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 what he's done. He still feels guilt and revulsion, and he's still too ashamed to speak freely of his past when asked by the citizens of Colonus. However, with time has come some perspective. He realizes that he never intended to commit the acts he is infamous for committing. He killed his father in self-defense, he tells the citizens of Colonus, and without knowing what was happening. "Look through all humanity," he tells his listeners, "you'll never find a man on earth, if a god leads him on, who can escape his fate." Oedipus's guilt has diminished. At the same time, others who once shunned him and who now need his favor seek him out to express their own guilt at having cast him away before.
Guilt Quotes in Oedipus at Colonus
some greater penalty on our city.
a man on earth, if a god leads him on,
who can escape his fate.
hide your own disgrace, consent—
return to Thebes, the house of your fathers!
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.
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?
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!