The Theban Plays by Sophocles – Part 2 – “Oedipus at Colonus”

[At Colonus ~ 1 mile NW of Athens in a grove sacred to the Furies. Enter Oedipus and daughter, Antigone]

Oedipus – Where are we? Can you see if there’s somewhere to rest? Maybe someone can tell us where we are?

Antigone – Any life seems far away. It appears to be sacred. Have a seat. We’re in Athens but I don’t know where. But here comes someone [Stranger enters]

Oedipus – Stranger, tell me something…

Stranger – Before you say anything, you can’t sit there. It’s illegal. It’s the ground of the Eumenides, daughters of the Earth and darkness

Oedipus – Good, let them receive a suppliant. Please, I’m a traveler in need of gods’ help. Where are we?

Stranger – It’s called Colonus, a land holy to many gods

Oedipus – Who’s the king around here? I’d like to speak with him

Stranger – Theseus, son of Argus. Why do you wish to speak with him?

Oedipus – I think I can help him

Stranger – A blind man’s going to help him?

Oedipus – It’s advice from when I wasn’t blind

Stranger – I’ll see what I can do. Stay here and I’ll try to get someone to come here [leaves]

Oedipus – Is he gone?

Antigone – Yes, we’re alone again

Oedipus – Oh, Furies… Apollo told me I’d come here to die in your holy spot. There’ll also be either earthquakes or lightning. Please have pity on me in Athens.

Antigone – Shh! Some old men are coming to have a look at you

Oedipus – OK. Let’s hide over there and hear what they say [Both hide in the corner]

[Chorus of Elders enter, searching around]

Chorus – Who was that? Where’d he go? Look for him. He must be from out of town. No local would hang around here. The awful women are here. I heard a rumor that someone would come. But I don’t know [Oedipus comes out]

Oedipus – I’m the guy. Don’t look at me. I’m a criminal. But I’ve received an even worse punishment. I’m blind and completely harmless, and dependent on others.

Chorus – Were you born blind? Anyway, as wretched as you are, you really ought not to be here. If you like to speak with us, let’s go somewhere else. [They move to another spot]

Oedipus – Sorry, I was tired and wanted a rest.

Chorus – This is better. You must understand what is holy and unholy here in Athens [Oedipus sits down]. Who are you? Where are you from?

Oedipus – I’m in exile and probably should not say more.

Chorus – Who are your family?

Oedipus – Oh, all right. I’m the son of Laius, of the family of Labdicidae… My name is Oedipus

Chorus – Oedipus? You’re him? [Screams and Wails]

Oedipus – Yes… Antigone, what’s going on?

Chorus – We don’t want you here. You must be a wicked man to have all that shit happen to you. Nothing but misery will result from your visit. Please leave.

Antigone – I see. You’ve had a rough time with your father being Oedipus but we really ought not to talk to you.

Oedipus – Athens is meant to be virtuous and that includes pity and help. Is my name enough to stop that? But my acts are nothing but suffering. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was ruined by others. You claim to honor the gods and that means charity. Gods please guide them to help me.

Chorus – I see your point but our rules must decide this.

Oedipus – Where is your lord?

Chorus – In the city. He’ll come once he’s heard it’s you.

Oedipus – I hope he won’t mind me

Antigone – I see a woman coming on a horse… I think I recognize her. It IS her! Ismene! [Ismene enters]

Ismene – I can’t believe you’re here! How wonderful!

Oedipus – Where are your brothers?

Ismene – It’s a sad story…

Oedipus – I was afraid that this would happen. I left the kingdom to them to take care of it and it’s my daughters who are doing all the heavy lifting.

Ismene – Creon is running the show while Polyneices and Eteocles are fighting over who’ll be ruler. Polyneices is in exile in Argos and is planning to fight back. The curse continues

Oedipus – I had hoped that the misery would end.

Ismene – The Oracle says you’re wanted both dead and alive – They want you dead to finish the curse. They want you alive to use you to win power. Creon wants to bury you on the edge of town – not in town – to avoid further curses and nearby to use your popularity and legitimacy

Oedipus – Bury? But I’m not dead. I want to be buried in my town. Fuck those boys. Fuck Creon too. I might be cursed but I never behaved like an animals. They didn’t even wait for me to die to start fighting. Poor girls. At least I have you. Sorry that this has happened to you.

Chorus – We can help with your situation. You’ll have to pray and sacrifice to cleanse yourself of this mess.

Oedipus – Sounds complicated. Can’t the girls do this? I’m old, weak and blind

Ismene – I’ll do it. Antigone, watch Dad [leaves]

Chorus – That’s some shitty life for you and your family [Theseus enters]

Theseus – All right. I’ve come to meet you, Oedipus. Just to make sure it’s you and it’s you. What do you want in Athens?

Oedipus – I’ve come to offer my services to you. Well, I wish to offer my support for you by giving you my burial site in Athens that will help Athens if it ever fights Thebes. Please let me stay here until I die

Theseus – This is a kind offer. You may stay as long as you like. You’ll be protected and fed [leaves]

Chorus – Oedipus, you’re going to love Athens

Antigone – Sounds great but here comes Creon

Oedipus – Elders, am I really safe with you?

Chorus – Of course

Creon – [enters] I see that you look worried Oedipus, don’t be. I’m not here to fight you. I’m too old for that shit. We want you to come home. It’s sad to see a king as a beggar. Please come home where you belong.

Oedipus – I wanted this. After all that shit in Thebes, I’ve been invited to stay here and now you want me back in Athens. It’s wrong to force an old man to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go. You don’t want me to go for my own sake. You want to use me against Thebes. I won’t do it.

Creon – Don’t be silly… Maybe I’ll take your daughters with me

Oedipus – Yo, chorus! Are you going to stop this?

Chorus – Creon, knock it off. This is fucked up!

Creon – [to guard] Grab them and take them away?

Chorus – What are you doing?

Creon – Don’t worry, I won’t touch Oedipus

Chorus – We have to rescue them [guards leave with Antigone]

Creon – You’ve got no one now. You deserve this, you rotten old man

Chorus – Back off!

Creon – You won’t do shit. I’m just going to take Oedipus and there’s nothing you can do

Chorus – This isn’t right

Creon – Fuck “right”, you weak punks [Theseus enters]

Theseus – What the fuck just happened?

Oedipus – Creon’s kidnapped my two girls

Theseus – [to attendants] Go make a sacrifice. [to Creon] Look, you little fucker. You bring them back and get the fuck out of here. You’re a disgrace. You’ve got no right to bring your war here and harass our citizens. Bring the girls back here.

Creon – I didn’t think you would care about Thebans. To think of a city harboring a criminal and a cursed man. It’s only because you outnumber us that I’ll considered it.

Oedipus – Creon, what are you doing? Taking advantage of an old man and his daughters for your purposes? What oracle wouldn’t doom your ass forever for this? I don’t deserve this. I’ve had a lot of shit go down in my life – none of it was my fault. You, on the other hand, take advantage of this situation. Theseus and Athens protect me because they are a better place and better people

Chorus – This is a good man, worth of our protection

Theseus – Well, first, let’s get the girls back. If we find your countrymen to be reluctant, it’ll be bad news

Creon – You only say this because you outnumber us

Theseus – Fuck off, then! Oedipus, please stay here. I’ll do everything I can to bring your children back

Oedipus – Thank you!! [Everyone but Oedipus and Chorus leave]

Chorus – Looks like Theseus and Athens are finally going to have it out with Creon and Thebes. It’ll be a tremendous triumph!!

Oedipus – Where? How? What? [Antigone, Ismene and Theseus enter]

Antigone – Oh, father! He saved us, Theseus and his men.

Oedipus – Is that you? Come here. Thank you, Theseus, for rescuing my daughters!! How wonderful!!

Theseus – You’re welcome. I prefer to let my actions do all the talking. I don’t like to boast. I have to talk to you. There’s a man from Argos praying in the altar of Poseidon who wants to talk to you. Do you have any family in Argos?

Oedipus – I know who it is. One of my sons… I don’t want to see him

Antigone – Please let him come. There’s no danger. He may change his mind if you speak to him.

Oedipus – Oh, all right. I can’t say “no” to you

Theseus – Don’t worry. I’ll be here just in case [leaves]

Chorus – Being born sucks. It’s better not to be born and have no pain. Shorter life is preferable to a long one, which has so much more pain. Only death brings peace.

Polyneices [enters] – What am I to do? Cry for my parents? My sisters? Myself? Look at father, dressed like a foreigner. What a fucked up life. Now he’s reduced to begging. I’m even worse because I brought it on myself… Father, won’t you even talk to me? Sisters? Can’t you help?

Antigone – Ask him yourself. What do you want?

Polyneices – I want to say why I’m here. I’m in exile from Thebes. When you left, I claimed my right to the throne but Eteocles ran me out with the support of the city. They say the curse on our family is to blame. I went to Argos and married the king’s daughter, Adrastus. I’ve been trying to round up an army to take Thebes back. I’ve come to ask for your support and blessing. I can’t win without it. The Oracle says the one you support will win.

Oedipus – Theseus wanted me to listen to you and respond. You were on the throne before your brother and you sent me into exile. I had to wander until I got here. You made me suffer and beg. Only with your sisters’ help have I survived. I disown you. Fate is watching you. You won’t take the city. You and your brother will kill each other and it’s a good thing, too. Get out of my life and never come back!!

Chorus – With that, I think you ought to go

Polyneices – I’ve wasted my time. Sisters please make sure I’m buried properly if the Oracle was right

Antigone – Take your armies, go back to Argos and stop fighting. What is there to gain by destroying Thebes?

Polyneices – It’s shameful to live in exile, especially by one’s family. I understand father’s wishes but I have to continue

Antigone – Will you tell your armies that your cause is doomed?

Polyneices – No, nobody would fight for me that way. Just see I’m buried right [leaves]

Chorus – This is awful but it’s fate – what heave wants [Thunder]

Oedipus – Someone go get Theseus. Please!

Antigone – What for?

Oedipus – Zeus is calling for me.

Chorus – This is some scary shit. Zeus is pissed off.

Oedipus – Girls, this is the end. Theseus? Are you there? [Thunder]

Chorus – More thunder

Oedipus – I hope he show up in time

Theseus – [enter] I came as quickly as I could. Is that all from Zeus? This must be serious.

Oedipus – My time is up and I’ll lead you to where I’ll die. Only you may know where I’ll be buried – tell your heirs and no one else! Daughters, Theseus, let’s go! [They leave]

Chorus – I hope he has a peaceful death and decent burial

Messenger – I have to announce Oedipus is gone

Chorus – What do you mean “gone”?

Messenger – Dead. Not murdered. He led his daughters and Theseus down a dark path into the earth. He bathed and put on special clothes. He said goodbye. There was another roll of thunder. The girls cried. Oedipus asked him to look after his daughters. The girls left and Theseus watched him disappear

[Antigone and Ismene enter]

Antigone – It’s so sad. I wish I were dead too. So sad and unfair

Chorus – Don’t worry. All that pain and suffering of his now over

Antigone – I want to go back to where he disappeared.

Ismene – We shouldn’t. We ought to go back to Thebes.

Antigone – There’ll be hell to pay there. [Theseus enters]

Theseus – Well, it’s all over now. What a crazy sight

Antigone – We want to go to his tomb

Theseus – You can’t. I promised to keep it a secret. If you really want, I can take you back to Thebes.


Watch the play! (Musical version):


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