Colonus is the central setting of the last hours in the life of Oedipus the King. Now old and frail and having learned the price to be paid for hubris, the former King of Thebes is twenty years out from his short but spirited reign. The gouging out of his eyes, the realization he murdered his father and married his mother and the various assorted other tragic realizations that awaited the haughty Oedipus have converged to find him now reduced the level of beggar in rags.
Despite this, the legacy of Oedipus has grown into a legend that supersedes the current conditions of his existence. With so many previous prophecies concerning the tragic circumstances of the life of Oedipus coming true, there is tremendous interest in what should prove to the final prophecy awaiting the old man before death: the city where he is finally laid to rest will experience not just an extended time of peace, but the heights of glory.
For this reason, the current King of Thebes—the unscrupulous and crafty beyond all wit Creon—has gone to great pains to welcome the former King of Thebes back to the city from which he left in shame. Oedipus, however, refuses the extended invitation and instead finds himself in Colonus under the protective watch of Theseus, the King of Athens who is portrayed as the very model of an iconic benevolent protector of the weak and authority over the strong.
Almost as if once again blessed with the sense of sight, Oedipus strides toward the site where he has chosen to die. In a scene that prefigures the climax of Shakespeare’s King Lear, it is a raging storm that heralds the arrival of the end of Oedipus. Sending for Theseus, he informed the King of Athens that if he agrees to keep his burial location secret, there will be a tremendously powerful defensive force for the city-state.
Oedipus disappears out of the grove in such a way that Theseus felt he had just see hardcore evidence that the Uncanny and supernatural exists in the world. And so Oedipus leaves it to a messenger to inform everybody about the details of the death of the great, blind, swollen-footed, incestuous, patricidal former king.
Antigone and her far less famous sister Ismene mourn the passing of their father by returning to the grove from whence he disappeared. Theseus refuses to inform them of the site of their father’s resting place, but does agree to help them return to Thebes where they expect things to get rather ugly and vicious their warring brothers Polyneices and Eteocles.