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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
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LINES 1096 - 2010: EPISODE III

Summary

This brief episode runs a little over one hundred lines. It deals mainly with the reunion of Oedipus and his daughters through the kind intervention of Theseus. Lines 1096-1149 cover the happy reunion of father and children; then in lines 1150-85, Theseus informs Oedipus of Polyneices' desire for a meeting. The final 25 lines (1186-2010) show Antigone pleading with her father to grant Polyneices a patient hearing.

A rare moment of joy in this rather somber play occurs when Oedipus is reunited with his loving daughters. He embraces his two beloved girls who will continue to serve him loyally as props of his old age and sharers of his sorrow. They all thank Theseus profusely for his role in securing the girls' release and this joyous reunion. Oedipus blesses Theseus, his land, and his people for their kind services in rescuing the girls and restoring them to him, as well as for harboring him from Creon's wicked designs.

In Theseus and his subjects, Oedipus finds the virtues of "piety; ..... gentle dealing, and all truthfulness". He wishes Theseus to stretch out his right hand for him to touch and to offer him his forehead to kiss. Then Oedipus recoils from doing so, for he feels he is too tainted with his sins and may pollute Theseus by kissing him. Oedipus sends his greetings to Theseus "where you stand," from a distance. He begs the noble Athenian to continue supporting him in the future


Theseus graciously accepts Oedipus' words of gratitude and benediction. He confesses he is not a man of wonders so much as a man of deeds:

"I do not care To have my life made glorious with fine speeches Rather than by my actions."

He considers it foolish, idle, and petty to boast about how he won the fight with Creon for the possession of the two young maidens. But there is a new crisis that claims his attention now. He informs Oedipus that a man who is not Oedipus' countryman and yet his kinsman has recently come to Colonus. This stranger interrupted Theseus' prayers to Poseidon when he was on his way here to save Oedipus and his daughters from Creon. This stranger wishes to see Oedipus and speak with him.

Theseus consults Oedipus and asks for his advice in the matter. When Oedipus wonders who this strange man is, Theseus states he has come from Argos. At once, Oedipus understands the stranger is his son, Polyneices, who has married the daughter of Adrastus, the Argive king. He is both shocked and angry at Polyneices and claims that his son had once helped the Thebans to exile him and is now engaged in a bitter battle for the throne of Thebes with his brother Eteocles.

Antigone pleads with her father to grant Polyneices' request, as there is little harm in listening to his words. As a father, Oedipus may be able to advise Polyneices, even if he is planning a rebellious action against his own homeland. Even though Polyneices has wronged Oedipus in the past, Antigone argues that her father should not repay him in the same way. She begs Oedipus not to let his desire for vengeance stand in the way of meeting with his own son. She reminds her father that he has just received fair and noble treatment from Theseus, so he too should act nobly towards others. Her arguments ultimately prevail, and Oedipus agrees to meet Polyneices.

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