Oedipus at Colonus

by Sophocles

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Student Question

What occurs when Oedipus first arrives at Colonus in "Oedipus at Colonus"?

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As the play opens, Oedipus is asking himself what kind of reception he is going to receive as he and his daughter, Antigone, wander on their path together. It is clear that he is an itinerant mendicant, forced as a result of his tragedy and blindness to wander the globe trying to find what hospitality he may. He has very few expectations, as the following quote establishes:

Who will receive the wandering Oedipus today?

Not with gifts but a pittance... it's litttle I ask

and get still less, but quite enough for me.

Oedipus recognises that his fame and fate makes men fear him and want to spurn him, and so his expectations are to receive but little before he is moved on. As he predicts, when the people of Colonus find out his identity, they try to move him on as quickly as possible, fearing that the bad luck that has resulted in his downfall might somehow taint them.

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