Oedipus at Colonus



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Themes and Colors
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
Guilt Theme Icon
Old Age, Wisdom, and Death Theme Icon
Redemption and Atonement Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Oedipus at Colonus, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Fate and Prophecy

The ancient Greeks believed that their gods could see the future, and that certain people could access this information. Independent prophets, called seers, saw visions of things to come. Oracles, priests who resided at the temples of gods—such as the oracle to Apollo at Delphi—were also believed to be able to interpret the gods' visions and give prophecies to people who sought to know the future. Oracles were an accepted part of Greek life—famous leaders…

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Oedipus lives with the guilt and remorse for having violated two of the most severe taboos of civilized society—incest and the killing of one's parents. His overwhelming guilt at his actions caused him to blind himself and to beg to be banished from Thebes.

Yet Oedipus's sense of guilt for his famous crimes is more complicated in Oedipus at Colonus than it is in Oedipus Rex. He's a man who has suffered much for…

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Old Age, Wisdom, and Death

Oedipus at Colonus is Sophocles' last play, written when he was 90 years old. As such, it should come as no surprise that one of the play's major themes is old age and the end of life. Through Oedipus, who himself is about to die, and to a lesser extent through Creon, the play examines the question of whether or not old age brings wisdom. When Oedipus tells Antigone early in the play that he…

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Redemption and Atonement

Oedipus killed his father and married his mother, driving his mother to suicide, causing his exile, and ensuring a miserable life for his daughter and traveling companion, Antigone. And yet, Oedipus didn't knowingly commit these acts, didn't wish to commit them, and punished himself harshly by gouging out his eyes and wandering the land as an outcast and beggar.

By accepting his fate and punishment in Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus has atoned for…

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After years of reflection, Oedipus realizes he was not treated fairly by the people of Thebes, by his own sons, and by Creon in particular. They took advantage of his misery and banished him forever—in his moment of greatest agony he let them, even asked them to banish him. Now, stung and angered by Creon's insults, Oedipus turns to the question of justice: "Come, tell me: if, by an oracle of the gods, some doom…

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