Line 1441-1711 Notes from Oedipus at Colonus

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Oedipus at Colonus Line 1441-1711

Oedipus' son Polyneices appears and speaks about his reason for coming to this place at Colonus outside of Athens in search of his father. Polyneices laments that Oedipus does not respond to his arrival at all, "Here I find him in a foreign country,/an exile banished here, with clothes upon him/where the foul ancient dirt has lived so long/that it infects his old body,/and his uncombed hair floats in the wind/about his eyeless face.../Why are you silent?/Say something! Do not turn away from me giving no answer" Line 1445-1461. The son grows angry at his father for ignoring him, since he has made such a long journey to find him. Antigone urges Polynecies simply to speak, since his words will help to generate a reaction from Oedipus. The son tells a long story about how he is exiled from the city of Thebes by his younger brother Eteocles because he wanted to be the king. After he was exiled, Polyneices went to find allies who would help him to attack Thebes and win back the throne; he managed to gather a total of seven armies, including one of his own. Each army is led by a powerful Greek chieftain who aides Polyneices in regaining the kingship. Finally, he explains that the oracle of Apollo at Delphi declared that whatever side Oedipus chose to join in this conflict would be the side that will win the war. As a result, Polynecies wants Oedipus to join his army so that he will be guaranteed a victory.

Topic Tracking: City 10
Topic Tracking: Old Age 8

Responding, Oedipus mocks Polyneices with very angry words, "You scoundrel, you, with your scepter and your throne --/held now by your blood brother in Thebes --/you chased me out, your father, made me cityless;/these are clothes you made me wear,/the sight of which now brings tears to your eyes,/when you have come to the same stress of misery./I may not weep, I must put up with it" Line 1548-1554. He is upset that his son originally had no problem with exiling him from Thebes after it was learned that Oedipus had mistakenly killed his father Laius and had sex with his mother Jocasta. However, now Polyneices dares to come to ask for help when the same circumstances of exile from Thebes have happened to him. Oedipus declares that he cannot weep like his son does because he has more dignity than that. The father shows complete disgust toward this son. Oedipus goes further and curses both of his sons , saying that both shall die and neither one shall win the kingship of Thebes. He disowns both of them, "You are no sons of mine," and praises his two daughters, Antigone and Ismene for the help that they have given to him.

Topic Tracking: City 11

In response to these words, Polyneices is deeply hurt, but he does not argue. Knowing that he is destined to die, he asks his sisters Antigone and Ismene to honor him properly if he dies by giving a proper burial with funeral rites. Antigone speaks up, asking that he abandon his plan to attack Thebes, but he refuses to do this. Polyneices doesn't want anyone calling him a coward, and he was dishonored by being exiled from his city by a younger brother. Convinced that no one can help him and that he must go onwards to Thebes without his father's aid, Polyneices prepares to leave. Antigone continues to argue in vain, for she cares about her brother very much. She laments to him, "I am utterly destroyed/if I must lose you." Nevertheless, Polyneices prepares to leave.

The Chorus becomes worried as thunder booms up in the sky, "Here are other new ills that have come/just now, of evil doom,/from the blind stranger.../For I cannot recall any decision of God/a vain thing./Time watches constantly those decisions;/Some fortunes it destroys, and others,/on the day following, lifts up again/There is the thunder! Zeus!" Line 1662-1671. The Chorus of Athenian elders defends the actions of the gods, even though Oedipus perceives his own fate to be cruel and unjust. The blind man becomes very excited, asking for Theseus to be brought there to the grove right away. The thunder rumbles throughout the sky as they wait for Theseus, and the Chorus grows very fearful about what is going to happen as the men speak, "Look at it! Rolling down, crashing,/the thunderbolt unspeakable, hurled by Zeus./Terror has raised the hair on my head;/my heart is trembling.../I am all fear" Line 1677-1683. The thunder grows worse and worse. Oedipus tells a very confused Antigone that it is time for him to die because the gods are calling him. The Chorus calls out to Theseus, declaring that it is time for him and Athens to receive Oedipus' promised gift for the protection he has given to him. Hearing these words, the Athenian king comes over from the altar of Poseidon, demanding to know what is happening.

Topic Tracking: Religion 10

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