Category: Oedipus


OEDIPUS at Colonus was the third play of the Oedipus trilogy written by the great Greek tragedian Sophocles (c. 496 – c. 406 BCE). Although written in the years prior to his death, it would finally be presented by his son Iophon at a dramatic competition in 401 BCE. The play’s sequel Antigone was actually written years earlier in 441 BCE. Oedipus at Colonus accounts for the final years of the fallen king, 20 years after his exile from Thebes

Blind, weak and dressed in rags, he accepted his fate and wandered from town to town as an outcast accompanied only by his young daughter Antigone. Arriving outside Athens at Colonus, he is befriended by the king of Athens, Theseus, who offers him protection. Oedipus speaks of a prophecy that says whatever city grants him sanctuary will be given special protection. Knowledge of this prophecy comes to the attention of Creon, his brother-in-law, and his son Polyneices who want to take advantage of the blinded king. Both had coldly refused him shelter in the past but now travel to Colonus to offer him sanctuary.

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THE 5th-century BCE poet and dramatist Sophocles is considered one of the most successful tragedians of his time. Although Sophocles wrote at least 120 plays, only seven have survived. Of his surviving plays, the most famous is Oedipus the King, also known as Oedipus Rex or Oedipus Tyrannos (‘Tyrannos’ signifies that the throne was not gained through an inheritance). The play is part of a trilogy along with Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus.

The plot – an old myth already known to most of the audience – was simple: a prophecy claiming he would kill his father and lie with his mother forces Oedipus to leave his home of Corinth and unknowingly travel to Thebes (his actual birthplace). On route he fulfills the first part of the prophecy when he kills a man, the king of Thebes and his true father. Upon arriving in Thebes, he saves the troubled city by solving the riddle of the Sphinx, then he marries the widowed queen (his mother) and becomes the new king. Later, when a plague has befallen the city, Oedipus is told that to rid the city of the plague he must find the murderer of the slain king. Unknowingly, ignorant of the fact that he was the culprit, he promises to solve the murder. When he finally learns the truth, he realizes he has fulfilled the prophecy; he blinds himself and goes into exile.

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