Time and Age as Protagonists in Sophocles’ Oedipus Coloneus
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Sophocles’ second Oedipus-play clearly relates to the first; it holds, however, a particular place in literary history, for it was the last play to be included into the canon of classical Attic tragedy. Moreover, the play shows another peculiarity: though the idea that death can be preferable to life is familiar to all Sophoclean protagonists, Oedipus was the only one allowed to get old, a process depicted quite realistically by old Sophocles. Oedipus’ self-explanation, however, that he suffered himself more than he really acted, resembles much a Catch-22 situation: if that were the case in those days, as Oedipus says that it was, he then was crazy and didn’t have to do what he did; but if he didn’t want to do what he did then, he was sane and had to do it, because the gods wanted him to do it. The proposed new reading of the play shows how time and age work on Oedipus’ frame of mind: a desire for whitewashing is acted out in a blame-game, awareness of what is to come is coupled with rather a hesitant manner as though he is slightly unsure of himself (what he is not), and eventually, being out of touch with time and fearing to be left alone make Oedipus curse, for he had been treated unjustly: Oedipus comes close to Shakespeare’s King Lear, though he does not go mad, he only becomes bad and dangerous to know.
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