OEDIPUS

This much thou knowest and canst surely tell.

CREON

What’s mean’st thou? All I know I will declare.

OEDIPUS

But for thy prompting never had the seer
Ascribed to me the death of Laius.

CREON

If so he thou knowest best; but I
Would put thee to the question in my turn.

OEDIPUS

Question and prove me murderer if thou canst.

CREON

Then let me ask thee, didst thou wed my sister?

OEDIPUS

A fact so plain I cannot well deny.

CREON

And as thy consort queen she shares the throne?

OEDIPUS

I grant her freely all her heart desires.

CREON

And with you twain I share the triple rule?

OEDIPUS

Yea, and it is that proves thee a false friend.

CREON

Not so, if thou wouldst reason with thyself,
As I with myself. First, I bid thee think,
Would any mortal choose a troubled reign
Of terrors rather than secure repose,
If the same power were given him? As for me,
I have no natural craving for the name
Of king, preferring to do kingly deeds,
And so thinks every sober-minded man.
Now all my needs are satisfied through thee,
And I have naught to fear; but were I king,
My acts would oft run counter to my will.
How could a title then have charms for me
Above the sweets of boundless influence?
I am not so infatuate as to grasp
The shadow when I hold the substance fast.
Now all men cry me Godspeed! wish me well,
And every suitor seeks to gain my ear,
If he would hope to win a grace from thee.
Why should I leave the better, choose the worse?
That were sheer madness, and I am not mad.
No such ambition ever tempted me,
Nor would I have a share in such intrigue.
And if thou doubt me, first to Delphi go,
There ascertain if my report was true
Of the god’s answer; next investigate
If with the seer I plotted or conspired,
And if it prove so, sentence me to death,
Not by thy voice alone, but mine and thine.
But O condemn me not, without appeal,
On bare suspicion. ‘Tis not right to adjudge
Bad men at random good, or good men bad.
I would as lief a man should cast away
The thing he counts most precious, his own life,
As spurn a true friend. Thou wilt learn in time
The truth, for time alone reveals the just;
A villain is detected in a day.

CHORUS

To one who walketh warily his words
Commend themselves; swift counsels are not sure.

OEDIPUS

When with swift strides the stealthy plotter stalks
I must be quick too with my counterplot.
To wait his onset passively, for him
Is sure success, for me assured defeat.

CREON

What then’s thy will? To banish me the land?

OEDIPUS

I would not have thee banished, no, but dead,
That men may mark the wages envy reaps.

CREON

I see thou wilt not yield, nor credit me.

OEDIPUS

None but a fool would credit such as thou.

CREON

Thou art not wise.

OEDIPUS

Wise for myself at least.

CREON

Why not for me too?

OEDIPUS

Why for such a knave?

CREON

Suppose thou lackest sense.

OEDIPUS

Yet kings must rule.

CREON

Not if they rule ill.

OEDIPUS

Oh my Thebans, hear him!

CREON

Thy Thebans? am not I a Theban too?

CHORUS

Cease, princes; lo there comes, and none too soon,
Jocasta from the palace. Who so fit
As peacemaker to reconcile your feud?

Enter JOCASTA.
JOCASTA

Misguided princes, why have ye upraised
This wordy wrangle? Are ye not ashamed,
While the whole land lies striken, thus to voice
Your private injuries? Go in, my lord;
Go home, my brother, and forebear to make
A public scandal of a petty grief.

CREON

My royal sister, Oedipus, thy lord,
Hath bid me choose (O dread alternative!)
An outlaw’s exile or a felon’s death.

OEDIPUS

Yes, lady; I have caught him practicing
Against my royal person his vile arts.

CREON

May I ne’er speed but die accursed, if I
In any way am guilty of this charge.

JOCASTA

Believe him, I adjure thee, Oedipus,
First for his solemn oath’s sake, then for mine,
And for thine elders’ sake who wait on thee.

CHORUS

strophe 1

Hearken, King, reflect, we pray thee, but not stubborn but relent.

OEDIPUS

Say to what should I consent?

CHORUS

Respect a man whose probity and troth
Are known to all and now confirmed by oath.

OEDIPUS

Dost know what grace thou cravest?

CHORUS

Yea, I know.

OEDIPUS

Declare it then and make thy meaning plain.

CHORUS

Brand not a friend whom babbling tongues assail;
Let not suspicion ‘gainst his oath prevail.

OEDIPUS

Bethink you that in seeking this ye seek
In very sooth my death or banishment?

CHORUS

No, by the leader of the host divine!

strophe 2

Witness, thou Sun, such thought was never mine,
Unblest, unfriended may I perish,
If ever I such wish did cherish!
But O my heart is desolate
Musing on our striken State,
Doubly fall’n should discord grow
Twixt you twain, to crown our woe.

OEDIPUS

Well, let him go, no matter what it cost me,
Or certain death or shameful banishment,
For your sake I relent, not his; and him,
Where’er he be, my heart shall still abhor.

CREON

Thou art as sullen in thy yielding mood
As in thine anger thou wast truculent.
Such tempers justly plague themselves the most.

OEDIPUS

Leave me in peace and get thee gone.

CREON

I go,
By thee misjudged, but justified by these.

Exeunt CREON.
CHORUS

antistrophe 1

Lady, lead indoors thy consort; wherefore longer here delay?

JOCASTA

Tell me first how rose the fray.

CHORUS

Rumors bred unjust suspicious and injustice rankles sore.

Oedipus the King