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The Oedipus Plays


Oedipus at Colonus, lines 1193–1645

Summary Oedipus at Colonus, lines 1193–1645

Oedipus’s response to his son’s plight is a startling invective that reaches its height when he shouts, “You—die! Die and be damned! I spit on you! Out!” (1567). Oedipus’s entire speech is so powerful and bitter that we cannot help but sympathize with the curser rather than the cursed. Broken from his years of wandering, Oedipus now abhors all worldly violence and at the same time wishes only for death. Yet, it is unclear whether or not we should approve of Oedipus’s absolute condemnation of his son—it seems that the play’s moral lines are too crudely drawn. In the second encounter between Oedipus and Polynices, father and son will stand absolutely opposed to each other, and we are in a position to empathize with both.