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Hope in Oedipus at Colonus

Hope in Oedipus at Colonus

The Greek tragedy Oedipus at Colonus was written by the renowned Greek playwright Sophocles at around 404 B.C.. In the play, considered to be one of the best Greek dramas ever written, Sophocles uses the now broken down and old Oedipus as a statement of hope for man. As Oedipus was royalty and honor before his exile from his kingdom of Thebes he is brought down to a poor, blind old man who wonders, “Who will receive the wandering Oedipus today?” (Sophocles 283) most of the time of his life that is now as low as a peasant’s. Although former ruler of Thebes has been blinded and desecrated to the point where he is a beggar, he will not give up on his life and on the life of his two daughters Antigone and Ismene, and his two sons Eteocles and Polynieces who were supposed to help their sorrowful father like true sons and true men but instead they “tend the hearth like girls.”(304). Yet Oedipus still gives praise to those who have helped him, his daughters Antigone and Ismene, although he has no sight, is poor, and his life is of no meaning to him, he recognizes honor and loyalty when he sees it:

“Antigone from the time she left her childhood behind and came

into full strength, has volunteered for grief, wandering with me,

leading the old misery, hungry…Hard labor, but you endured it all,

never a second though for home, a decent life, so long as your father

had some care and comfort. And you, child, in the early days, all

unknown to Thebes you left the city, brought your father the oracles,

and prophecy said to touch his life. You were my faithful guard, you

took that part when I was an exile from the land…” (304).

It would be hard to think of any suffering more overwhel…

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…Hall, Inc. Englewood cliffs, New Jersey. 1968.

Roche, Paul. The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles. The New English Library Limited, London. New York and Scarborough, Ontario. 1958.

Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus The King, Oedipus At Colonus. Penguin Books. New York, New York. 1982, 1984.

Sophocles: A collection of critical essays edited by Thomas Woodward: Oedipus at Colonus. Whitman, Cedric H. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1966.


I. Oedipus’ decency

i. To daughters

ii. To sons

II. Appearance

i. Characteristics

ii. Clothing

iii. Blinded

iv. Confident

III. Sufferings

i. Murder of father/wed mother

ii. Betrayed by sons

iii. Exiled

iv. Blinded/beggar

IV. Divinity

i. Prays to gods who are to punish him

ii. Chooses place of death

V. Effect

i. On Theseus

ii. On man

Women in William Shakespeare’s Plays

Shakespeare and the members of the Elizabethan era would be appalled at the freedoms women experience today. The docility of Elizabethan women is almost a forgotten way of life. What we see throughout Shakespeare’s plays is an insight into the female character as perceived by Elizabethan culture. Shakespeare’s female characters reflect the Elizabethan era’s image of women; they were to be virtuous and obedient and those that were not were portrayed as undesirable and even evil.

When one considers Shakespeare’s female characters, one has to remember that the plays were written in a time when women were considered weak-minded creatures who were apt to make bad choices if given the freedom. Shakespeare, for the most part, divided his female characters into two categories. One was the docile, obedient, virtuous woman, the heroine in some cases, who embodied all that was desirable in a female. The other was the independent, dominating, evil counterpart.

It’s difficult to comprehend exactly how society in general, and men in particular, viewed females. To us, some of their beliefs seem almost ludicrous. Orsino, for example, “recalls Elizabethan folk beliefs when he speaks of Olivia’s liver, brain, and heart which were thought to be the seats of passion, judgment, and sentiment, respectively, and the three centers of power within the body” (Bates 5).

Of course, one Elizabethan belief was that women lacked character, particularly in the case of love. Some considered “women’s love [was] very variable and not lasting” (Bates 13). Shakespeare alludes to this belief in Twelfth Night when “Viola also laments that Olivia cold fall in love with Cesario so easily; she compares women’s hearts to …

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c. Petruchio creates dream in Kate

III. Minor characters self-victimized

A. Manipulation backfires

1. Unhappiness

2. Shakespeare/Glaser quote, “No one putting…”

B. Success does not mean triumph

1. Beat rivals

2. Results unexpected

3. Bevington, Iago’s downfall

C. Female retribution

1. Used the women

2. Emilia used against Desdemona (Shakespeare III.iii.321-345)

3. Emilia retaliates (Shakespeare V.ii.176-204, 232-236)

4. Bianca refuses submission (Shakespeare V.ii.129-133)

5. Audrey’s stupidity

IV. Conclusion

A. Minor characters key in plays

B. Iago, Lucentio, and Touchstone motivate others

C. Iago, Lucentio, and Touchstone create destinies

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