Oedipus at Colonus

SOPHOCLES

Oedipus at Colonus

Oedipus at Colonus is one of the three Theban plays and was written shortly before Sophocles' death, in 406 BC. It was produced by his grandson, also called Sophocles, in 401 BC, at the Festival of Dionysus, in Sophocles memory. 

Cicero considered it the "most tender of poems". In the chronology of the plays, the events of Oedipus at Colonus, occur after Oedipus the King and before Antigone. 

Oedipus at Colonus is about Oedipus' last tragic years. The real place of Oedipus death is not something for exact determination, but Sophocles set the place at Colonus. The village, situated near Athens, was also Sophocles' own birthplace.

The blinded Oedipus arrives at Colonus with his daughter Antigone. Oedipus enters the village, led by Antigone and sits down, to rest, on a stone. A villager approaches them and demands that they leave. His argument is that the ground they are sitting is sacred to the Furies, or Eumenides. Oedipus sees a sign in the villagers’ words. 

He remembers the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. But he also remembered that the prophecy revealed to him that he would die at a place sacred to the Furies.

A dramatic dialogue between Oedipus and the chorus takes place. They are terrified to find out that he is the son of Laius and want to expel him from their city, for fear he will curse it. 

Oedipus explains he is not guilty for his crimes, as he killed his father in self-defense. Afterwards he asks to see their king, Theseus, explaining his believes, that he is a gift for the people in Colonus. 

Ismene, the other daughter of Oedipus arrives on horse, bringing news about Thebes, where Eteocles and Polynices, their brothers, were fighting for the throne. But both sons are being told by an oracle, that the outcome of the conflict depends on where their father is buried. Creon's plan was to bury Oedipus at the border of Thebes, without respecting the proper ritual. This way the power that the oracle said, the grave will have, would remain for Thebes. Oedipus curses both of his sons for not treating him well. 

The villagers ask Oedpus to perform some rites, specific to their tradition, but Ismene, his daughter goes to perform them, herself, while he remains with Antigone. It follows another powerful dialogue between Oedipus and the chore during which, Oedipus gives explanation about his incest and patricide. The chorus sympathizes with Oedipus, and offers him a burial site, which will ensure victory in a future conflict with Thebes. 

Theseus protests, hearing about a possible conflict, saying that the two cities are friendly.

Oedipus gives an answer that is considered by the specialist one of the most powerful parts of the play "Oh Theseus, dear friend, only the gods can never age, the gods can never die. All else in the world almighty Time obliterates, crushes all to nothing..." As a result, Theseus makes Oedipus a citizen of Athens. 

Creon, king of Thebes, comes to Oedipus asks for his pity and tells him that he should return to Thebes. Oedipus repels his wish, and, as a result, Creon becomes angry. Probably, trying to force Oedipus’ decision, he reveals that he has already captured Ismene and also orders for Antigone to be captured. More than this, Creon threatens to use force to bring Oedipus back to Thebes. Theseus comes and tells Cron he is in a city that values justice and law, leads Creon away and retakes the two girls back to Colonus. 

Oedipus' son, Polynices, who has been banished from Thebes, by his brother Eteocles, comes to Colonus, but his father does not want to talk to him. However he is being convinced by Antigone and listens to his son begging him to relent and forget about his curse. Instead of forgiveness, Oedipus foretells that his two sons will kill each other in the coming battle. 

Antigone tries to convince her brother not to attack Thebes but Polynices refuses and leaves.

After this conversation, a storm begins, and Oedipus finds in it a sign from Zeus, that his life was coming to an end. He only lets Theseus see the place of his death and tells him that keeping this secret guarantees his country will be free of harm forever.

This play is different from the other plays, as in Oedipus at Colonus, there is less action and more philosophical discussion. The subject is human fate and the intricate way of destiny. Oedipus is absolved by Zeus, despite his actions and the tragedy of his last years.