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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles

Major Characters

Oedipus - Oedipus is the former ruler of Thebes, who lost power over his kingdom when he discovered he had unwittingly killed his father, Laius, and married his own mother, Jocasta. In atonement, he gouged out his eyes and exiled himself, wandering for years before finally taking refuge in the sacred grove of the Furies at Colonus, outside Athens. Here he awaits his redemption from sin by seeking the death of a penitent.

Antigone - Antigone is the most faithful and caring of Oedipus' four children by Jocasta. She accompanies her father in his period of banishment and takes care of him during his final days. (She is the remarkable heroine of a play written earlier by Sophocles, which bears her name).

Theseus - Theseus is the king of Athens, who gives Oedipus refuge in Colonus, a suburb of his city-state. He also rescues Oedipus and his daughters when Creon attempts to attack them. He is kind and helpful to the blind and aging Oedipus. Sophocles depicts him as the ideal Athenian statesman.

The chorus - The chorus is a group of elderly citizens representative of Colonus. Like the audience, they witness the unfolding events that lead up to Oedipus' death. The chorus often comment upon the central figures and the dramatic proceedings involving them.


Creon - Creon is the brother of Queen Jocasta, who takes over as ruler of Thebes when Oedipus goes into exile after Jocasta has committed suicide in disgrace. In the power struggles that erupt between Oedipus' two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, Creon sides with the younger son, Eteocles. He is enraged with Oedipus for siding with Polyneices and attempts to arrest both him and his daughters.

Ismene - Ismene is the elder daughter of Oedipus who visits her father and sister in Colonus. She informs him of the bitter fratricidal strife between her brothers for power in Thebes, making Oedipus furious at them for drawing their homeland into a bloody civil war.

Polyneices - Polyneices is the eldest son of Oedipus who has agreed to rule Thebes in turn with his younger brother Eteocles. The latter, however, refuses to relinquish power after his period of authority is completed, and the two brothers engage in bitter civil strife. (The battle forms the core of Aeschylus' tragedy Seven Against Thebes and also the background to Sophocles' earlier play Antigone).

The Stranger - The stranger plays a minor role at the start of the play, warning Oedipus of the fact that the ground he treads is sacred to the Erinyes, or the vengeful spirits called "Furies" in Greek mythology.

The Messenger - The Messenger appears only once towards the close of the play to describe the noble and dignified manner in which Oedipus dies. In Sophocles' time, it was customary to avoid depiction of violent scenes of death, war, or murder in a play; therefore, the Messenger serves a vital dramatic function in Greek tragedy.

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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles


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