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.
Justice Theme Icon

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 were hanging over my father's head that he should die at the hands of his own son, how, with any justice, could you blame me?" Oedipus killed a man in self-defense, not knowing that man was his father. So how, he asks, could Creon condemn such an unwitting act with any real sense of justice.

Oedipus finds the justice he was denied by his own family and city of Thebes in Theseus and Athens. At last, Oedipus has found a ruler and a people who will not torment him for things he didn't mean to do. Theseus himself makes this plain to Creon when Creon tries to kidnap Oedipus: "You have come to a city that practices justice, that sanctions nothing without law." Unlike the Thebans, who seem caught in an endless cycle of vengeance, Athens is held up as an ideal city, founded on the rule of law.

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Justice ThemeTracker

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Justice Quotes in Oedipus at Colonus

Below you will find the important quotes in Oedipus at Colonus related to the theme of Justice.
Lines 1-576 Quotes
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:
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:
Oh Athens, praised above any land on earth,
now turn your glowing praises into action!
Related Characters: Antigone (speaker)
Page Number: 818-819
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
And how the fight was won—
why fill the air with empty boasting?
Related Characters: Theseus (speaker)
Page Number: 1303-1304
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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:
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: