Sophocles was a Greek playwright who lived during the 5th century b.c. The Oedipus Cycle is one of his most famous works; the trilogy of plays traces the ill-fated life of a noble blooded man and his descendants. Oedipus at Colonus is the second play of the set.
Oedipus at Colonus is set many years after Oedipus the Rex, and Oedipus has changed his perspective on his exile from Thebes. He has decided that he was not responsible for his fate and that his sons should have prevented his exile. His view has changed from the previous play when Oedipus proudly claimed responsibility for his actions, blinding himself and begging for exile. Although Oedipus seems to have traded his former pride for kindness he regards himself as someone who is more knowledgeable of the gods then that of the other citizens.
As the play progresses his pride returns and shows that he hasn’t truly changed his old ways. Unlike the first play Oedipus, as well as the other characters, don’t seem important and religious themes are now stressed. The relationship between blindness and exile is also explored throughout the play through the actions and words of the characters. The theme of blindness is continued from Oedipus rex with the people who interacted with him to be blind at seeing him for who he is. From the people of Colonus to Oedipus’ own son and brother-in-law, the people Oedipus interacts with only see his strength and power.
As the play begins, Oedipus and Antigone stop to rest on a section of land. Oedipus believes this land to be the place where he will remain until his death. The citizens of Colonus go to this place to inform Oedipus that his desire to remain on this land is impossible because it is sacred to the town, but are convinced otherwise when Oedipus tells them of his prophecy. Also included in Oedipus’ prophecy it is said that the land his body is buried in will be blessed by the gods.
Theseus agrees to grant Oedipus’ request to bury him at Colonus and continues to explain to Oedipus that there will be a war between his two sons for his body. With this said Theseus leaves. Creon enters with his guards and when Oedipus refuses to leave with him they kidnap Antigone and Ismene.
Hearing the commotion Theseus returns and tell Creon that he brings shame to Thebes with his bullying behavior. In an attempt to justify his actions he brings up the crimes committed by Oedipus. Theseus promises Oedipus to bring his daughters back to him. Creon reminds them that this isn’t the end of the battle for Oedipus’ body and promises to return with a full army.
Returning with Oedipus’ daughters, Theseus brings word that a stranger has wandered into town wishing to speak with Oedipus. Realizing that it is his son Polynices Oedipus refuses to speak to him. After some persuasion Oedipus agrees to speak with his son as long as Theseus protects him from abduction.
Oedipus refuses to support Polynices and tells him that both he and his brother will die by each other’s hand because he cursed them when he was exiled. Being denied by his father Polynices turns to his sisters asking for only a proper burial if he is killed in battle. Antigone asks that he call off the war but he refuses.
Sensing his death drawing near Oedipus once again sends for Theseus. With the last of his strength Oedipus leads Theseus to the spot where he is to die and as a last request makes Theseus promise to look after his daughters. To ensure that Theseus and his heirs will always rein over a blessed kingdom the location is to be kept a secret only to be passed down upon the kings’ death. Ending the play Antigone and Ismene leave for Thebes after there fathers death to try and prevent the war between there brothers.