But Oedipus does not die. He is translated alive by the gods in what appears to be a divine intervention. As always in classical drama, the climax is described by the ubiquitous Messenger. He reports that Oedipus goes to a certain place, a ‘steep descent’, where he has his still living body anointed with the rites for a corpse:
‘Bathed him in holy water, decked his body out
in shining linen, the custom for the dead.
But when he was content that all was done,
and of all he wanted, nothing more was needed,
nothing left to do – all at once
Zeus of the Underworld thundered from the depths.’
‘A deep silence fell…and suddenly,
a voice, someone crying out to him, startling,
terrifying, the hair on our heads bristled –
it was calling for him, over and over,
echoing all around us now – it was some god!
“You, you there, Oedipus – what are we waiting for?
You hold us back too long! We must move on, move on!”’
‘moving away we turned
in a moment, looked back, and Oedipus –
we couldn’t see the man – he was gone – nowhere!’
‘it was some escort
sent by the gods or the dark world of the dead,
the lightless depths of Earth bursting open in kindness
to receive him.’
‘if the death of any mortal ever was one,
his departure was a marvel!’