The Oedipus Trilogy By Sophocles Summary and Analysis: Oedipus at Colonus Lines 617-761

Summary

When Theseus arrives, he immediately recognizes Oedipus, who is famous for his guilt and suffering. The Athenian king offers the blind beggar his help. Oedipus thanks Theseus and asks to stay in Athens until his death, promising that Athens will be rewarded. He warns that the peace between Athens and Thebes will be ended if Theseus helps him.

Despite this warning, Theseus promises his aid. He grants Oedipus Athenian citizenship, and leaves him under the protection of the elders while he returns to Athens.

Analysis

In his respect for Oedipus and his acknowledgment of the old man's sufferings, Theseus reinforces the sympathetic view of the exiled former king that Oedipus' speeches created in the previous dialogue with the elders. This respectful approach toward Oedipus, in turn, establishes Theseus as a character commanding respect and sympathy. In fact, Oedipus himself praises Theseus, calling the king "so magnanimous, so noble!" (641-642).

This episode includes one of the most famous speeches written by Sophocles (685-712). To Theseus' question about why Thebes and Athens should ever come to war, Oedipus answers with all the authority of his own horrendous experience, describing the instability of life and earthly circumstances.

Glossary

Dionysus the god of wine and revelry.

Great Goddesses here, a term to refer to Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, and her daughter Persephone, the goddess of the underworld and the spring. They are the deities of the Eleusian Mysteries, which granted initiates the hope of life after death.

Cephisus a river of Attica.

Muses the nine goddesses who preside over literature and the arts and sciences: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia, Urania, and Thalia.

Aphrodite the goddess of love and beauty.

Pelops' broad Dorian island here, a reference to the Peloponnesus, a peninsula forming the southern part of the mainland in Greece.

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