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The divine amend.

On the part of the gods there is nothing that can properly be called tenderness1 for Oedipus; we should not convey a true impression if we spoke of him as attaining to final pardon and peace, in the full sense which a Christian would attach to those words. The gods, who have vexed Oedipus from youth to age, make this amend to him,—that just before his death he is recognised by men as a mysteriously sacred person, who has the power to bequeath a blessing and a malison. They further provide that his departure out of his wretched life shall be painless, and such as to distinguish him from other men. But their attitude towards him is not that of a Providence which chastises men in love, for their good. They are the inscrutable powers who have had their will of a mortal. If such honour as they concede to him at the last is indeed the completion of a kindly purpose, it is announced only as the end of an arbitrary doom. If it is the crown of a salutary, though bitter, education, it appears only as the final justice (1567) prescribed by a divine sense of measure. In the foreground of the Oedipus Coloneus a weary wanderer is arriving at his goal; but the drama is only half appreciated if we neglect the action which occupies the background. While the old man finds rest, the hereditary curse on his family continues its work. At the very moment when he passes away, the Fury is busy with his sons. The total impression made by the play as a work of art depends essentially on the manner in which the scene of sacred peace at Colonus is brought into relief against the dark fortunes of Polyneices and Eteocles.

1 εὔνουν in 1662, and χάρις in 1752, refer merely to the painless death.

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hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1567
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1752
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1662
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