Notes on Oedipus at Colonus Themes

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Oedipus at Colonus Topic Tracking: Old Age

Old Age 1: For Oedipus, old age brings a great deal of suffering because of the past events he has experienced after being exiled from Thebes, but also his body is more tired now than it used to be. He is very tired from walking and needs to sit down on a rock. Old age has also taught Oedipus to be a stronger person because he's lived through so much.

Old Age 2: The Chorus is composed of old men from Athens; these men advise Oedipus that he needs to move away from the grove because it is sacred; they address him continually as "Old man" because of his old age, suggesting that they pity him a bit because he is so old, for he's called a "poor old man" as well. Certainly, after wandering for so long, Oedipus must look like a beggar, thus their reaction is understandable.

Old Age 3: Oedipus speaks the words, "It is a poor thing to exalt the old when he fell in his youth," meaning that an old man's mistakes are not so easily forgotten. Oedipus feels guilty for the crimes of incest and patricide he committed when a much younger man, and the passage of time has not caused him to forget. He feels unworthy to be praised by anyone because of his past mistakes.

Old Age 4: Creon, who is also an old man, accuses Oedipus of not having any wisdom. Wisdom usually comes gradually as a person gets older, but Creon states that Oedipus has not learned any wisdom at all, as old as he is because Oedipus refuses to return to Thebes.

Old Age 5: Theseus accuses Creon of the very same mistake that Creon had previously accused Oedipus of, declaring that he lacks wisdom in old age. Creon does not listen and becomes violent and irrational, insisting that Oedipus must return to Thebes with him.

Old Age 6: Defending himself, Creon insists that it is his own anger that causes him to try to take Oedipus back to Thebes with him because "Anger knows no old age, except in death." Although many years have passed since the death of his sister Jocasta, he still blames Oedipus for her death. The passage of time has not caused his anger to go away or to let him forgive.

Old Age 7: The Chorus describes old age as a time of great suffering and pain, because an old man is "most hated, without power, without comrades, without friends, when every ill and all ills take up their dwelling within him." Being old is terrible because it is lonely since many friends have already died, and the body becomes ill and filled with pains.

Old Age 8: Oedipus' son Polyneices says that his father looks like a wretched man and does not show a lot of respect for him since his hair is not combed and his skin is so dirty. Old age has taken away a lot of Oedipus' dignity and grace, especially because of the way he looks now.

Old Age 9: When Oedipus knows that he is finally going to die, he is filled with energy once again and no longer needs a guide to show him the way as he walks. This is a big change from his behavior earlier when he complains a lot about how tired and frail he is. he walks toward his death eagerly and willingly, because it means that his suffering will end.

Old Age 10: Antigone and Ismene are very sad that their father has died and the older sister even wishes to die herself as a result. They do not understand the pains of being an old man, nor did they consider how happy Oedipus was to die. It is difficult for young children such as this to even understand what it is like to be old unless they experience it for themselves as their father had done.

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