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The secondary persons, like the hero, are best interpreted
The other characters.
by the play itself; but one or two traits may be briefly noticed. The two scenes in which the removal of Oedipus is attempted are contrasted not merely in outward circumstance—Creon relying on armed force, while Polyneices is a solitary suppliant—but also in regard to the characters of the two visitors. It is idle to look for the Creon of the Tyrannus in the Creon of the Coloneus: they are different men, and Sophocles has not cared to preserve even a semblance of identity. The Creon of the Tyrannus is marked by strong self-respect, and is essentially kind-hearted, though undemonstrative; the Creon of this play is a heartless and hypocritical villain. A well-meaning but wrongheaded martinet, such as the Creon of the Antigone, is a conceivable development of the Tyrannus Creon, but at least stands on a much higher level than the Creon of the Coloneus. Polyneices is cold-hearted, selfish, and of somewhat coarse fibre, but he is sincere and straightforward; in the conversation with Antigone he evinces real dignity and fortitude. In the part of Theseus, which might so easily have been commonplace, Sophocles has shown a fine touch; this typical Athenian is more than a walking king; he is a soldier bred in the school of adversity, loyal to gods and men, perfect in courtesy, but stern at need. Comparing the representation of the two sisters in the Antigone with that given in this play, we may remark the tact with which the poet has abstained here from tingeing the character of Ismene with anything like selfish timidity. At the end of the play, where the more passionate nature of the heroic Antigone manifests itself, Ismene is the sister whose calm common-sense is not overpowered by grief; but she grieves sincerely and remains, as she has been throughout, entirely loyal.

Attitude of the Chorus.
A word should be added on the conduct of the Chorus in regard to Oedipus. Before they know who he is, they regard him with horror as the man who has profaned the grove; but their feeling quickly changes to compassion on perceiving that he is blind, aged, and miserable. Then they learn his name, and wish to expel him because they conceive his presence to be a defilement. They next relent, not simply because he says that he brings benefits for Athens,—though they take account of that fact, which is itself a proof that he is at peace with the gods,—but primarily because he is able to assure them that he is “"sacred and pious"(287). They then leave the matter to Theseus. Thus these elders of Colonus represent the conflict of two feelings which the situation might be supposed to arouse in the minds of ordinary Athenians,—fear of the gods, and compassion for human suffering,—the two qualities which Oedipus recognises as distinctly Athenian (260 n.).

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    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 287
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