Murder of father/wed mother
Betrayed by sons
Prays to gods who are to punish him
Chooses place of death
The Greek tragedy Oedipus at Colonus was written by the great and renowned Greek playwright Sophocles at around 404 B.C. or so. In the play, considered to be one of the best Greek dramas ever written, Sophocles uses the now broken down and old Oedipus as a statement of hope for man. As Oedipus was royalty and honor before his exile from his kingdom of Thebes he is brought down to a poor, blind old man who wonders, "Who will receive the wandering Oedipus today?" (Sophocles 283) most of the time of his life that is now as low as a peasant's. Although former ruler of Thebes has been blinded and desecrated to the point where he is a beggar, he will not give up on his life and on the life of his two daughters Antigone and Ismene, and his two sons Eteocles and Polynieces who were supposed to help their sorrowful father like true sons and true men but instead they "tend the hearth like girls."(304). Yet Oedipus still gives praise to those who have helped him, his daughters Antigone and Ismene, although he has no sight, is poor, and his life is of no meaning to him, he recognizes honor and loyalty when he sees it:
"Antigone from the time she left her childhood behind and came into full strength, has volunteered for grief, wandering with me, leading the old misery, hungry
Hard labor, but you endured it all, never a second though for home, a decent life, so long as your father had some care and comfort. And you, child, in the early days, all unknown to Thebes you left the city, brought your father the oracles, and prophecy said to touch his life. You were my faithful guard, you took that part when I was an exile from the land
It would be hard to think of any suffering more overwhelming than the suffering that was endured by Oedipus:
"At the summit of his power he discovered himself damned, by his own pertinacity [stubborn persistence] discovered that he had horribly offended against the decencies by which men must live. In one day he fell from sovereignty and fame to self- blinded degradation, and later was driven into exile." (Fitzgerald 145).
In the eyes of all the people, Oedipus was looked at as no better than a slave and was treated as no better than one as well. When being led by his older daughter Antigone after 20 years of exile from his homeland Oedipus and Antigone stumble upon the city of Colonus, a beautiful city governed by King Theseus. Oedipus entering the city in old rags, as a blind poor man is a contrast between Oedipus and the beauty of Colonus of which is easily revealed. (145). Here in the cities are where the Furies dwell. Those who commit severe sins, such as murder in Oedipus' case, are pursued to these Furies. Oedipus, well aware that the Furies must punish him as an act of punishment from the gods, asks the chorus to tell him "their awesome names so I can pray to them." (Sophocles 285). After all that Oedipus has suffered; after killing his own mother and having wed his mother, after being betrayed by his sons, after exile, after blinding himself so he would not have to look into the eyes of the horrors of life, "why is he merely not an obsessed and vindictive old man?" (Fitzgerald 148). Oedipus was and still is an intelligent man in the play, as wee see him going for the supreme importance of the pure man. "During the years in which Oedipus probed his own guilt he has come to terms with it." (148). Though...
Baade, Eric C. Seneca 's Tragedies: Oedipus, Troades, Agamemnon. Collier-Macmillan Limited, London. 1969.
Readings on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus. Fitzgerald, Robert. Green Haven Press, San Diego, California. 1997.
Melchinger, Siegfried. Sophocles. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., New York, New York. 1974.
O 'Brien, Michael J. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Oedipus Rex. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood cliffs, New Jersey. 1968.
Roche, Paul. The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles. The New English Library Limited, London. New York and Scarborough, Ontario. 1958.
Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus The King, Oedipus At Colonus. Penguin Books. New York, New York. 1982, 1984.
Sophocles: A collection of critical essays edited by Thomas Woodward: Oedipus at Colonus. Whitman, Cedric H. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1966.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document