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Excerpt 1

[Enter OEDIPUS wearing the Imperial
purple wool mantle, embroidered with
gold threads worn over a toga and tied at
the neck. He has on high-laced sandals.
JOCASTA is with him. She is dressed
in a diaphanous pastel tunic, stola and palla,
which is attached to a diadem. The effect
is more flowing than transparent. She
wears gold, jewels, and a diamond brooch.
He wears a garland, sheathed sword and belt


This insufferable night is almost at its end.
The morning sun
begins to show its hesitant face.
It drags itself out
from behind some silent ominous cloud,
and stares unwillingly at the sick earth below,
bringing with it gloom instead of hope.
Beneath it our streets and homes,
our temples—all glutted with the plague.
New heaps of dead
spewed up everywhere,
stiffening in the sickly morning light.
The brightening day to reveal…
all too soon…
the carnage night has brought.

Before this evil plague besieged my city
our people were happy.
Now there is disaster everywhere.
I don’t understand
why the gods have done this to us.
I stopped the hideous Sphinx.
Answered the riddle.
Destroyed her utterly.
And for that… as custom required…
I was made king and husband to you,
their widowed Queen.

And now this stinking pestilence
has struck a second time,
spreading havoc throughout the land,
making me think that…
I may be—in some unknown way—
responsible for this catastrophe.

I feel at this very moment,
the Fates are planning
some savage stroke against me.
What else should I think
when the blight that ravages Thebes
seems only to spare me
and those closest to me.
For what punishment am I reserved
that I remain unscathed amidst the devastation
that lays waste to everything in its path?

The city is in ruins.
No section of the populace
has escaped its deadly touch.
It is obvious that unknowingly I have sinned,
or the gods would not wish to wreck my kingdom.

Look around you.
Have you been outside?
Beyond the palace nothing grows.
The harvests stand ruined.
Springs have dried up
and turned to stinking pools that reek of death.
The stench of rotting corpses is everywhere.
There isn’t time any longer for a proper burial.
Instead… pile upon pile of diseased bodies
are heaped upon the funeral pyres and set ablaze.
Tearless relatives watch their once loved families
go up in billowing black smoke,
wondering when they’ll be next.

It seems we all await the funeral pyre.
I should pray for a quick, merciful death.
I don’t want to survive to the last…
the final witness to the end of Thebes.