Oedipus at Colonus



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Fate and Prophecy Theme Analysis

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 Theme Icon

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 and common people alike consulted them for help with making all kinds of decisions. Long before the beginning of Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus has fulfilled one of the most famous prophecies in world literature—that he would kill his father and marry his mother (these events are covered in detail in Sophocles's Oedipus Rex). Despite his efforts to avoid this terrible fate, it came to pass. When Oedipus learned what he had inadvertently done, he gouged out his own eyes, and was banished from Thebes.

As Oedipus at Colonus begins, Oedipus is nearing the end of his life. When he arrives at the grove of the Furies at Colonus, he realizes that in the same prophecy that foretold his fate, the oracle said that this grove would be the spot where he would die. No longer one to question the power of fate, Oedipus refuses to leave the area of the grove. He convinces Theseus, king of Athens, that an oracle has predicted that Oedipus's tomb will serve as a great defense for Athens if Theseus protects Oedipus at the end of his life. Theseus accepts this version of fate, and the supernatural way in which Oedipus dies suggests that the gods have, in fact, afforded the old man some power in death. Based on the predictions of another oracle, both Polynices and Creon come to find Oedipus and try to win his favor—by persuasion or by force—to their respective causes, knowing that whoever has Oedipus on their side is destined to win. But Oedipus has become something of a prophet himself—he predicts the miserable death of Polynices, and Polynices leaves, knowing he cannot avoid his fate. Theseus keeps his word, and Oedipus's death occurs just as he predicted it would.

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Fate and Prophecy ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Fate and Prophecy appears in each section of Oedipus at Colonus. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Fate and Prophecy Quotes in Oedipus at Colonus

Below you will find the important quotes in Oedipus at Colonus related to the theme of Fate and Prophecy.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Lines 1193-1645 Quotes
Like a seer I sense the glory in these struggles—
Rush me, wing me into the whirlwind, O dear god,
like a dove at the thunderheads of heaven I'd look down
I'd scan these struggles, I would see their glory.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Theseus
Page Number: 1226-1229
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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 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:
Goodbye, dear ones.
You'll never look on me again, alive.
Related Characters: Polynices (speaker), Antigone, Ismene
Page Number: 1631-1632
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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: