Ancient Greek audiences would already know the background, and in fact the entirety, of the Oedipus story. Therefore what makes this particular play so great is its ability to present this material in an evocative and powerful manner, in order to nullify the reality that most of the audience already knew its contents. Modern audiences might recognize the name Oedipus from Sigmund Freud's famous "Oedipus Complex" - particularly his theory that young boys lust after their mothers and see their fathers as competition for their mothers' favors. This theory springs from Jocasta 's comment that killing your father and marrying your mother are the kinds of things men often dream of (981). Freud's theory has been hotly debated and, indeed, is currently dismissed by most classical scholars – though the fact that the issue remains the subject of much psychological debate is proof that the Oedipus story continues to be powerful even thousands of years after the advent of Sophocles' play.
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The Herdsman gives Laius' and Jocasta's baby to the messenger upon their orders - and is also the same man who witnessed Laius's death. When he returns to Thebes and sees that the man who killed Laius is the new king, he asks leave to flee from the city. Oedipus sends for him when the messenger alludes to his intimate knowledge of the crime, in the hopes of discovering the identity of his true parents. He then reveals that the baby he gave to the messenger was Laius and Jocasta's son, adding one of the last pieces to the puzzle that will implicate Oedipus as the source of the kingdom's plague.