Oedipus at Colonus: Characters
Oedipus – The protagonist of Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus is feeble and impoverished, wandering in exile, and known throughout Greece as the man who killed his father and married his mother (events covered in more detail in Sophocles's play Oedipus Rex). Oedipus gouged out his own eyes when he discovered the truth about his actions, and now his faithful daughter Antigone leads him in his wanderings. As a younger man, Oedipus struggled against the terrible fate that had been prophesied for him. Now, as his life nears its end, he struggles no longer and is ready to fulfill the final chapter of this prophecy and find his last resting place. Although he is a pitiful figure, Oedipus is still an eloquent and convincing speaker.
Antigone – Oedipus's daughter and guide in his blind wanderings. Although she has not been banished from Thebes, she suffers the same hardships as her father out of her love for him. When her brother Polynices visits in a failed attempt to gain Oedipus's blessing, he asks Antigone to give him a proper burial if he should die in battle (these efforts are the subject of Sophocles's Antigone).
Theseus – The just and brave king of Athens who welcomes Oedipus and promises to protect him. When the men from Thebes kidnap Oedipus's daughters, Theseus and his army rescue the girls. Theseus is a familiar figure in Greek mythology and is the legendary hero and founder of Athens.
A Citizen – The citizen of Colonus who first encounters Oedipus in the sacred grove of the Furies.
The Chorus – In this play, the chorus represents the elder citizens of Colonus. Sophocles's choruses react to the events of the play. The chorus speaks as one voice, or sometimes through the voice of its leader. It praises, damns, cowers in fear, asks or offers advice, and generally helps the audience interpret the play.
Ismene – Daughter of Oedipus and sister of Antigone. She brings the news from Thebes about the conflict between her brothers.
Creon – Oedipus's brother-in-law (and uncle), Creon comes to Colonus to persuade Oedipus to return to Thebes. When Oedipus refuses, Creon has his men kidnap the old man's daughters. Creon tries to take Oedipus by force, but Theseus prevents him. While Oedipus tends to give long and dramatic speeches, Creon is direct and to-the-point.
Polynices – Eldest son of Oedipus and brother of Antigone. When he was in power, Polynices helped to drive his father into exile from Thebes. By the time of Oedipus at Colonus, Polynices had been overthrown by his younger brother, Eteocles, and had himself been banished. Polynices then moved to the city of Argos, married there, and now has raised an army to attack Thebes. He comes to Oedipus asking for forgiveness for his previous sins, but also because the oracles have declared that the side that Oedipus favors will win the battle. Oedipus curses Polynices and predicts that his two sons will kill each other in the battle. Creon's refusal to allow Polynices a proper burial is the conflict at the heart of Sophocles's play Antigone.
A Messenger – The messenger gives an eyewitnesses account of the miraculous death of Oedipus.
Eteocles – Oedipus's younger son, who overthrew Polynices to take the throne and rule Thebes jointly with Creon. He never appears onstage in the play.