Oedipus at Colonus Book Summary - Oedipus at Colonus Book explained in key points

Oedipus at Colonus summary


Brief summary

Oedipus at Colonus is a Greek tragedy by Sophocles. It follows the story of Oedipus as he seeks redemption and forgiveness in his final days, while exploring themes of fate and free will.

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    Oedipus at Colonus
    Summary of key ideas

    The Exile and Acceptance of Oedipus

    Beginning Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, we find the once mighty king Oedipus living in exile, accompanied by his loyal daughter Antigone. Oedipus, who is now blind and in rags, carries the burden of his past actions - killing his father and marrying his mother. They arrive at the village of Colonus, near Athens, where they hope to find refuge.

    In a somber twist, Oedipus is informed by a local citizen that he has trespassed on a sacred ground, a grove dedicated to the Furies, goddesses of vengeance. Oedipus, however, senses the auspiciousness of the spot and insists on waiting for the arrival of king Theseus, the ruler of Athens, to seek his protection.

    The Power Struggle

    Meanwhile, a messenger arrives from Thebes with an appeal for Oedipus to return. We learn that the power struggle has erupted between Oedipus' sons, Eteocles and Polynices, both wanting Oedipus' support. However, Oedipus curses both of his sons for neglecting him in his exile. He refuses the offer, harboring bitterness about being banished from Thebes.

    The messenger, in truth, his treacherous brother-in-law Creon, forcibly tries to usher Oedipus back, but he is thwarted by the arrival of Theseus. The king of Athens, maintaining the sacred duties of hospitality, gives his protection to Oedipus and sends Creon away.

    Reunion and Foreseen Death

    The narrative shifts with the sudden arrival of Oedipus' other daughter, Ismene. She reveals that an oracle has prophesied that Oedipus' grave shall bring fortune to the city where he is buried. Meanwhile, Polynices arrives, seeking forgiveness and support from Oedipus in a war against his brother. Oedipus sternly refuses, predicting the deaths of both sons from their impending conflict.

    Oedipus then confides in Theseus, revealing that the time of his death is near. He commits to bless the city of Athens and its people as a token of gratitude for their hospitable treatment. All he asks in return is a proper burial and the company of his daughters till his death.

    Conclusion and Transfiguration

    The climax of Oedipus at Colonus unveils a poignant scene where Oedipus, sensing his death, bids a touching goodbye to his daughters. He asks Theseus to take care of them and leads the king to his resting place. The process is one of quiet mysticism, as Oedipus' passing is described as a gentle transfiguration rather than a somber death.

    In conclusion, Oedipus at Colonus chronicles the tragic end of Oedipus, a fallen king. His road to redemption might be steeped in tragedy, but it eventually leads him to find peace in death. It's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, even in the face of extreme adversity.

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    What is Oedipus at Colonus about?

    Oedipus at Colonus is a tragedy by Sophocles that follows the exiled Oedipus as he seeks refuge in the sacred grove of Colonus. The play delves into themes of fate, redemption, and the power of forgiveness. As Oedipus confronts his past and grapples with his impending death, the play raises questions about the nature of free will and the divine forces that shape our lives.

    Who should read Oedipus at Colonus?

    • Anyone interested in Greek mythology and classical literature
    • Readers interested in exploring themes of fate and destiny
    • Students of literature or drama studying the works of Sophocles

    About the Author

    Sophocles was a Greek playwright and one of the most celebrated tragedians of ancient Greece. He wrote over 120 plays, but only seven complete plays survived, including "Oedipus Rex," "Antigone," and "Electra." Sophocles’ works explored complex themes such as fate, the human condition, and the nature of power. His plays are known for their deep character development, timeless messages, and enduring impact on the theater. He is considered one of the three great Greek tragedians, alongside Aeschylus and Euripides.

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