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The play opens in front of Oedipus' palace at Thebes. A plague besets the city, and Oedipus enters to find a priest and crowd of children praying to the gods to free them from the curse. A blight, the priest tells Oedipus, has destroyed their crops and livestock - and even rendered their women sterile, unable to have children. The priest implores Oedipus to save the city: “Raise up our city, save it and raise it up” (51). Oedipus tells the collected crowd that even though he knows they are sick, none is as sick and devastated as he: thus clearly identifying himself with Thebes.
Oedipus has been a good king to the people of Thebes; he took away the problem of the Sphinx and has ruled them safely and calmly for a number of years after the death of King Laius.