Oedipus at Colonus

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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.

Creon Quotes in Oedipus at Colonus

The Oedipus at Colonus quotes below are all either spoken by Creon or refer to Creon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Oedipus at Colonus published in 1984.
Lines 577-1192 Quotes
Now, by our fathers' gods, listen to me,
hide your own disgrace, consent—
return to Thebes, the house of your fathers!
Related Characters: Creon (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 859-861
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon, having arrived at Colonus, speaks these lines to Oedipus, demanding him to return to Thebes.

By appealing to "our fathers' gods," Creon invokes the highest of authorities. This allows him to frame Oedipus's refusal to come home as a disgrace against the gods, as a deviation from divine law. This subsequently paints Oedipus's prospective return to Thebes as a duty of fate--it makes Thebes into a home where Oedipus belongs, and to which he must therefore return in order to appease the gods and conform to his fate. In this way, Creon uses the concept of fate in order to provoke guilt in Oedipus--as if the feeling of guilt could be achieved by making Oedipus think he is wrong for not returning to where he is fated to be. This is a persuasive tactic that might strike at the core of Oedipus's sense of judgment and guilt (he is perhaps history's most famous example of a victim of inevitable fate) and convince him to return to Thebes.


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That's precisely how your offers strike me now:
your words like honey—your actions, drawn swords.
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 890-891
Explanation and Analysis:

Oedipus speaks these lines to Creon after he tries to convince Oedipus to return to Thebes. Oedipus senses cunning in Creon's invitation to return to Thebes; Creon says that he has no bad intentions, but has taken pity on Oedipus, and just wants--along with the rest of Thebes--him to return home. But Oedipus knows that there is an ulterior motive to Creon's invitation.

Here, the distinction between words and actions, truth and conceit--a distinction explored by the play in relation to the theme of justice--surfaces again. Creon's words are honey-like in the promises they make and the sense of sympathy they exude, but they cover up the reality of Creon's motivations--as well as the fact that Oedipus would not be allowed to be buried inside Thebes, but only on the outskirts. In this way, Creon is unjust--he does not deal with Oedipus fairly, but lies and makes false promises in order to achieve spiritual-political advantages (the benefits of possessing Oedipus's corpse) that he never discloses in his words.

Given time, you'll see this well, I know:
you do yourself no good, not now, not years ago,
indulging your rage despite the pleas of loved ones—
blind rage has always been your ruin.
Related Characters: Creon (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 973-976
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon speaks these lines to Oedipus during their ongoing dialogue about Oedipus returning to Thebes. Creon claims that "blind rage" has always been the downfall of Oedipus, a claim that covers up the fact that Oedipus played no conscious or intentional role in his downfall, and tries to pass Oedipus's tragedy off as a necessary result of his personality. Creon's claim does not acknowledge the passive and unintentional aspect of Oedipus's involvement in his ruin--the fact that Oedipus unwittingly killed his father out of self-defense, and was unaware that his wife was his mother. (Of course, hubris and this "blind rage" was certainly an aspect of Oedipus's fate, but certainly not the sole reason for such a horrific outcome.)

"Blind rage" also plays on Oedipus' literal blindness--not only the fact that he has no eyes, but also that he led the very investigation that, unknowingly, would be responsible for his ruin.

You have come to a city that practices justice,
that sanctions nothing without law, but you,
you flout our authorities, make your inroads,
seize your prizes, commandeer at will!
Tell me, did you imagine Athens stripped of men,
peopled by slaves? Myself worth nothing?
Related Characters: Theseus (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1040-1045
Explanation and Analysis:

Theseus speaks these lines after he has encountered Creon, who has stated his purpose for being in Colonus: to take Oedipus back to Thebes.

Theseus is shocked by Creon's brashness and sense of self-righteous authority, and here we see the justice of Theseus clash with Creon's injustice. Creon assumes he has the right to mete out his own laws and pursue Theban interests in a foreign land; he assumes that Athens is a space where his own political interests can go unchecked. In this, he implicitly devalues, from the moment he arrives at Colonus, the entire government and rule of Athens. This infuriates Theseus, who is taken aback by Creon's unruly commandeering.

Though Creon previously accused Oedipus of having "blind rage," Theseus points out, in this scene, that Creon is the one possessed by blind rage. Without any regard for Athenian governance--blind to Athenian rule and order--he enacts his own anger within a territory in which he is a total stranger.

Theseus reveals Creon's sense of justice as bogus and flimsy--a 'justice' constantly improvised in order to fulfill his own agendas, to right his previous wrongs without taking ownership of them. Having wronged Oedipus, and needing the benefits of Oedipus's corpse, Creon tries to fix the situation by making Oedipus feel he is in the wrong--by making Oedipus feel guilty for not returning to Thebes. Creon's only sense of remorse is the fact that Oedipus is now refusing to conform to his plan, a plan supported by his cunningly engineered form of 'justice.'

My isolation
leaves me weak, however just my cause.
But opposing you, old as I am,
I'll stop at nothing, match you blow for blow.
A mans' anger can never age and fade away,
not until he dies. The dead alone feel no pain.
Related Characters: Creon (speaker), Theseus
Page Number: 1089-1094
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon speaks these lines upon encountering Theseus, who opposes Creon's plan to take Oedipus back to Thebes.

Creon's extreme confidence in his ability and in the justness of his cause is befitting of his bold, rash, and reckless character--he will not step back and see the injustice in his mistreatment of Oedipus.

Creon also comments on death in a way that parallels the Chorus's later evaluation of death as the end of suffering and pain. Creon claims that anger--a reaction to pain--can never fade, implying a view similar to the Chorus's thinking about pain: it just keeps accumulating throughout life and cannot be stopped.

And if,
once I'd come to the world of pain, as come I did,
I fell to blows with my father, cut him down in blood—
blind to what I was doing, blind to whom I killed—
how could you condemn that involuntary act
with any sense of justice?
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1112-1117
Explanation and Analysis:

Oedipus speaks these lines to Creon, who has implied that Oedipus willfully killed his father.

Here, we see Oedipus assert confidence in defending his past actions--we see that Oedipus' view about his responsibility for his crimes has evolved since Oedipus Rex. He acknowledges the full extent of his innocence in the parricide (the killing of one's father)--that the murder was justified with regard to self-defense, as well as the fact that its turning out to be parricidal was something out of his control.

Further, the ironic word-play on Oedipus's blindness continues in these lines. Blindness, here, connotes an innocent sense of ignorance and involuntariness--'ignorance' not in the sense of a willful evasion of the truth, but rather a total lack of being able to know the truth, to know beforehand that it was his father whom Oedipus killed. This understanding of ignorance propels Oedipus's confident questioning of Creon's condemnation. For Oedipus, Creon's sense of justice is twisted--all that matters for him is the bare fact that Oedipus committed parricide; Creon refuses to acknowledge the true complexity of the circumstances. He is incapable of empathizing with Oedipus as intensely as Theseus is.

So now I cry to those Great Goddesses,
I beg them, I storm them with my prayers—
Come to the rescue, fight for me, my champions!
So you can learn your lesson, Creon, learn
what breed of men stands guard around this city.
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker), Creon
Related Symbols: The Grove of the Furies
Page Number: 1155-1159
Explanation and Analysis:

Oedipus speaks these lines shortly after Creon has seized Antigone (Ismene has already been seized). Here, Oedipus appeals to those "Great Goddesses"--likely referring to the Furies he directly addressed upon arriving at the Grove of the Furies in Colonus--and asks them to support him in opposing Creon.

Oedipus equates the "lesson" he wants Creon to learn with comprehending "what breed of men stands guard around this city." This "breed," represented by someone such as Theseus, stands for and upholds a sense of justice that, for Oedipus, is much more virtuous than Creon's (and that Sophocles clearly intends to praise and valorize, as he himself is a citizen of Colonus and Athens). If Creon could come to understand this sense of justice, then his entire project--his corrupt way of trying to manipulate Oedipus into returning to Thebes--would lose its value, since his entire mission is based on self-interest and the gaining of power. Unlike Theseus, Creon gives no regard for whether Oedipus is treated justly or not.

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Creon Character Timeline in Oedipus at Colonus

The timeline below shows where the character Creon appears in Oedipus at Colonus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-576
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Justice Theme Icon
...fled to Argos and now is raising an army to attack Thebes, where Eteocles and Creon rule jointly. (full context)
Lines 577-1192
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
Just then, Antigone gives an alarm that Creon is approaching. Creon enters and says he has come not with force but to persuade... (full context)
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Oedipus responds with an impassioned angry speech. According to Oedipus, Creon would not exile him when he first wanted exile, and then when Oedipus changed his... (full context)
Old Age, Wisdom, and Death Theme Icon
Creon responds that Oedipus is a disgrace to old age. He orders his guards to take... (full context)
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Theseus refuses to let Creon leave until the girls are returned safely. He says that Creon has shamed Thebes with... (full context)
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Redemption and Atonement Theme Icon
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Creon doesn't back down. He says that he didn't expect the people of Athens to protect... (full context)
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Redemption and Atonement Theme Icon
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Oedipus lets loose another forceful speech against Creon and in defense of himself—his own terrible deeds were done unknowingly, without intent to harm.... (full context)
Old Age, Wisdom, and Death Theme Icon
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Theseus orders Creon to take him to where Oedipus's daughters are being held. Creon submits, but remains defiant—things... (full context)