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The second play sequentially of Sophocles' Theban tetralogy but written last and produced at the Dionysia posthumously.

The play picks up years after the events of Oedipus Rex, with the now blind and beggarly Oedipus and his daughter Antigone arriving at Colonus. They stop to rest in a sacred grove and are confronted by citizens concerned for the sanctity of the place and fearful of Oedipus' curse. Oedipus knows this as a sign of his imminent death and asks to see Theseus, the king of Athens.

Ismene, Oedipus' other daughter, arrives bearing news of the succession crisis in Thebes, where their younger brother Eteocles has ousted the older Polyneices, who intends to wage civil war as a result. Oedipus' favour is central to the success of the war, but in bitterness he chooses to give his favour to the people of Colonus rather than his sons. Theseus gratefully accepts his blessing and declares him a citizen of Athens.

Creon appears to force Oedipus to go to Thebes by abducting Antigone and Ismene but Theseus intervenes. Polyneices also appears to request Oedipus' aid, but upon rejection makes Antigone promise to bury him, knowing he will die. After his exit a thunderstorm appears and Oedipus recognizes the moment of his death, bids farewell to his daughters and goes off with Theseus in secret. Despite their grief Antigone and Ismene choose to return to Thebes to try and stop their brother's rebellion.

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