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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
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LINES 254 - 667: EPISODE I

Summary

This long scene constitutes the first episode of the play. Some editors divide the episode into two scenes (lines 254-509 and lines 510-667). However, this guide will follow Sophocles and regard this episode as only one scene. For purposes of understanding it better, the scene is divided into three parts as follows: (1) Lines 254-320 (2) Lines 321-509 and (3) Lines 510-667.

Lines 254-320

In this section of Episode I, the chorus and Oedipus continue their dialogue about the tragic events of his past life in Thebes and his present hopes in Colonus. Oedipus upbraids the citizens of Colonus for trying to dislodge him from the grove. He reminds them that Athens has a fine reputation as a religious state and is the only place in Greece "able to guard the stranger in distress." Yet the chorus has just attempted to expel him partly out of their reverence for the Gods and partly for fear of his ill-fated person and name.

Oedipus disclaims responsibility for his earlier misdeeds as king of Thebes. He argues that he was more the victim than the perpetrator by saying, "The things I did were rather done to me."

The story of his relations with his mother and father makes the chorus dread him. Hence, he considers it unwise to tell them the whole sordid tale. He had not acted against his parents willingly, and, therefore, he feels he is not wicked because his actions were purely dictated by the will of Fate.

Oedipus begs the chorus not to despoil the fair name of Athens by being so cruel as to chase him away. He appeals to their sense of religious duty and humanitarianism. He argues that in trying to appease the gods by ousting him from the sacred grove, they must not fail to show him the graces of mercy and compassion. For the gods, he reminds the chorus, look equally on the godless and the god-fearing. They never let an impious mortal escape his due fate on earth. Oedipus ends his plea for refuge by reiterating, "Holy and righteous am I".


If the citizens help him, he promises to bring comfort and blessings to the land. They agree to bear with Oedipus until their king, Theseus, arrives to make a final decision. Surprised that the king will come directly to hear his plea, Oedipus is told that his name and his terrible tale has spread far and wide in Greece. Oedipus hopes the king will arrive soon for both his (i.e. Oedipus') own good and that of the city. Antigone interrupts Oedipus to inform him of the arrival of her sister, Ismene.

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