Before the palace of Oedipus in Thebes. Suppliants of all ages are seated on the steps of the altars. Oedipus enters, in the robes of a king: for a moment he gazes silently on the groups at the altars, then speaks.

My children, latest-born wards of old Cadmus, why do you sit before me like this with wreathed branches of suppliants, while the city reeks with incense, [5] rings with prayers for health and cries of woe? I thought it unbefitting, my children, to hear these things from the mouths of others, and have come here myself, I, Oedipus renowned by all. Tell me, then, venerable old man—since it is proper that you [10] speak for these—in what mood you sit here, one of fear or of desire? Be sure that I will gladly give you all my help. I would be hard-hearted indeed if I did not pity such suppliants as these.

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