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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
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Scene Summaries With Notes

THE PROLOGUE - LINES 1-116

Summary

Oedipus and his daughter Antigone arrive at the sacred grove of the Erinyes or Furies (also known as The Eumenides, or Kindly Ones) near Colonus, a rustic suburb of Athens. Tired, weak and old, Oedipus stops to rest. Since his self-exile from Thebes, he has sought release from the burden of his tragic life and feels he must now die in this quiet place. He asks Antigone to find out where they are and, being in a foreign place, advises her to listen to the locals and do their bidding.

Antigone informs her aged, toil-worn father that they are near a city whose towers can be seen in the distance. In fact, that city is Athens and the idyllic grove that Antigone describes as blooming with "laurel, olive and the vine" is the home of the dreadful goddesses called the Furies.

Antigone makes her father rest on a rough-hewn rock as a stranger from Colonus approaches. He warns them not to trespass on this grove or desecrate the holy ground inhabited by the gods, Poseidon and Prometheus. The stranger tells them that as long as Theseus is king of Athens, the people here will call Colonus their Lord. A statue of him mounted on his horse can be seen in the adjoining fields.


On hearing this from the stranger, Oedipus says, "I will never leave this new land, this is my refuge." He bids the stranger to seek out the king and tell him that "with a small service, he may gain a great deal." Here, Oedipus is referring to an earlier prophecy made to him by the oracle at Delphi which foretold, among other things, that he would die at a place sacred to the awful Avenging Goddesses and that his spirit would either bring blessings to his hosts or a curse, if the local people turned him away. He promises to reward the locals for their kindness with the gift of his "inner vision." He says, "There shall be sight in all that I shall say." The stranger leaves to convey Oedipus' enigmatic message to the locals, who will then decide whether or not he can stay on at Colonus.

Oedipus then addresses a prayer to the dreaded Furies. Because the Delphic Oracle also predicted that his death would be preceded by thunder, lightning and earthquake, Oedipus ends his powerful plea to the "kind daughters of primordial darkness" by asking them to grant him refuge in their grove and allow him to right his wrong. He pleads with the citizens of Athens, the fair city of Pallas Athena, to "have pity upon this miserable ghost of what was Oedipus," admitting he is not the powerful man he once was. Afterwards, he asks Antigone to hide him in the grove as the citizens of Colonus gather around to decide his case.

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