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Interactive Curriculum Resource: HomeThemesAuthorsTexts • Sample Series

Oedipus at Colonus - Sophocles


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Themes: Forgiveness, JusticeRedemptionSuffering


Whether or not Sophocles intended Oedipus at Colonus as a sequel to Oedipus the King, it serves to complete some of the questions and issues that are raised in Oedipus the King. We find Oedipus in exile, and suffering in many ways. He suffers because of his physical ailments, also because he worries about the future of his daughters, perhaps most of all he suffers because he is known as the man who killed his father and married his mother. He maintains that he is not guilty of the crimes that have defined him, but he shows a kind of love and patience that were not found in him earlier.


One question for the reader is whether his sufferings have improved him, and whether there is a divine plan for him that somehow makes use of his suffering. Antigone goes so far as to say “There can be a love even of suffering.” (line 1928) The play ends in a supernatural way, as the Chorus puts it: “the end of his life was blessed; do not keep sorrowing.” (line 1956)


Opening questions:


The Chorus claims that: “Not to be born is best of all; when life is there, the second best to go hence where you came, with the best speed you may.” (line 1412) Does the play confirm this view of the Chorus?


The messenger when he reports the end of Oedipus says: “if any man ended miraculously, this man did.” (line 1890) Does Oedipus’ end seem miraculous?


At the beginning of the play Oedipus claims that his “sufferings have taught me to endure…” (line 8) Does the play show that Oedipus’ sufferings have really taught him something?

Suggested Pairing:


Human Suffering - Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus; The Bible, The Book of Job;
Epictetus, The Handbook; Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

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