the secrets of all things.
Apollo has told us we must find Laius' murderers.
Please help us to end this deadly pollution.
How terrible wisdom is
when it does not benefit the wise!
I forgot. I should not have come.
Why? What's wrong?
Let me leave;
it will be better for you and for me.
How can you refuse to serve your city?
Don't you care about the laws of Thebes?
Yes, but your words are out of tune,
and I fear mine would be too.
We are pleading with you:
tell us what you know.
You are blind.
I will not reveal my secrets nor yours.
You know something and yet refuse to speak.
Would you betray us and watch our citizens die?
I will not bring this pain on you or me.
Stop asking me; I will say nothing.
You won't tell us?!
You could make the stones angry.
Not tell us! What will it take?
Know yourself, Oedipus.
You blame me, but it is you.
Who would not be angry
when you refuse our city?
It doesn't matter what I say.
The future is already set.
Then why not say what it is?
Rage on, if you want.
I'll say no more.
I am angry, and I'll tell you what I think.
You must have plotted the crime,
and if you weren't blind,
might have done it yourself.
Oh yeah? Then follow your decree
and speak to no one in this city,
for you are the polluter of this land.
Do you think you can get away with that?
The truth protects me.
Who taught you this?
This is no prophecy.
You have forced me to say it.
Tell me again; I want to understand.
Do you? Why do you provoke me?
I did not grasp it.
Please say it again.
I say that you, Oedipus the tyrant,
are the murderer you seek.
Twice said; you will regret it.
Shall I say more to tempt your anger?
Whatever you want; it won't matter.
I say that you are living in shame
with the woman you love
and don't see your own calamity.
Do you think you can talk like this forever?
Yes, if the truth has power.
It does, but not for you
who are blind and deaf and cracked.
You are wretched to slander me,
when you are about to suffer.
You live in endless night,
but you cannot hurt me
and those who live in daylight.
It's not for me to bring you down,
but it's up to Apollo.
Was this your idea or Creon's?
No, it's not Creon.
You are doing it to yourself.
Creon must be secretly attacking me through you.
Why didn't you solve the riddle of the sphinx?
I came and threw the Egyptians out.
Now you conspire to stand by Creon's throne.
You'll regret it.
If you weren't old,
I'd make you suffer right now.
You are both speaking in anger.
We don't need anger now
but must follow the god's commands.
Though you are king,
I have the right to speak too.
I am not your slave nor is Creon my boss.
I serve only Apollo
and since you mock my blindness
I tell you this:
You have eyes but do not see your sins.
Do you know who your parents are?
You offend the living and the dead.
A deadly footed double scourge
from both father and mother
will drive you from this land.
Darkness will cover your eyes that now see.
When you discover the meaning of your marriage
that you thought was a haven,
more sorrow awaits you than you can know -
a strange equality between you and your children.
Blame Creon and what I say,
but no misery will be as bad as yours.
How much of this can I take?
Leave this house now.
I only came here, because you sent for me.
I wouldn't have sent for you,
if I'd known what madness I'd hear.
To you I'm mad, but not to your parents.
Wait. Who are my parents?
Today will reveal your birth and destroy you.
Why do you speak in riddles?
But aren't you skilled in solving riddles?
You mock the skill that made me great.
A great misfortune that will destroy you.
I don't care, if it saved the city.
I'll go. Come, boy; take me home.
Yes, take him away
so that he may not trouble me anymore.
I'll go after speaking unafraid of you,
for you cannot hurt me.
I tell you the man you seek
and have sentenced to banishment or death
for murdering King Laius
is here living among you as an alien,
but soon it will be known
that he is a native Theban,
and he'll find no joy in that discovery.
His eyes which see now will be blind;
rich now soon he'll be a beggar.
Now he holds a scepter but soon a cane
as he gropes in a foreign land,
both brother and father of his own children,
both son and husband of his consort,
both heir and defiler of his father's bed
whose blood he shed.
Think about this,
and if you find my words are wrong,
then say I am no prophet.
The boy leads Teiresias out.
Creon comes in rather upset. The throne seats are empty.
Citizens, I have come because I heard
the accusation Oedipus made against me.
I will not put up with that.
Doesn't he realize what that slander means?
It would mean I'm a traitor to you, my friends.
He spoke in anger without thinking.
But did he say the prophet lied on my advice?
He said it, but I don't know why.
Was he in his right mind?
I don't know. Here he comes now.
Oedipus comes in from the inner chambers and sits on the throne.
Why have you come, Creon?
How dare you show your face here!
What drove you to try to steal my throne?
Did you think you could get away with it?
Don't you know you need friends
or money behind you to win a crown?
Listen to me and the truth
before you pass your judgment.
Oh, you can speak,
but I've learned you're my enemy.
Will you listen to me?
Just say you're not a traitor.
If you value obstinacy without wisdom,
you're a fool.
And you're a fool if you believe
a criminal will not be punished
because he is related to me.
That is just, but what have I done?
Didn't you tell me to send for that prophet?
I did and would again.
How long since Laius ...
What? I don't follow.
... was murdered?
A long time, maybe ten years.
Was your Teiresias a prophet then?
He was, and respected then too.
Did he mention me then?
No, not that I heard.
Didn't you investigate the murder?
We did, but found nothing.
Why didn't the prophet speak then?
I don't know;
and when I don't know, I don't speak.
But you must know this:
If he had not acted under your instructions,
he never would have accused me of killing Laius.
You know if he said that.
Now I want to question you,
as you have been questioning me.
Ask what you want.
I am not the murderer.
Then tell me: did you marry my sister?
Of course I did.
And do you rule equally with her?
She gets whatever she wants from me.
Am I not third and equal too?
Yes, which is what makes you a traitor.
Not so; look at it reasonably as I have.
Would anyone prefer to rule in fear
when one could have the royal rights
along with untroubled peace?
I don't want to be king but like being royal.
Any wise man would feel the same.
I share the king's prerogatives;
yet you alone must face the dangers.
If I were king,
I would have many unpleasant tasks.
I am not so deluded
as to want more honors than benefit me.
Everyone greets me
and people come to me to gain your favor.
Why should I trade this for a throne?
I'm no traitor nor would I aid treason.
If you want proof, go to Delphi
and ask if I've conspired with the prophet.
Take my life if I have;
but don't condemn me without proof.
You are wrong to judge the innocent guilty.
To throw away a true friend
is like throwing away your life.
You'll know this is true in time.
Time is the test of the honest,
but one day is enough to know a rascal.
He is right, king.
Respect his words and don't be too hasty.
A secret plot can move fast
and must be met with a quick response.
I cannot wait until it is accomplished.
What will you do? Banish me?
No, I'd rather kill you.
Then you don't believe me?
No, you have not persuaded me.
I think you've gone mad.
Not from how I see it.
You should see my view as well.
No, you're a traitor.
But what if you're wrong?
Yet I must rule.
Not if you rule badly.
Thebes! Listen to him.
This is my city too.
Stop this. Here comes Jocasta.
Maybe she can end this quarrel.
Jocasta comes out of the inner chambers and sits on her throne.
Why do you act like fools
and quarrel without reason?
Aren't you ashamed to add to the troubles
of the city that is sick and dying?
Go home, Creon, and leave us alone.
Forget these petty grievances.
Sister, Oedipus, your husband, has threatened me
with either banishment or death.
Yes, for I discovered him
plotting against my person.
May the gods torment me forever
if any of that is true!
For God's sake, believe him, Oedipus.
Spare him because of his oath
and for me and those here.
Listen to her, king; we beg you.
Do you know what you're asking?
Then tell me.
It's wrong to punish a friend
who has invoked a curse upon himself.
It's wrong to dishonor him without proof.
Then you must realize when you ask this,
you're asking for my banishment or death.
By the sun god, no!
May I die without blessing
if I had any such thought!
My heart is torn by the sickness in the city;
that would add to our troubles.
Then let him go,
even if I must die or be banished.
Your words, not his, have moved me.
But wherever Creon is, I shall hate him.
You are cruel in yielding
when your temper is dangerous.
Nature's like yours deserve what they suffer.
Just go and leave me alone.
I go, misjudged by you;
but these men have seen my innocence.
Creon goes out.
Why don't you take him inside, queen?
I will, when I've learned the truth.
Blind suspicion consumed the king,
and Creon's anger flared from unjust accusations.
Both were wrong?
Don't ask; our city has enough troubles.
Let it rest.
Do you see what you've done
with your efforts to soften my anger?
King, I'll say it again.
I'd be a mad fool to turn from you
who saved our city from so many troubles,
set us on a good course,
and may prove a good guide for us now.
Please tell me, dear king,
what roused your anger so much?
because you mean more to me than anyone.
It was Creon and his plots against my throne.
Go on, if you can tell me clearly.
He says I'm guilty of murdering Laius.
By his own knowledge or by information?
He does not use his own mouth,
but sent the false prophet to speak for him.
Then don't worry about it.
I can prove no mortal can foresee the future.
An oracle once came to Laius,
not from Apollo but a priestess,
predicting that he would die
by the hand of his child and mine.
Yet it was reported he was killed by robbers
at a place where three roads meet.
As for the child, when he was three days old,
Laius pierced his ankles and handed him
to someone to throw on a deserted mountain.
So Apollo's oracle was not fulfilled;
the child did not kill his father,
and the fears of Laius proved false,
as he did not die by his son's hands.
So clearly the prophecy was wrong.
Pay no attention to them,
for God will reveal what is needed.
Jocasta, my soul is troubled by your words.
Suddenly my thoughts are wandering disturbed.
What's bothering you?
Your statement that Laius was killed
at a place where three roads meet.
Yes, that was the account then and still is now.
Where is this place of the murder?
In the land of Phocis
the road diverges to Delphi and Daulia.
How long ago was this?
We heard it just before you came here.
Oh Zeus, what have you contrived to do to me?
Why Oedipus, what is troubling you?
Don't ask. Tell me about Laius.
What did he look like? How old was he?
He was tall with gray hair,
and his body was much like yours.
O God, did I curse myself in my ignorance?
You frighten me, king. What is it?
I'm afraid the prophet saw;
but you can show me more
by telling me one more thing.
I'm afraid, but I'll tell you what I know.
Who traveled with the king?
Was he alone or with an escort?
There were four in all
including Laius on the chariot.
Oh, it's clear. Jocasta, who told you this?
A servant, the only one who came home alive.
Is he here now?
No. When he came home and saw you on the throne,
he begged me to send him to the fields as a shepherd.
So I sent him away.
He was a good servant; if he wanted it,
I would have given him a better position.
Could he be brought here right away?
Certainly, but what do you want with him?
Dear Jocasta, I'm afraid I've said too much,
and now I have to see this shepherd.
Then he'll come.
But I have a right to know
the cause of your distress.
Yes, I will tell you.
You know about my parents in Corinth
and the doubts I had about them.
So I consulted the Delphic oracle
and decided not to return to Corinth
because of the horrible prophecy told me.
As I traveled I came to the place
you say the king was murdered.
It's true I was where the three roads meet.
A herald led a chariot
with a man like the one you described.
The driver ordered me out of the road;
but I refused to move, and he ran over my foot.
In anger I threw my spear at him.
The old man reached for the lash
and whipped me on the head;
but he paid for it.
As we struggled he fell from the chariot,
and I killed him as he lay helpless on his back.
I killed them all except one who escaped.
If that man was Laius,
who could be more miserable than I?
I am the one who is to be shunned.
I am the one whom I have cursed.
I have entered the bed of the one I killed.
Am I not evil and unclean?
I am to be banished
even though I already was banished
or else I would marry my mother
and kill my father Polybus who raised me.
What cruel power sent this torture?
O gods, may I never see that day!
I will die before I will see that calamity.
We're afraid too, but you must hope
until you hear the story from the witness.
Yes, my only hope is to wait for the shepherd.
Why? What do you want with him?
I'll tell you.
If his story agrees with yours,
then I am cleared.
What did you notice in what I said?
You mentioned he said robbers killed the king.
If he still says robbers, then I'm not guilty.
But if he speaks of a man traveling alone,
then no doubt the guilt is mine.
You can be sure this is what he said.
The whole city heard it, not just me.
Even if he changes his story,
he can't prove Laius' death was as prophesied,
for Apollo said he would die by my child's hand,
and that poor child is dead.
So as for prophecy, pay no attention.
Right, but still send someone for the shepherd.
I will do immediately what you ask.
But now let us go in.
A MESSENGER comes in.
Strangers, is this the house of Oedipus?
This is his house; he's inside.
But here comes the queen, his wife,
and the mother of his children.
Jocasta comes back in from the inner chambers followed by a MAIDSERVANT.
Blessings on the house of Oedipus,
his children and his wife.
Blessings on you too.
Why have you come? What is it?
Good news, lady,
for your house and your husband.
What news? From where?
I come from Corinth.
My news is joyful but sad too.
What has this double power?
The people will make him king of the isthmus area.
Is Polybus no longer in power in Corinth?
No, for death has taken him away.
Is that so? Is Polybus dead?
If it's not true, may I die.
Jocasta speaks to the maidservant.
Go quickly tell your master.
O oracles, where are your prophecies now?
The man from whom Oedipus fled
lest he be his murderer
now has died and not by Oedipus.
Oedipus comes in from the inner chambers.
Dear Jocasta, why have you sent for me?
Listen to this man and judge for yourself
the value of those holy prophecies.
Who is he? What news does he bring to me?
He's from Corinth
and tells us your father Polybus is dead.
What? Tell me yourself.
If you want to know this first,
I'll tell you clearly: Polybus is dead.
How? By treason or sickness?
It takes little to bring the aged to their rest.
Then it was sickness.
The poor old man.
Sickness, yes, and many years.
Oh Jocasta! Why should we look at oracles?
They prophesied I'd kill my father;
but he's dead and in his grave
while I stand here
never having touched a weapon against him
unless he died of longing for his son
and that makes me his murderer.
Where are those oracles now?
They are as dead as Polybus himself.
That's what I've been telling you.
You have, but I was misled by my fear.
So don't worry about those any more.
But still I must fear my mother's bed.
Why should mortals fear when chance rules all?
How can we know the future?
It's better to live now while you can.
Don't fear union with your mother.
In dreams men may enter their mothers' beds
and lie with them possessing them;
but the one who sees this is nothing
can live without fear.
You would be right, Jocasta,
if my mother were dead;
but she is alive and no matter what you say,
I have reason to fear.
Yet there is comfort in your father's death.
Yes, some comfort,
but I still fear her who lives.
Who is the woman you fear?
Queen Merope, old man, the wife of Polybus.
Why do you fear her?
Because of a dreadful oracle from the gods.
Are you allowed to tell me what it is?
Yes. Loxian Apollo said I would marry my mother
and murder my father with my own hands.
That's why I left Corinth long ago, happily,
though it's sweet to see the face of parents.
Is this the fear that drove you out of Corinth?
Yes, I did not want to kill my father.
But I can free you from this fear,
since I have come to you in goodwill.
You will have my gratitude if you do.
This is why I came - to earn your thanks
when I have brought you safely home.
No, I will never go near my parents.
Son, it's clear you don't realize what you're doing.
What do you mean, old man?
For God's sake, tell me.
If it's for these reasons you fear going home.
I'm afraid that Phoebus may prove himself true.
Do you fear the stain of guilt through your parents?
Yes, old man, that is my constant fear.
Then you should realize
that your fears are groundless.
How can that be if I am their son?
Because Polybus was no relation to you in blood.
What, was Polybus not my father?
No more than I am.
How can that be?
Then why did he call me his son?
You were a gift to him from me.
A gift? From you? He loved me like a son.
Yes, because he had been childless.
When you gave me to him,
was I a child you had bought or found?
I found you on the hills of Cithaeron.
Why were you there?
I was tending sheep on the mountain.
Then were you a hired shepherd?
Yes, a hired shepherd who saved your life then.
What was wrong with me
when you took me in your arms?
Your ankles are the proof of that.
What has that old pain have to do with it?
I freed your ankles that had been pierced.
Yes, I've had this stigma since infancy.
So that's why you're called Clubfoot - Oedipus.
Who did this to me: my father? or my mother?
I don't know;
but the one who gave you to me
knows more than I.
You mean you didn't find me,
but someone gave me to you?
Yes, another shepherd.
Who? Do you remember who he was?
I think he was in the household of Laius.
Do you mean the king who ruled the city?
Yes, he was his shepherd.
Is he still alive? Could I see him?
You who live here would know that.
Does anyone here know this shepherd?
Have you seen him in the fields or city?
Tell me now.
It's time to find out about these things.
I think it's the shepherd you already sent for;
but the queen will know best.
Jocasta, do you know about this man?
Is it the same shepherd we sent for?
Why ask about him? Disregard it.
Pay no attention to what he said.
It's a waste of time.
With these clues I could solve
the mystery of my own birth.
For God's sake, if you care about your own life,
don't go on with this.
I can't bear any more.
Don't worry, Jocasta.
Even if I'm a slave in the third generation,
it's no stain on your nobility.
Oedipus, I beg you, don't do this.
I won't be persuaded to lose the chance
to find out the whole truth.
It's for your own good that I give you this advice.
Then this good advice vexes my patience.
God help you and keep you
from knowing what you are.
Someone go and bring that shepherd to me.
Let the queen find joy in her noble birth.
O miserable Oedipus! That is all I can call you,
and the last thing I shall ever call you.
Jocasta runs into the inner chambers.
Why has the queen left in this wild grief?
I'm afraid this silence will burst into horror.
Let it burst!
I still want to know
the secret of my birth however low.
She has a woman's pride
and is ashamed for my humble birth.
But I consider myself a child of good Fortune,
and I'll not be ashamed.
Fortune is my mother
and the months my sisters.
This is my family,
and I'll never be false to it
or fail to search for the secret of my birth.
Oedipus goes into the inner chambers.
Oedipus comes out of the inner chambers and sees the SERVANT standing next to the elders.
Could this be the shepherd?
He's as old as the Corinthian.
Perhaps you know, is he the shepherd?
Yes, I recognize him.
He was a shepherd for Laius and quite loyal.
Corinthian, I ask you, is this the man you mean?
Yes, this is the man.
Oedipus sits on his throne.
Old man, look at me and answer my questions.
Were you a servant of King Laius?
I was, but I was not purchased;
I was raised in his house.
What was your work and way of life?
Tending flocks most of my life.
Where did you tend flocks?
Cithaeron and that area.
Have you seen this man there?
What do you mean? Doing what?
This man. Have you ever met him before?
No, not that I can remember.
It's not surprising, master.
But I'll help him remember.
I'm sure he knows the land of Cithaeron
where we spent six months from spring to autumn
every year for three years.
In the winter I drove my flock to Corinth
and he his two flocks to the fold of Laius.
Isn't that right?
That's true, but it was a long time ago.
Do you remember giving me a child
to bring up as my own?
What is this? Why are you asking me this?
Look, my friend, this man was that child.
Death take you! Won't you keep your mouth shut.
No, don't find fault with him, old man.
You are more at fault than he.
But master, what have I done wrong?
You're refusing to answer
his question about the child.
He doesn't know what he's talking about.
If you don't answer freely,
you'll be made to with pain.
Please, sir, don't hurt an old man.
You there, twist his arms behind his back.
A guard obeys the order.
Why? What do you want to know?
Did you give that child to him?
I did, but I wish I'd died the day I did.
You'll get your wish, unless you tell the truth.
If I tell, it'll be worse.
Still he tries to delay.
I said I gave him the child.
Where did you get it?
Was it yours or someone else's?
Not mine, someone else's.
Whose? From what house?
Master, I beg you not to ask me any more.
Oedipus nods to the guard to tighten his hold.
I'm asking you for the last time.
The child was from the house of Laius.
A slave or of his own line?
Oh, I am on the brink of fearful speech.
And I of fearful hearing, but I must hear.
They said it was his child,
but the queen could tell you best.
Why? Did she give you the child.
To kill him.
Her own child?
Yes, because she was terrified
of a dreadful prophecy.
That the child would kill his father.
Then why did you give him to this man?
I felt sorry for him, master.
I thought he would take him home.
But he saved him for more terrible troubles.
If you are the man he says you are,
you were born for suffering.
Oh, I see it all now clearly!
Light, I will never look on you again.
Cursed in my birth!
Cursed in my marriage!
Cursed in shedding blood!
Oedipus runs into the inner chambers.
INT. HALL OF THE PALACE - DAY
Jocasta tearing her hair runs through the hallway toward the bedchamber which she enters.
INT. BEDCHAMBER - DAY
Jocasta closes the door and bolts it.
O Laius, your son has brought this curse!
My children conceived by my own son!
What a bed of sin this has been!
A husband born of my own husband!
INT. HALL OF THE PALACE - DAY
Oedipus paces frantically back and forth in the hall.
A sword! Someone give me a sword!
Where is the queen?! My wife?! My mother?!
Oedipus goes to the bedchamber door and begins pounding on it, finally breaking it in with the force of his whole body.
INT. BEDCHAMBER - DAY
Oedipus enters the bedchamber and sees Jocasta hanging dead from a beam by sheets from the bed. Moaning in agony Oedipus unties the sheets and releases the body of Jocasta onto the bed. Oedipus rips the gold brooches from her dress and gouges out both his eyes.
O eyes, no longer shall you see
the misery I have known and caused!
You have seen what is forbidden,
yet failed to recognize what you longed to see.
Now you shall see only darkness.
INT. THEBAN PALACE - DAY
Oedipus comes in from the inner chambers with blood streaming down his face onto his beard and clothes.
What a dreadful horror for me to see!
what madness possessed you?
What demon descended upon you?
I can't bear to look at you.
Yet I want to ask you more
and learn more so that I can understand;
but I shudder at the sight of you.
Where has this misery brought me?
O Fate, what have you done to me?
The pain, the pain!
My flesh aches from its wounds.
My soul aches from its horrors.
Body and soul - both suffer and mourn.
You still remain with me a constant friend.
You care for me, a blind man now.
Now there is darkness, and I can't see your face;
but I can hear your voice and know you're near.
How could you have done this?
What demon drove you to it?
Apollo brought me this pain and suffering;
but my own hand struck the blow.
Why should I see
when there is nothing good to see?
What sight could give me joy?
Take me away from this land.
I am cursed and doomed, most hated by the gods.
You have suffered.
I wish I'd never known you.
Damn the man who took the bonds from my legs.
I'll never forgive him.
If he had let me die,
I would not be a burden to my friends.
I wish it had been that way.
If I had died then,
I would not have killed my father
and married my mother to become a shame -
father and brother to my children.
Is there any fate worse than that of Oedipus?
I can't condone what you've done.
You would have been better off dead
than alive and blind.
I did what I thought was best.
How could I look upon
my father and mother in Hades?
Could I have joy in seeing my children?
Could I look upon the city of Thebes
after cursing myself to be shunned.
Please hide me somewhere away from this land.
Kill me or throw me into the sea.
Come and touch me in my misery.
Don't be afraid.
No one else can bear my evil doom.
Creon comes in from outside.
Creon has come to give advice
in what you ask of us.
He alone is left to rule in your place.
I've not come to mock you, Oedipus
nor to reproach you for the past.
If you still respect people,
revere the sun and do not show unveiled
the pollution that earth nor rain nor light can endure.
Creon speaks to a guard.
Take him inside now.
Only family should see and hear such misery.
I ask you one favor.
You have been kinder to me than I deserve.
What do you ask?
Expel me from this land so no one can see me.
I would have done so,
but first I wish to consult the divine.
But the god's will is clear
to let the patricide and sinner die.
That was indicated,
but in the present circumstances
I wish to learn what I should do.
Will you ask about such a wretched man?
Surely you will trust in the god now.
Yes, but I ask you to give a proper funeral
for the one inside; she is your sister.
As for me, do not condemn this city
to suffer my presence any more.
Let me go and live on Cithaeron
where my parents would have let me die.
There I'll die to fulfill their wish.
Creon, don't worry about my sons.
They are boys and can take care of themselves;
but my daughters never ate a meal without me.
Take care of them
and let me touch them one last time.
Let me weep, please.
Creon nods to the guard who ushers in ANTIGONE and ISMENE from inside.
You are generous and kind.
If I could only touch them and feel they are with me,
as before when I could see them.
Is that crying my daughters?
Has Creon taken pity on me?
Are they here?
Yes, Oedipus, they're here.
I had them brought to you.
I know how much you love them.
Heaven bless you for this, Creon,
and grant you greater kindness than it has me.
Children, where are you?
Come, touch my hands,
the hands of your father and brother,
the hands that blinded these eyes.
I weep for you, my children
when I think of the bitterness
that waits for you in life.
You will suffer at festivals and holidays
when others are rejoicing.
When you are older,
who will be strong enough to marry you
and bear the slanders that will haunt you,
because you are my children?
What disgrace and taunts will follow you?
You will probably remain unwed and without children.
Creon, you are the only father left to them.
We, their parents, are lost.
We gave them life but are lost to them.
Take care of them
so that they do not wander poor and lonely.
Don't let them suffer for what I have done.
Now they have no one but you.
Touch my hand and promise me, noble Creon.
Now, children, I pray
that you can have a better life
than your father knew.
That's enough. Go inside now.
I obey, though it's bitter.
Everything has its time and place.
I'll go on this condition.
Tell me; I am listening.
That you will send me away.
The gods must decide that, not me.
The gods don't care about me.
Then you'll have your wish.
Then you consent?
What I don't mean, I don't say.
Now lead me away.
Let go of your children and come.
No, don't take them from me.
Don't presume you are still in power,
for your power has not survived with you.
As Creon, Oedipus, Antigone, and Ismene go inside, the Theban elder speaks to the other elders.
Thebans, look at Oedipus,
who solved the riddle of the Sphinx,
a man envied for his fortune and fame.
Now he drowns in dread and despair.
Here's proof no mortal can be thought happy
until one is delivered from life free of pain.
-end of Part 1-
This screenplay has been published in the book 4 SCREENPLAYS. For ordering information, please click here.