Line 628-1020 Notes from Oedipus at Colonus

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Oedipus at Colonus Line 628-1020

Abruptly, Theseus, king of Athens appears, just as the Chorus had predicted he would once he heard of Oedipus' arrival. Theseus immediately addresses Oedipus and Antigone, asking why they want to speak with him, nor does he show any fear or repulsion as the Chorus had done. Instead, the wise king relates to Oedipus' situation, explaining "For my part I know what it means,/to be brought up in exile,/as you are an exile. I too in a foreign country/wrestled with dangers to my life, more than anyone else" Line 640-642. Oedipus is flattered by the Athenian king's words and states only that he wishes to give Theseus his "wretched carcass," which means he wants to offer himself as a gift. Theseus shall be his "burial man" when he dies, he says. Confused at the mysteriousness of these words, Theseus wishes to know how he may benefit from this, yet Oedipus only says that he will learn that secret later. Oedipus does openly ask for another favor from Theseus: to protect him from his sons Polyneices and Eteocles, as well as those who want to carry him away to Thebes.

Theseus is confused by these words, for Oedipus had complained that he had been exiled from Thebes, and now he complains again when he is given an opportunity to return to the city. He criticizes Oedipus for being so angry. In reply, the blind man states that his suffering has made him become a bitter man, yet it is not his suffering in killing his own father Laius and having sex with his mother Jocasta that bothers him. Instead, it is because "I was banished from my own country/by my sons, return forever denied to me,/because I killed my father" Line 683-685. Being exiled from Thebes is more suffering than the crimes he had unknowingly committed against his parents. Oedipus explains the news that Ismene had brought to him, that his sons wish to use him as a weapon to keep enemies away from the city of Thebes by having him live nearby. It was the prophesy of the oracle of Phebus Apollo at Delphi that made the prediction that one day Athens would conquer Thebes. Thebes wants to use Oedipus to protect against Athens.

Topic Tracking: City 6
Topic Tracking: Religion 5

Stunned to hear this news, Theseus does not understand how such an event might happen, since Thebes and Athens are two cities that are allies and have never had any bad blood between them. Oedipus explains that everything is always changing and that trust can easily die over time. Thoughtful, Theseus then offers Oedipus the chance to have Athenian citizenship, asking for him to go to his own home in the city. Oedipus explains that he must stay there at Colonus, for it is there that he shall defeat his enemies, those who wish to carry him back to Thebes. Theseus reasserts his promise to care for Oedipus and protect him, even if he wishes to stay there in the grove. Theseus goes to make an offering to the gods nearby, leaving Oedipus and Antigone alone.

Topic Tracking: City 7

The Chorus of Athenian elders speaks about the joys of Athens, praising the city and the surrounding area for its beauty, stating "Here are the fairest homesteads of the world,/here in this country, famed for its horses, stranger,/where you have come:/ Here to Colonus, gleaming white,/where the nightingale in constant trilling song/cries from beneath the green leaves,/where she lives in the wine dark ivy.../safe from the sun, safe from the wind/of every storm, god's place, inviolable" Line 665-674. The Chorus notes that the spot where they all stand is protected from all danger by the gods. Continuing, they make another reference to the city of Athens, named after grey-eyed Athene, for "Yet another matter of praise have I/for this my mother city,/gift of a great god, our land's boast,/that it is a horse master, colt breaker, master of the sea" Line 803-804. Athens has a very skilled navy, for the city is "master of the sea," and also the city has a very skilled cavalry, for it is "the horse master." Antigone speaks suddenly, warning that Creon is approaching them with his followers.

Topic Tracking: Religion 6

Arriving, Creon greets the Chorus and Oedipus with a pleasant tone, noting that Athens is known to be the most powerful city in Greece. He declares that has come there in order to convince Oedipus to return to Thebes with him because he feels badly for Oedipus' suffering and also because everyone is Thebes would like Oedipus to return. Creon urges Oedipus to remember their kinship, since he should wish to return to the city that is his city, Thebes, for in Athens he is merely a guest. Oedipus replies with anger, stating that he wishes to trick him to return to Thebes; he reminds Creon about how he was not allowed to remain in Thebes when he wanted to stay, but he was simply thrown out of the city. Similarly, now when Oedipus wants to remain in Athens, Creon wishes to take him away from there, too. The reason for this is because of the oracle's prophesy, for "You have come to bring me, yes, but not to bring me home/but to set me in a dwelling apart -- but near you,/so there will be no trouble with Athens for your city./You will not succeed, no, instead/my spirit shall dwell forever, a curse,/a curse upon your country" Line 889-894. Oedipus states that he and Antigone shall live there in Athens. Angered, Creon says "You miserable creature, clearly you haven't/been able to grow wise, with all your years" Line 913-914. Creon tries to trap Oedipus by moving closer to him, telling the Chorus to witness Oedipus' refusal to return to Thebes. He says that he will force Oedipus to come with him, for he has already taken his daughter Ismene as a hostage, and he also plans to take Antigone next.

Topic Tracking: City 8
Topic Tracking: Old Age 4

Oedipus appeals to the Chorus to help him out as Antigone is already being dragged away by Creon's servants. The Chorus tries to stop them, but Creon warns that the entire city of Thebes shall attack Athens if anyone attacks him; Oedipus laments "O city of Athens!" and he tries to grab his daughter's hands as she is dragged away; her hands cannot reach him. Creon orders the servants away, and Antigone disappears; he next affirms that he is the "sovereign lord" -- the ruler -- of Oedipus' royal family in Thebes, and he says that without Antigone to guide him, Oedipus won't be able to go anywhere. He states again that "It is your temper which constantly ruins you." He believes that Oedipus has a really large temper that causes him to make the mistakes that he has made in the past.

The Chorus warns Creon to return Antigone and Ismene, although Creon is carefree, gloating that he will be taking Oedipus away next. Oedipus appeals to the gods, cursing Creon for his actions, "May the gods of this place/not take away my tongue from uttering this curse!/You villain: after the violence to my onetime eyes,/you have wrenched from me the one poor eye I had left./May the Sun-God [Apollo] that sees all give you and your seed/an old age like this of mine!" Line 995-1000. Creon screams maniacally to the Chorus to witness Oedipus' temper, and he tries to grab Oedipus himself and drag him away. The Chorus replies, "If you are right [that Oedipus is the criminal], I will no longer think/Athens [to be] a city" Line 1010-1011. As Creon drags Oedipus away, the Chorus cries aloud for someone to stop Creon and his servants before they reach the city's borders. If they aren't stopped in time, then they will succeed in kidnapping Ismene, Antigone, and Oedipus next.

Topic Tracking: Religion 7

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