Our conclusion may be as follows. There is no reason to question the external evidence which refers the Oedipus Coloneus to the latest years of Sophocles. But no corroboration of it can be derived from the internal evidence, except in one general aspect and one detail,—viz. the choice of an Attic subject, and the employment of a fourth actor. The Attic plays of Euripides, mentioned above, belong to the latter part of the Peloponnesian war, which naturally tended to a concentration of home sympathies. An Attic theme was the most interesting that a dramatist could choose; and he was doing a good work, if, by recalling the past glories of Athens, he could inspire new courage in her sons. If Attica was to furnish a subject, the author of the Oedipus Tyrannus had no need to look beyond his native Colonus; and it is conceivable that this general influence of the time should have decided the choice. In three scenes of the play, four actors are on the stage together. This innovation may be allowed as indicating the latest period of Sophocles1.
1 A discussion of this point will be found below, in the note on the Dramatis Personae, p. 7.
Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose. Part II: The Oedipus Coloneus. Sir Richard C. Jebb. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 1899.
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