Line 1-341 Notes from Oedipus at Colonus

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Oedipus at Colonus Line 1-341

Oedipus is led into a grove of trees by his daughter Antigone and remembers his tormented past. Much time has passed since he was the king of Thebes, a large city-state in Greece. Oedipus was forced to leave the city after he unknowingly killed his father Laius and fathered children with his own mother, Jocasta. Ashamed at his ignorance, Oedipus blinded himself. Having wandered for many years, Oedipus now laments, "I am blind and old, Antigone, my child./What country have we come to? Whose is this city.../My sufferings have taught me to endure--/and how long these sufferings have lasted!" Line 1-8. However, his suffering in life has caused Oedipus to be a stronger person, even though his pain has lasted for a long time. Oedipus is very weary from walking, and he asks Antigone, who shows the way since her father is blind, if there is anywhere that he can sit down and rest his body. Noting the beauty of the grove they are standing in, Antigone describes it to her father, "there are towers here that protect the city; they look,/to my eyes, far off. This place is sacred--as I would guess--it's thick with laurel, with olives and with vines; the nightingales are singing,/thick-feathered, happily, inside the grove" Line 16-21. She urges him to sit down on a nearby rock, ignoring the fact that the grove is sacred to the gods.

Topic Tracking: Old Age 1

Oedipus asks Antigone where they are, and she states that they are right outside of the city of Athens. Antigone prepares to go find out the name where they are when a Stranger approaches them along the road. Before the two wanderers can speak to him, he warns them that they are standing on sacred ground, because the grove is sacred to the "Goddesses most dreadful, the daughters of Earth and Darkness." These goddesses are called the Eumenides. However, Oedipus refuses to listen to that warning and swears that he shall never leave from that very spot and asks the Stranger where they are. The man replies that the path they follow is called the Bronze Road and the land around it is owned by Poseidon. Also, another divinity named Prometheus lives there as well, in this land that surrounds the city of Athens; the mortal man named Knight Colonus controls the land around the city and the place is named Colonus because of this man. Oedipus asks the Stranger to go into Athens to ask the king Theseus to come to talk to Oedipus in Colonus, because Oedipus would like to ask for Theseus' assistance and give him a reward. Uncertain of what a blind beggar such as Oedipus could possibly give to the great Theseus, the Stranger declares that he will first tell his fellow citizens about Oedipus' request, to see if Oedipus' request will be honored. Otherwise he will be asked to leave that place and continue on his journey. He departs.

Topic Tracking: Religion 1

After the Stranger leaves, Oedipus asks the Eumenides to excuse him for trespassing upon their sacred ground, recalling that the oracle of Phoebus Apollo at Delphi had prophesied that he would find an escape to his suffering through death only after he had offended the Eumenides in Colonus. Having understood this, Oedipus is somewhat joyful that his wandering has nearly reached its end. A group of old men, nobles of Athens known as the Chorus, approaches the grove as Antigone warns Oedipus, trying to hide him, even as he remains standing out in plain sight. Surely, the Stranger is the cause of these men's arrival, as they demand to know if Oedipus is the irreverent man who had trespassed on the holy ground of the Eumenides. He admits that he is that man, and the Chorus at once asks him to move away from the grove, for Oedipus already stands too close to where the "mixing bowl mixes its water with the stream that runs sweetened with honey." Resisting at first, Antigone convinces her father to move saying "Father, we must do as other citizens here,/yielding in what is dutiful, hearing with obedience" Line 174-175. He steps away with Antigone's guiding hand, but still the Chorus, addressing him as "Old man," asks him to move further and still further away from the sacred grove. Reprimanding him, the Chorus declares "You are a stranger in a strange land,/poor man. Make your mind up/to reject what this city dislikes,/and reverence what she loves" Line 189-193. The men urge Oedipus to conform to their rules quickly, since he is in a new land.

Topic Tracking: City 1
Topic Tracking: Old Age 2

Finally, Oedipus has moved far enough away from the sacred grove and the Chorus asks who he is and where he is from. Initially, he declares "Sirs, I have no city" hesitantly, afraid of their questions at what his identity is. Ashamed, he does not want them to know that he is the famous Oedipus, known for killing his father and having sex with his own mother. Beginning to cry, he asks Antigone for advice, who urges him to tell the truth since she knows that his life is near its end anyway. He admits that he is Laius' son, the "miserable Oedipus." The Chorus of old men is repulsed to learn of this and urges him to leave at once, fearing that his bad luck will be spread to their city, Athens. Antigone comes to her father's defense again, telling them that he was ignorant that it was his own father he was killing or that the woman he married was his own mother, calling them deeds of unconsciousness. She blames Oedipus' bad fortune on the gods.

Topic Tracking: City 2
Topic Tracking: Religion 2

Oedipus repeats the same idea, saying also that his parents had planned to murder him in the first place by maiming his ankles and leaving him outside in the woods to die, and he is thus a victim of his parents and of the gods alike. Invoking the name of Athens again, he expresses extreme interest in talking to Theseus again. He states that he wants to help Athens, not to harm it. Oedipus asks again where Theseus is and if he will come to Colonus. The Chorus assures him not to worry, for the word of his presence near the city shall be brought to Theseus by the travelers going into Athens, and he shall come at once when he hears Oedipus' name, since he is a very renowned man. The Chorus tells him not to worry, for Theseus will come soon enough. Oedipus replies merely that he hopes to see him, for he will offer a reward to Athens if Theseus will help him. Antigone interrupts suddenly, remarking that she sees a girl approaching them from the distance on horseback, exclaiming that it is her own sister, Ismene.

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