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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
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LINES 720 - 1043: EPISODE II

Summary

This episode presents no major difficulties in terms of its form. It is clearly divided into two parts with a Choric "kommos" separating the two halves. The first part involves Oedipus and Creon in debate and runs from lines 720-833 and 844-875. It ends with the choric kommos spread over lines 834-843 and lines 876- 886. The second part of Episode II begins at line 887, when Theseus enters, and stretches over the exchanges among Oedipus, Creon, and Theseus up to line 1043.

Lines 720 - 886

As Creon approaches in the distance, Oedipus prays the chorus will protect him. They assert that although they are senior citizens of Colonus, "The vigor of our country has not aged." Then Creon enters with his attendants and the chorus shrinks from him in fear. He reassures them he has "no forceful aim" against them and respects Athens as one of the most powerful cities in Greece.

He reveals his purpose is to take Oedipus back to Thebes. On behalf of all Thebans and as regent of Thebes, he pleads with Oedipus to come home. Creon adds that they all sympathize with him in his suffering and also expresses sympathy for Antigone's misery as her hapless father's sole attendant in exile. He feels sorry that she has been reduced to a state of penury in early maidenhood -- as yet unwed and prey to any rude stranger's advances. He ends by reiterating his plea to Oedipus that he must return to his native city. But Oedipus remains unmoved by Creon's appeal, for he sees it as a crafty device to get him back to Thebes solely to suit the selfish ends of Creon and his subjects.


He rebukes Creon for not allowing him to leave Thebes when he first desired to do so after his fall from power. He claims he was dispirited and full of woe that Creon, as the new king of Thebes, would not grant him sanction to leave. Later, however, when his early grief had abated, Creon supported and encouraged those who wished to thrust him out of Thebes. Now, once again, when Oedipus has found sanctuary in Colonus, Creon aims to drag him home against his wishes. He correctly suspects that Creon and the Thebans want him back only because the oracles have foretold his presence would bring victory to Thebes in the current civil war.

Oedipus, having detected the treachery underlying Creon's pleas to return to Thebes, utters a terrible double curse -- first, on his country and then on his sons. He orders Creon to leave him in peace. He trusts his newfound patrons, Theseus and the people of Colonus, will protect him from Creon's vile scheming. Creon then threatens to abduct Oedipus' two daughters and take them back to Thebes. He reveals that he already has Ismene in his custody and now orders his guards to arrest Antigone. As the poor girl is dragged away, both Oedipus and the chorus beg Creon to release her. But the cruel Theban King merely claims, "I will not touch the man; Only this maiden, who belongs to me."

The chorus and Creon now exchange the first part of the "kommos", the strophe (lines 834-43). The chorus threatens Creon that they will use force to release Antigone. He is not easily dissuaded and warns there will be war with Thebes if they stand in his way. The chorus in response calls all the men of Colonus to prevent this forceful outrage on their land by outsiders. Antigone bewails her capture as Oedipus gropes blindly about for his faithful attendant.

As Antigone exits with the guards, Creon revels in the success of his scheme of abducting the women. He rebukes Oedipus for trying to oppose the will of the Thebans, who desire him back. When the chorus surrounds him menacingly, Creon warns he will also abduct Oedipus. The sad old man utters a bitter curse on Creon and his family, that the sun-god blind them in their old age, just as Oedipus has been twice blinded - -once, when he himself put out his eyes and, now, after Antigone has been wrenched from him.

This first part of Episode II ends with the completion of the anti- strophe to the kommos (lines 876-86). As Creon approaches to arrest Oedipus, the chorus bars his way. They chastise his overbearing pride and boldness in this evil scheme. As he attacks Oedipus, they cry out loudly for help to Theseus who, almost at once, arrives on the scene to save the situation.

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