Summary and Analysis: Oedipus at Colonus
Creon enters with his attendants and tries to persuade Oedipus to return to Thebes. Oedipus sees through Creon's hypocrisy and recalls the many times in the past when he showed him no pity. Creon has his men seize Antigone and tells Oedipus that Ismene is already a prisoner.
Theseus arrives with his party and takes Creon hostage, reprimanding him for violation of Athenian territory. With Creon as his prisoner, Theseus sends his men to rescue Ismene and Antigone.
This scene moves from polite conversation to threats of war, dramatizing the three principals in the play: Oedipus as the suffering victim of his fate, Theseus as the fair-minded decisive leader, and Creon as the duplicitous bully.
When Theseus accuses Creon of unlawful action, Creon justifies himself by citing the many sins committed by Oedipus. Oedipus, in turn, defends himself by insisting that the gods condemned him to his fate. He committed his crimes unknowingly and discovered their significance too late. Creon, however, badgers the old man, knowing full well what he's doing. Anguished, angry, and broken by the blows of destiny and the humiliation of exile, Oedipus nevertheless defends himself. At the very least, he is determined to give the gift of his grave and with it the power of his blessing, to the city he himself chooses Athens.
In response, the elders side with Oedipus, whom they now see as innocent of sin, although cursed by ill fortune. Their change in judgment begins the preparation for Oedipus' apotheosis — elevation to divine status — at the end of the play.
Note, too, that Creon's character in this play contrasts sharply with the reasonable Creon of Oedipus the King. In this scene, Creon starts with a hypocritical, duplicitous speech to Oedipus and ends with hostage-taking and threats of war. Creon's transformation from bad to worse contrasts with the transformation of Oedipus, who changes from a reviled man to a figure with god-like powers at the end of the play.
unctuous characterized by a smug, smooth pretense of spiritual feeling, fervor or earnestness, as in seeking to persuade; too suave or oily in speech or manner.