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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
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Notes

This "kommos" prepares the audience for the fast approaching death of Oedipus. The five lines of frenetic dialogue between Antigone and Oedipus also emphasize his imminent death. Sophocles prepares for this final act of release by using such dramatic elements as thunder and lightning. Of course, in the theater of Dionysus, perhaps only the effect of thunder was produced and the lightning merely imagined by the chorus' words and their mimed actions showing fear.

The thunder-rolls and the chorus' miming of panic on seeing the lightning must also have had a tremendous dramatic impact on spectators in Sophocles' times since the Greeks believed thunder was the handiwork of Zeus. Being superstitious, the audience may have seen these thunder claps and flashes of lightning as being divine omens that foretold something tragic or disastrous was about to happen. Thus, Sophocles heightens the sense of excitement and anticipation that something great is about to unfold.

In Oedipus' second exchange of dialogue with Antigone (lines 1472-76), the theme of time reaches a definite point and the journey of life touching its destination in death is clearly stated. "The appointed ending of my life/Has found me, and may not be averted any more". The blind old man's process of acquiring knowledge through experience has now reached its final climatic moment. Frantically, Oedipus calls upon his friend, Theseus, to come and share this experience with him. He seems to want to share a secret with his trusted confidant, Theseus, before he loses consciousness/sanity in the moments preceding death. Ironically, it would seem Oedipus would be happier to meet his end, not alone, but in the company of a trusted and loving friend.


Lines 1500 - 1555

In this brief part that rounds off Episode IV, Theseus hurries on stage to find out why the chorus and Oedipus are disturbed and have sent for him. Oedipus disengages himself from his daughter's embraces and informs Theseus that death awaits him and that before he dies, he wishes to fulfill his pledges to the city and Theseus. Oedipus knows the thunder is an omen sent by the gods meant only for him. Theseus wishes to discover what Oedipus can prophesy in his last hour.

Oedipus makes a moving farewell speech. He invites only Theseus to accompany him in his last moments to the place in which he is to die. Oedipus says he needs no guide to find it and begins to walk alone and unaided. He charges Theseus, son of Aegeus, never to reveal where exactly this place of death is, as it will be a place of refuge for the king, too, in later moments of trial in his life. As they walk to this secret place, Oedipus says he will enlighten Theseus on what lies in store for his city in times to come. But he will not put into words where he must die -- not to the citizens, nor even his own daughters, though he loves them deeply.

Oedipus tells Theseus he can reveal this secret place of death only to his heir on his deathbed. Thus, he can hold the city of Athens unscathed from future harm. He prays that Theseus and his people will never scorn godliness and, hence, never invite the wrath of the gods which is slow, but sure. He moves ahead, alone, to find his final resting place, in the land of the dead (Hades) guided by Hermes. He warns his daughters not to touch him or even aid him and is followed only by Theseus. His final words are a fond benediction to Theseus, his land, and subjects. He reminds them to think of him in their happy hours in the future.

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