Oedipus at Colonus
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A classical Greek tragedy, Oedipus at Colonus traces the end of Oedipus’s life after he has fulfilled a prophecy by murdering his father and marrying his mother. At the start of the play, the blinded Oedipus has come to Colonus, led by his daughters Antigone and Ismene, to throw himself on the mercy of Theseus, King of Athens. Oedipus sits down on a stone to rest, but a villager tells him to move, as the ground is sacred to the Furies. Oedipus recalls that the prophecy also stipulated that he would eventually die at a place sacred to the Furies, and that his grave would be a powerful blessing to the land in which he is buried. The future power of Oedipus’s grave proves attractive to his warring sons Eteocles and Polynices, who are fighting over the throne of Thebes. The sons have heard a prophecy that the outcome of their conflict will depend on Oedipus’ place of burial, and so they are each eager to have their father on their side. Oedipus, though, curses his ungrateful sons and praises his devoted daughters, refusing to pledge allegiance to either Eteocles or Polynices. Instead, he declares himself a supplicant to the King of Athens and the people of Colonus, who offer him protection. But they cannot stop Creon, a conniving representative from Thebes, from kidnapping his beloved daughters and trying to manipulate Oedipus’ powerful burial site.
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Sophocles (ca. 496-406 B.C.) was born in Attica, Greece, to a wealthy family. His stellar education and social prominence perhaps led to his becoming a pillar of his community throughout his life. Sophocles played key roles in many of Athens’s governing bodies, whether political, military, or financial. He made a name for himself as a dramatist in 468 B.C., when he famously won the Dionysia drama competition. This honor was no small accomplishment, as Sophocles beat out Aeschylus, who had for some time been considered Athens’s greatest playwright. Sophocles went on to write many plays in his long lifetime, and several of them survive today. He is best known for his Oedipus cycle, which includes Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonnus, as well as for his other dramas Electra, Philoctetes, and Ajax. Many of Sophocles’s works deal with the painful human dilemmas that even the greatest of leaders must face. To this day, Sophocles is considered one of the founding fathers of Western drama, with his plays enjoying thousands of years on the stage in performances around the world.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
To hear the will of strangers and to obey.
Thick-fluttering song-birds make sweet melody.
Here then repose thee on this unhewn stone.
Thou hast travelled far to-day for one so old.
OED. Seat me, my child, and be the blind man's guard.
ANT. Long time hath well ...
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