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MonkeyNotes-Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
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Plot Construction in Oedipus At Colonus

The plot of Sophocles' Oedipus At Colonus is so structured as to highlight the factors leading up to Oedipus' death and the mystery that surrounds his final moments in life. The plot also touches upon the pathos of Oedipus' sufferings and sorrows at Thebes before he comes to Colonus where he, at last, finds a small measure of peace before he dies.

Sophocles often found the basic plot for his plays embodied in the Themes of earlier lyric or epic poetry or in Greek plays written before his time. For the plot of Oedipus At Colonus, he relied mainly on the final segment of the familiar legend of Oedipus, descendant of Laius, Labdacus, and the Cadmean dynasty in Thebes.

The plot of a Greek tragedy usually consisted of the five following parts: the Prologue, the Parados, the five Episodia or Episodes, the five stasima of choruses, and the Exodus (or Epilogue). In this play, Sophocles follows, more or less, the conventional pattern of plot construction, though he deviates a bit from the norm. In Sophocles' Oedipus At Colonus, only four Episodes and four stasima (Choric Odes) are represented, in contrast to the regular five, but this does not seem to detract from the artistic unity of the play.

With most great dramatic masters, like Shakespeare or Sophocles, their earlier works are loosely structured, and their middle period plays are formal and tightly structured; in their final works, such as Sophocles' Oedipus At Colonus or Shakespeare's The Tempest, they become such complete masters of their art that they break free of conventional restraints on form and let their own artistic instincts become their safe and sure guides.


The Prologos, or "fore-word", formed the prologue to the actual play. It preceded the first entry of the chorus and usually took the form of a monologue (or dialogue) setting forth the core subject matter of the tragedy and the basic events (situation) from which it starts. In the earliest Greek tragedies, the chorus entered first and performed this expository function. Sophocles adopts the later method in Oedipus At Colonus. He first presents two of his central characters, Oedipus and Antigone, making their way to Colonus, a suburb of Athens. Oedipus, exiled from Thebes, now seeks a quiet place of refuge in which to die peacefully. The stranger is a third character introduced into the Prologue, and he fulfills the dramatic function of enlightening Oedipus and Antigone about Colonus, its king, and its people. There is also the first hint of dramatic conflict in the Prologue. The stranger informs Oedipus that he has strayed into the sacred grove of the Furies and must leave it at once.

The Parados that follows expands this theme of violation by Oedipus as the chorus gathers on stage for the first time and attempts to dislodge Oedipus from their sacred grove. Oedipus' efforts to find acceptance in a place of refuge at Colonus are temporarily thwarted.

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