Sunday, February 19, 2017

Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles

An old man desires peace and quiet

King Oedipus, an outcast tormented by fate, wanders Greece, impoverished, old, blind, accompanied only by his loyal young daughter Antigone.  He seeks shelter on holy ground in Colonus, soon learning that an oracle has informed Thebes that he must return so the city can avert a dreadful fate.  Creon, the new King of Thebes, arrives in Colonus, to force Oedipus home. Theseus, King of Athens, stops them, allowing Oedipus to be swallowed up by the ground and enter Hades in peace.

This is a retelling of a myth, but also a meditation on the indignities of old age.  Supposedly Sophocles was 90 when he wrote this and the play is full of lyrical outbursts on life, old age and family loyalty.  In the end, Oedipus finds redemption, after severe punishment.  He tried to run from his fate, but couldn’t.  At the end, all he can do is accept it.  I love the way these ancient plays grapple with life and death.

The reader cannot think too much about the relative ages of Antigone and Oedipus.  How can a 99 year old man have a 16 year old sister?  By the same mother?


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