11.07.2019 in Literature

Oedipus at Colunus

In many Greek dramas, most the actions usually takes place in the offstage. The Sophocles (1310-1676 )  uses the device of having the chorus which helps the audience to be able to imagine how the whole story really looks like. The chorus in this passage suggested that it was better never to be born than suffer in the hands of the gods and fate  like Oedipus suffered for all his past in Colunus. The clash between the father and son is brought out in this passage. Within the context of this play, the passage is fully colored with irony because Oedipus went back to where he came from by embracing fate with absolute forthrightness. Oedipus response to his son is very startling especially when he shouted curses at his son. In his speech, Oedipus is very powerful and bitter which is very difficult to approve of his act of condemning his son. Polynices in this passage sets the stage of conflicts.

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This passage fits into the play as a whole as it brings out the theme of fate and prophesies. The ancient Greeks had a strong believe in their gods. They believed that they could be able to see into the future and that some people could also get access so such information from the gods. Due to the theme of  fate and prophesy,  his son Polynices came to Oedipus his father in order to be able to win his favor since the oracle had predicted that whosoevers side he was in, he was destined to be successful. Oedipus became a prophet of himself when he predicted the death of Polynices as he had tried to form an army so that he could go back to Thebes and claim that he was supposed to be the king of Thebes since he was the elder son.


This passage advances the plot to bring out the development of the characters like Oedipus, Antigone, and Polynices. Oedipus is brought out as a man who has suffered a lot in his late years of his life and out of that suffering; he tended to disown his own sons since he stated that Polynices was not his son suggesting that he did not want to be associated with his sons.  Antigone is brought out as a caring sister to Polynices since after Oedipus refused to listen to his son, Antigone tried to persuade her father to listen to him. She also tried to persuade Polynices not to go to war against his brother.  Oedipus did not want to see his sons but Theseus and Antigone insisted that there was no harm at all in listening to what he had to say. Polynices wept at the sight he got his father in and he blamed himself for not being there for him. But his father never listened to him and he instead turned to Antigone and Ismene for them to help him. They tried to explain to their father the reason as to why he came.

The device of tragedy which is used in this passage is irony. It was ironical for Polynices to go back to his father and feel sorry for the state he was in. The dramatic irony which is used in the passage is an essential tool to developing the play as a whole. This dramatic irony helps in the developing through the sadness of the tragic hero. It also helps in creating suspense and foreshadowing the outcome of the whole play. This passage shows that Oedipus who was once a king lived a miserable life of living in exile after being exiled from his own people by his own sons who should have been there to protect and take good care of him. It was very ironical for Polynices to ask his sister to give him a proper burial in case he died in the war. This showed that he did not really regret his past doings and it also showed that he was afraid Oedipus prophesy was going to come true in one way or the other.

Oedipus was able to accept his fate and destiny and he was able to tell the future. The prophesy in this scene made it notable in Sophocles’ work since it prophesied the doom of the two brothers in their own hands prophesied by their own father. This was seen when Polynices, travelled many distances in order to be able to win his father’s favor back so that he could win the battle over his brother for the leadership of Thebes. This passage brought out the unforgiving aspect in Oedipus since he did not forgive Polynices his son instead, he hardened his heart and cursed Polynices for not helping him out while he was in exile and poverty. He also cursed his two sons. Polynices on the other hand is brought out to be very stubborn since he is not genuinely sorry for all of his past actions.

Oedipus suffered a lot in the hands of the gods and this suffering made him to be very powerful and prophetic and like the ancient Greek gods, he showed mercy to no one including his own sons where he was seen cursing his sons.  He regretted his mistakes and so like he was punished, he could not help it but to also sentence Polynices to be punished though his son regretted his past deeds. Polynices seemed to accept Oedipus’ prophesy and his stubbornness showed that it was deemed to come true when he made Antigone to promise to bury him. The chorus in this passage surrounds Oedipus and chants all about the certainty of death and the miseries of life on how life is so lucky to a man when he is born and a misery and full of pain, loneliness and envy as a person approaches old age.

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