Oedipus at Colonus Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How is Oedipus different in this sequel? How is he the same?

    Oedipus remains every bit as obstinate and haughty as he ever was, but he is different from the purely arrogant and stubborn man he was in his youth by virtue of how his years of suffering have changed him. The two decades since he put out his own eyes and faced up to the psychological trauma of patricide and incest have had one effect on his personality that overshadows everything else: he has finally allowed himself to accept and reconcile himself with the inescapable powers of fate and destiny.

  2. 2

    How is guilt presented as interconnected in this play?

    Oedipus still feels remorse for having committed the twin taboos of incest and patricide, but time has given him some perspective and his guilt has lessened through introspection. Oedipus now feels cold comfort in defending his actions because of the very significant extenuating circumstances: he didn’t know he was committing those acts. With that realization and actualization that severity of his crimes may not be quite worthy of his tragic reaction has come the dawning awareness that trying to escape one’s own fate is futile. This self-actualization is something that can only come with time and that same passage of time has also served to stimulate a feeling of associated guilt in others who once quick to shun Oedipus for his crimes, but are now feeling the shame of their judgment.

  3. 3

    What is the spiritual significance of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the actual exit of Oedipus from the scene?

    The effect of Oedipus dying offstage multiplied by the strange supernatural effect of his seeming to simply disappear in the eyes of Theseus has the almost canonical effect of sanctifying his death as payment in full for his tragic overstep of the boundaries of fate. By not presenting a death scene with its potential for bathos rather than pathos, Oedipus in death achieves a mystical reunification with the heroic stature he lost as a result of violating those societal taboos.

  4. 4

    What is the symbolic significance of the grove at the last place we see Oedipus alive?

    The grove is technically known as the Grove of the Furies. The Furies were spirits of vengeance whose sole purpose in existing was to punish any mortal who dared to defy the laws of either nature of the Gods. In addition, the Furies were sent to punish those who broke sacred oaths. The mere fact that it is in the Grove of the Furies where Oedipus at last discovers peace suggests that he has achieved a state of redemption which no longer puts him at the mercy of the fury of the Furies as the law enforcement agency in the service of the gods.

  5. 5

    How is the rage that Oedipus vents against his sons differ from his younger days as a raging king?

    The righteous indignation exhibited as furious anger toward the idea of ever returning to Thebes may at first seem to be merely a demonstration that Oedipus has learned practically nothing and changed very little since his days of railing against the gods as King. The reality is that things are considerably different, however. Whereas Oedipus raged against the machine as well as others even when there was little justification for such petulance, here his anger truly is righteous and utterly justified as it is directed with a precision toward only those who have legitimately done him harm by excusing themselves from their duties as children to at least make some sort of attempt to have rescued Oedipus as he wandered blind and lonely.

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