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Line 1021-1440 Notes from Oedipus at Colonus

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Oedipus at Colonus Line 1021-1440

Hearing the Chorus' cries, Theseus returns to the grove, demanding to know what has happened, for he was disturbed from making an important sacrifice to the sea-god Poseidon at the altar.

Oedipus explains that Creon has kidnapped his daughters Antigone and Ismene. Stunned, the king of Athens sends some of his servants to go off to the altar again to send the people there in pursuit of Creon's men. He then tells Creon how unjust his actions are, "What you have done/is a disgrace to me, and your own blood,/and to your country. You came within this city/that makes a practice of justice and determines/nothing without a law. You then throw aside her lawful institutions by your invasion./You take what you want, making them yours by force" Line 1049-1055. Theseus perceives Creon to be a force acting against the function of a city, which is to provide law and order for society. Creon has used the law to serve only himself. Continuing, he states that Creon is a foolish man who has no wisdom, saying "But you dishonor/a city that has not merited dishonor --/your own city; and your years, so many,/show you to be an old man still empty of wisdom" Line 1068-1072.

Topic Tracking: City 9
Topic Tracking: Old Age 5

Creon replies by criticizing Oedipus again for killing his father and having an unholy marriage with his own mother. He states that Oedipus deserves his suffering. He thought that Theseus would have understood that Oedipus is an unclean man. "Anger knows no old age, except in death," Creon says about himself. Oedipus dismisses his words as name-calling, saying that he is not guilty of these crimes because they were committed in ignorance. The death of his father Laius was dealt in self-defense, because Laius had wishes to kill him. The marriage to his mother Jocasta was done in ignorance, for he did not know that she was his own mother until it was too late. Indeed, it was she who had sent him away from Thebes to die when he was only a baby. As such, Oedipus sees himself to be an innocent man who has suffered unjustly. Finally, Oedipus invokes the names of the Eumenides who live in the grove to aid Athens and protect it from Creon and Thebes. Theseus adds that they must begin their pursuit so that Antigone and Ismene are not taken away. Creon is now his hostage and shall lead the way to his servants. Oedipus remains behind, nervous, although Theseus tells him not to worry.

Topic Tracking: Old Age 6

The Chorus comments on the events that are occurring. They recall that Athens is very strong and it shall defeat Creon, retrieving the two daughters that his men have kidnapped. Invoking the gods, the Chorus prays that Athene will help them all as well as her brother, the god Apollo. Overjoyed, the Chorus observes Antigone and Ismene as they approach, accompanied by Theseus. Reunited, the three hug one another and celebrate. Thanking Theseus many times, Oedipus wishes for the gods to bless Athens, noting how nice the Athenians have treated him compared with the hatred of the Thebans, "May the gods grant all that I wish for you./for you and for this country! Only in this people/of yours have I found piety towards the gods,/and human feeling and no hypocrisy./...I have/all that I have through you and no one else" Line 1290-1296. Oedipus is a changed man because these Athenians under the leadership of Theseus have been so kind to him. After being friendless for so long, the sudden protection that these men give is comforting, and it awakens his heart again. Now he is not so bitter, nor does he distrust the Athenians any longer.

Topic Tracking: Religion 8

Theseus mentions another odd occurrence that has happened, however. He tells Oedipus that a strange man has hurled himself to the ground in front of the altar of Poseidon, where Theseus had been sacrificing before coming to Oedipus' aid. Curious, Oedipus wonders who this man could be, for he claims to be his relative and wishes to speak to Oedipus. The blind old man, realizing suddenly who this man is, wishes to hear nothing more about it, stating "He is my son, prince, he is my hated son,/whose words would hurt my ears more than all others" Line 1350-1351. Oedipus bears hatred towards both of his sons Polyneices and Eteocles. Yet it is Polyneices who has come to Athens now to request the same that Creon had asked: will Oedipus return to Thebes with him? Oedipus, hearing that his son is nearby, does not want to see him because he is disgusted with his past actions.

Antigone speaks up, persuading her father to give in. She reminds him that, as much as he may hate him, Polynecies is still his own son, his own flesh and blood, and even though he was wronged by this son, Oedipus should not wrong his son in return by denying his request to speak with him. She reminds him to lay his anger aside and listen to Theseus, who wishes to allow Polyneices' request to be granted. Convinced, Oedipus agrees, as long as Theseus promises to protect him from being kidnapped again. The Athenian king assures him, acknowledging that the gods determine his destiny and choose to aid him, "I do not want to boast, but you,/you know you are safe -- if a god keeps me safe" Line 1392-1393.

Topic Tracking: Religion 9

While they are all waiting for Oedipus' son to arrive, the Chorus speaks about the need to have moderation in life and about the sufferings of old age: "Not to be born is best of all.../For when youth with its gift of light heart/has come and gone, what grievous stroke/is spared to a man, what agony/is he without? Envy, and faction,/strife and fighting and murders are his.../old age at the last, most hated,/without power, without comrades, and friends,/when every ill, all ills,/take up their dwelling with him" Line 1410-1423. These are all sufferings of Oedipus especially, who has suffered a great deal during his life and has come into old age without a city and without his old friends from Thebes. Antigone speaks up by telling what she sees, as she has done in the past at the early arrival of Ismene and the later approach of Creon. Now it is the approach of Oedipus' son, Polyneices, which she announces to everyone.

Topic Tracking: Old Age 7

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