Quotations or quotes represent universal ideas a literary piece comprises. Oedipus Rex has quotes which are universal and also applicable for all circumstances. Some of the major quotes are discussed below. These quotations have been borrowed from the translation of Oedipus Rex by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald.
Quotes in Oedipus Rex
“Each of you suffers in himself alone
His anguish, not another’s; but my spirit
Groans for the city.”
Prologue, Lines 64-66
Oedipus speaks these lines which show that he is deeply tormented by the news that the city is under attack from a mysterious plague. When the Priest asks him to find the solution for the plague that is killing the people, he expresses that his already in deep sorrow and add that while people suffer for themselves, he is feeling anguish for every person. In other words, he is telling Priest and his people that he feels their pain and is already looking for the solution.
“How dreadful knowledge of the truth can he
When there’s no help in truth! I knew this well,
But made myself forget. I should not have come.”
Scene-1, Lines 304-306
Tiresias speaks these lines in the first scene of the play. In fact, he knows the oracle of Apollo and does not want to disclose it before Oedipus. On the other hand, Oedipus has forced him to come to the palace to interpret that very oracle. Therefore, he repents that he should not have come to the palace as the knowledge of truth becomes a burden for the person holding it.
“You call me unfeeling. If you could only see
The nature of your own feelings.”
Scene-1, Lines 323-324
Tiresias speaks these words when Oedipus calls him wicked and emotionless. He challenges Oedipus to reflect upon his own emotions and feelings instead of accusing him. He also asks him to think of his own wrongdoing in his life and relations. Indirectly, this is a hint to his marrying to his mother and beheading his own father.
“You are the madman. There is no one here
Who will not curse you soon, as you curse me.”
Scene-1, Lines 357-358
Tiresias is engaged in counteraccusations with Oedipus at the end of the first scene. As both are accusing each other, Tiresias speaks these lines. He warns and continues to challenge Oedipus that everybody from the kingdom and his circle will be cursing him soon for the horrible deeds he has committed to his own family. These lines are significant as they show Tiresias is slowly revealing the truth.
“Wealth, power, craft of statesmanship!
Kingly position, everywhere admired!
What savage envy is stored up against these.”
Scene-1, Lines 366-369
These lines are spoken at the end of the first scene. Oedipus speaks these lines in response to Tiresias’ angry words about his being blind to the facts. He tells him that wealth, power and political positions are envied as well as admired. Therefore, people often weave plans to dislodge high-ranking persons from their positions. He is accusing Tiresias and Creon of hatching a plot against him.
“This is what prophets and prophecies are worth!
Have no dread of them.
It is God himself
Who can show us what he wills, in his own way.”
Jocasta speaks these lines by the end of the second scene. This shows how Jocasta proves hopeful when the others are insane with rage. She cautions them to be wise and berates prophets and prophecies to save the day. This also proves that the Grecian women of that time were generally less religious. She confidently proclaims she only believes in God and his will but would not believe in any prophecy.
“Listen to what this man says, and then tell me
What has become of the solemn prophecies.”
Scene-3, Lines 43-44
Jocasta speaks these words in the third scene of the play. She asks Oedipus to hear the words of the messenger that he has brought the news of the death of his parents. She is perhaps referring to the prophecies of the oracle. Her ironic way is apparent, as though she doesn’t believe in prophets or prophecy, she asks Oedipus to listen to them in order to gain peace.
Oedipus, damned in his birth, in his marriage
O Light, may I look on you for the last time! damned,
Damned in the blood he shed with his own hand!”
Scene-4, Lines 70-73
Oedipus utters these words by the end of the fourth scene. He says these words about him when Shepherd verifies the information that Oedipus is the same child. Oedipus accepts his fate saying that he is damned in birth as well as marriage. Then he curses himself and prays that he be blinded.
“The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.”
Scene-4 Line 9
The second messenger utters these words in the fourth scene, Exodus. He is referring to Oedipus and the tragedy that has taken place with him. He is of the view that the tragedy of Oedipus is the greatest one, for he has been struck by grief after killing his father and marrying his mother without knowing that he was a part of the doomed prophecy. In other words, he means that we can be the reason for our own great griefs.
“Let every man in mankind’s frailty
Consider his last day; and let none
Presume on his good fortune until he find
Life, at his death, a memory without pain.”
Choragos speaks these words by the end of the last scene. Choragos is referring to fate saying that nobody should assume that he/she is a fortunate person until their death. The most fortunate person is the one who leaves this world without any memory of pain. Otherwise, a person must not assume that their path will be a bed of roses and they might escape the terrible fate if it is already meant to happen.