Oedipus Rex Mystery—EX Day Activity
The Priest of Zeus reveals the problem: Thebes is suffering a great plague. The people want
Oedipus, the king of Thebes, to solve the problem.
Directions: In your group, use the clues to figure out why Thebes is suffering a plague, who is to
blame and why. These are the clues as they are revealed in the play. Your job is to make sense
of what happened and reconstruct a coherent, chronological story.
1. Start with everything that Oedipus tells other people: that is what Oedipus himself knows.
2. Next, read what other people tell Oedipus. Help Oedipus solve the mystery.
3. Once you have fully understood the story of what happened, each group member should
summarize the story on his/her own sheet of paper. Keep this in your notes.
 Oedipus--King of Thebes
 Iocasta-- Queen of Thebes, Oedipus’ wife, previously married to Laius, the former king
of Thebes
 Creon--Oedipus’ brother-in-law, Iocasta’s brother
 Teiresias-- the blind “seer”
 Priest of Zeus
 A Corinthian shepherd who worked for Polybus
 A Theban Shepherd who worked for Laius
 Laius--Previous king of Thebes
 Polybus—King of Corinth (Merope is his wife)
Clues: on slips of paper
Creon tells Oedipus the news from the oracle at Delphi, “I will tell you what Apollo said—And
it was very clear. There is pollution here in our midst, long-standing. This must we expel, not let
it grow past remedy.”
Creon tells Oedipus the news from the oracle at Delphi, “[King Laius’s] death, Apollo clearly
charges us. We must avenge upon his murderers.” The oracle also said that the murderers of
King Laius are within the city.
Creon tells Oedipus that Laius was killed by brigands (armed thieves) when he made a journey
to consult the god.
Teiresias tells Oedipus “You are the man whose crimes pollute our city.”
Oedipus accuses Creon of plotting against him by having Teiresias accuse him (Oedipus) of
being the cause of the plague in Thebes.
Teiresias says to Oedipus, “You have your sight and yet you cannot see where, nor with whom,
you live, nor in what horror.”
Creon tells Oedipus he has no reason to plot against Oedipus since, as part of the royal family,
he gets all the benefits of power without any of the responsibilities. Why would he want to get
rid of Oedipus?
Iocasta tells Oedipus a prophecy about her first husband, Laius: “His fate it was, that should he
have a son by me, that son would take his father’s life.” She said when they had a son, Laius
bound his feet together and cast him over a precipice.
Iocasta tells Oedipus that Laius was “killed by brigands at a place where three ways meet.”
Oedipus tells Iocasta that a drunk man in his village once said that he (Oedipus) was not really
his father’s (Polybus’s) son.
Oedipus tells Iocasta that the oracle at Delphi “foretold that I should mate with my own
mother…and that I was to be the murderer of my own father.” Oedipus never went home to
Corinth after he heard this prophecy. (Instead, he went to Thebes and became king there by
solving the Sphynx’s riddle and freeing the city of a previous plague.)
Oedipus tells Iocasta that as he journeyed from Corinth, he came to a “place where three ways
meet” and an older man attempted to push him off the road. He got mad and murdered everyone.
Corinthian Shepherd tells Oedipus and Iocasta that Polybus, Oedipus’ father, died of natural
causes, and now Oedipus will be king of both Corinth and Thebes.
Corinthian Shepherd tells Oedipus and Iocasta that Oedipus is not the biological son of
Polybus. The Corinthian found Oedipus as a baby in the woods upon Cithaeron and gave him to
Polybus. He also tells Oedipus his feet were bound.
Corinthian Shepherd tells Oedipus and Iocasta that the baby was given to him by a Theban
shepherd who belonged to Laius.
Theban Shepherd tells Oedipus that he was given the baby by its mother, Iocasta because she
was afraid of what the oracle had said: that the baby would kill his parents.