Oedipus at Colonus

Oedipus Character Analysis

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.

Oedipus Quotes in Oedipus at Colonus

The Oedipus at Colonus quotes below are all either spoken by Oedipus or refer to Oedipus. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Oedipus at Colonus published in 1984.
Lines 1-576 Quotes
Off and gone from the land—before you fix
some greater penalty on our city.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 250-251
Explanation and Analysis:

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Look through all humanity: you'll never find
a man on earth, if a god leads him on,
who can escape his fate.
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker)
Page Number: 266-268
Explanation and Analysis:

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Never honor the gods in one breath
and take the gods for fools the next
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker)
Page Number: 298-299
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 577-1192 Quotes
Never, I tell you, I will never shrink
from a stranger, lost as you are now,
or fail to lend a hand to save a life.
I am only a man, well I know,
and I have no more power over tomorrow,
Oedipus, than you.
Related Characters: Theseus (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 636-641
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Lines 1193-1645 Quotes
May the gods reward you just as I desire,
you and your great country. Here among you,
you alone of all mankind—
I have discovered reverence, humanity
and lips that never lie.
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker), Theseus
Page Number: 1275-1279
Explanation and Analysis:

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It isn't good for men with a decent cause
to beg too long, or a man to receive help,
then fail to treat a fellow victim kindly.
Related Characters: Antigone (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 1366-1368
Explanation and Analysis:

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You—die!
Die and be damned!
I spit on you! Out!—
your father cuts you off! Corruption—scum of the earth!—
out!—and pack these curses I call down upon your head:
never to win you mother-country with your spear,
never return to Argos ringed with hills—
Die!
Die by your own blood brother's hand—die!—
killing the very man who drove you out!
So I curse your life out!
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker), Polynices
Page Number: 1567-1574
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 1646-2001 Quotes
Dearest friend,
you and your country and your loyal followers,
may you be blessed with greatness,
and in your great day remember me, the dead,
the root of all your greatness, everlasting, ever-new.
Related Characters: Oedipus (speaker), Theseus
Page Number: 1761-1765
Explanation and Analysis:

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God of eternal sleep, I call to you,
let Oedipus rest forever.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Oedipus
Page Number: 1788-1789
Explanation and Analysis:

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Oedipus Character Timeline in Oedipus at Colonus

The timeline below shows where the character Oedipus 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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It is several years after Oedipus was banished from Thebes, the city he once ruled. The play begins in the grove... (full context)
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Oedipus tells Antigone that acceptance is the lesson taught by his suffering. He then asks Antigone... (full context)
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...move from their resting place, because it is holy ground, the grove of the Furies. Oedipus responds that this is a sign and that in fact he must not move from... (full context)
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...who has dared to set foot on the sacred ground of the terrible Furies. When Oedipus speaks to them, they tell him he must step out of the grove of the... (full context)
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Antigone appeals to the citizens' pity and humanity. Oedipus says they should not drive him out just because of his name. He admits that... (full context)
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A rider approaches—it is Ismene, Oedipus's other daughter. Oedipus, Antigone, and Ismene have a heartfelt reunion, and then Ismene delivers her... (full context)
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Ismene then tells Oedipus the latest prophecies from the oracle: the men of Thebes, who cast Oedipus out, will... (full context)
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Oedipus is furious, and promises never to return to Thebes. He vents his rage against his... (full context)
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The leader of the chorus is moved by Oedipus's request. He tells Oedipus the ritual that must be performed to appease the Furies, whose... (full context)
Lines 577-1192
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The chorus surrounds Oedipus and presses him to hear the true story of his suffering. Oedipus doesn't want to... (full context)
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Theseus, king of Athens, arrives. He knows Oedipus's story and asks kindly why Oedipus has come. Oedipus thanks Theseus for not asking him... (full context)
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Oedipus warns Theseus that he will have to defend Oedipus against the Thebans, who will try... (full context)
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Theseus welcomes Oedipus to live in Athens or to remain at Colonus. Theseus then guarantees that he will... (full context)
The chorus gathers around Oedipus and chants in praise of his new home, the city of Athens, and of Colonus... (full context)
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...is approaching. Creon enters and says he has come not with force but to persuade Oedipus to come home. He says he has grieved for Oedipus as much as any other... (full context)
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Oedipus responds with an impassioned angry speech. According to Oedipus, Creon would not exile him when... (full context)
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Creon responds that Oedipus is a disgrace to old age. He orders his guards to take Oedipus's two daughters... (full context)
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...an armed escort. He demands to know why he has been summoned with such urgency. Oedipus explains what happened. Theseus immediately sends soldiers to rouse his troops and chase after the... (full context)
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...that he didn't expect the people of Athens to protect a father-killing, incestuous exile like Oedipus because it would be wrong to do so. For that reason, he decided to take... (full context)
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Oedipus lets loose another forceful speech against Creon and in defense of himself—his own terrible deeds... (full context)
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Theseus orders Creon to take him to where Oedipus's daughters are being held. Creon submits, but remains defiant—things will be different, he says, when... (full context)
Lines 1193-1645
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...returns with his attendants, escorting Antigone and Ismene. Overjoyed and relieved to see his daughters, Oedipus thanks Theseus profusely and asks what happened. Theseus responds that he has kept his promise... (full context)
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Theseus then reports that a man claiming to be related to Oedipus but now living in Argos has come to ask for help Poseidon's altar. He adds... (full context)
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Oedipus doesn't want to see his son, but Antigone and Theseus argue that there's no harm... (full context)
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The chorus surrounds Oedipus and chants about the miseries of life and the certainty of death. The chorus says... (full context)
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...alive" for not coming to the aid of his exiled father and asks for mercy. Oedipus does not respond. Polynices turns to Antigone and Ismene for help. Antigone tells him to... (full context)
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...and to support his cause. He adds that the oracles have claimed that whatever side Oedipus supports will win. (full context)
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Polynices says that he is a beggar and an exile, like Oedipus, while Eteocles is a tyrant. Polynices finishes by promising that with Oedipus's support, he will... (full context)
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Oedipus unleashes a flood of insults and curses at Polynices. Oedipus says that he is glad... (full context)
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Before he goes, Polynices asks his sisters to give him a proper burial if Oedipus's curses come true. Antigone begs Polynices to call off the attack on Thebes. Polynices refuses—he... (full context)
Lines 1646-2001
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Thunder crashes, terrifying the chorus. Oedipus, sensing his imminent death, asks for someone to bring Theseus. The thunder sounds again and... (full context)
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The chorus calls for Theseus to come quickly. When the king arrives, Oedipus says that he wants to fulfill the pledge he made to Theseus. Theseus asks what... (full context)
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Oedipus rises to his feet on his own power and motions for his children to follow... (full context)
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...the gods of the dead, to the Furies, to the gatekeeper of Hades, to make Oedipus's passage to the underworld an easy one, and to let him rest at last. (full context)
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A messenger enters with the news that Oedipus is dead. He gives an account of what happened. The whole party followed Oedipus down... (full context)
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Oedipus asked Theseus to swear to watch over his daughters. Theseus pledged to do so. Oedipus... (full context)
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...chanting a funereal dirge. Answering questions from the chorus, Antigone confirms the miraculous nature of Oedipus's death. Overcome by grief, Antigone says that now, without their father, she does not know... (full context)
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...enters and tells the daughters to dry their tears, since to grieve too much after Oedipus received such a blessing might anger the gods. Antigone begs to see her father's tomb,... (full context)