Oedipus at Colonus

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Oedipus and Antigone, his daughter, have wandered far since his banishment. Finally they come to an olive grove in Colonus, over which Theseus, King of Athens, rules. The grove at which they have stopped is one which the Furies hold sacred. Most men fear it, but Oedipus feels comfortable there.

The patriarchs of Colonus, learning that the stranger in their midst is Oedipus, whose horrible story they know, try to drive him away. He is able to calm them, implying that he has special powers and will bring good to the land that provides him refuge.

Ismene, Oedipus’ other daughter, comes to Colonus with news that her two brothers, Polynices and Eteocles, have struggled for power in Thebes and that Polynices, the loser, has been banished.

Meanwhile, King Theseus, sympathetic to Oedipus, offers him protection. The Delphic Oracle foresees that Thebes will suffer greatly if Oedipus is not returned and buried there. Creon, Thebes’ villainous king, comes to Colonus and seeks to return Oedipus by force. Theseus prevents this.

Creon abducts Antigone and Ismene, his nieces, but Theseus has them rescued. Oedipus remains in Colonus and dies there, blessing the land. Antigone and Ismene return to Thebes, attempting to prevent conflict between their brothers.

This was Sophocles’ last play, written when he was almost 90 years old and first performed after his death. Like OEDIPUS TYRANNUS (429 B.C.) and ANTIGONE (441...

(The entire section is 481 words.)