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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
This tragedy, written by Sophocles, is set in and around Colonus, a district of Attica in ancient Greece, which is about one mile northwest of the Dipylon or 'double-gate' leading out of Athens. Colonus was one of the twelve separate communities that were a part of the mountainous countryside surrounding Athens, and which were later fused into the single Athenian city-state by Theseus, the national hero and king of Athens, a generation before the legendary battle of Troy. Theseus appears in this play as king of Athens and friend of Oedipus.
After his fall from power (described by Sophocles in his earlier tragedy Oedipus Tyrranus / Oedipus the King), the disgraced Oedipus takes refuge in the groves of Colonus during his self- imposed exile from his former kingdom of Thebes. (Another account notes that Oedipus was exiled by his sons and Creon). Thebes was the capital of the adjacent district, lying just north- northwest of Athens. Oedipus' loyal daughter, Antigone, follows him into exile and, later, Creon, who is the new regent of Thebes. Oedipus' other children -- a daughter, Ismene, and his elder son, Polyneices -- also visit him at Colonus.
This play is the last of Sophocles' three plays set within the framework of the familiar legend of Oedipus, which dates back several centuries before Sophocles' time. In terms of setting, the play adheres closely to the Aristotelian principle of the unity of place. All the action takes place in and around the grove and focuses on Oedipus, the central character. To achieve a rustic setting within sight of Athens, Sophocles used some form of stage- flats or painted scenery to depict the rocks and trees of the Grove, as well as a backdrop of Athens viewed from a distance. In addition, an equestrian statue of Poseidon, the lord of Colonus, was in full view on the stage.