Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 528
Sophocles's Oedipus at Colonus, produced posthumously by his grandson in 401 B.C., tells the story of Oedipus's wanderings after going into exile. He was attended by Antigone, his daughter, to Colonus, and there Theseus protected him until he died. Before he died he cursed his sons Eteocles and Polyneices that they should kill each other, and after Eteocles had ruled for a time he refused to surrender the throne to his brother, who gathered seven champions known as the Seven against Thebes. They attacked the city at each of its seven gates. The brothers died in battle. Oedipus at Colonus is the second play in the trilogy of Theban plays, which also includes Antigone (the final play) and Oedipus Rex.
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In Antigone, the title character (Oedipus's daughter) and her uncle, Creon the king of Thebes, quarrel because the king will not permit the burial rite to be performed for her brother, Polyneices, who was condemned as a traitor. Creon punishes Antigone for her attempts to bury her brother by sealing her alive inside a stone tomb. She hangs herself, and her husband-to-be Haemon, Creon's son, stabs himself next to her body.
The History of the Peloponnesian War, by the Athenian citizen and general Thucydides (c. 460-400 B.C.), is a careful, compelling, and often first-hand account of the war between Athens and Sparta (431-404 B.C.), which occurred during the heyday of Sophocles's career.
Written in the first century A.D., the lives of Athenian leaders presented in Plutarch's The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives include Theseus, Pericles, Alcibiades, and Lysander; these last three figures played key roles in Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and their lives provide an instructive political and cultural context for Sophoclean drama.
Democracy, Ancient and Modern (1973), by M. I. Finley, traces the history of democratic culture from fifth-century Athens to the present day. It compares the political, social, and economic structures as well as the role of the arts and literature in different historically significant democracies.
Shakespeare's Hamlet, written c. 1600, recounts the story of a young man whose father has died and his brother Claudius has assumed the throne, marrying his widow Gertrude. The ghost of king appears to his son, Hamlet, and urges him to avenge his death; Hamlet is obsessed with the memory of his father's death and is repulsed at the thought and sight of his mother's hasty remarriage; he wants to kill his uncle, Claudius, but does not succeed in finding the right opportunity until the final scene, when most of the main characters die in the tragedy's final blood bath. Since Freud, the mother-son relationship in the play has been historically considered to be driven by the son's Oedipus complex.
My Oedipus Complex, a short story by Frank O'Connor (published in 1956), sets the Oedipus story in Ireland during World War I. While his father is away fighting in the war, a young boy, the first-person narrator, develops a misunderstood attraction toward his mother, a situation which becomes complicated by his father's return home and the parents' decision to have another child. An ironic but very touching version of the myth, complete with a happy ending.