Study Guide

Oedipus at Colonus Three-Act Plot Analysis

By Sophocles

Three-Act Plot Analysis

Act I

Oedipus and his daughter, Antigone, shuffle into Athens, where he realizes he’s finally come to the Promised Land, his final resting place. His suffering and exile should get the sweet release of peace soon. While he waits he meets the king and is also reunited with his other daughter, Ismene.

Act II

Creon, Oedipus’ brother-in-law (and uncle—long story) kidnaps Antigone and her sister Ismene in an attempt to lure Oedipus back to Thebes. He wants Oedipus to be buried in a sweet spot just outside of his hometown, where he can keep an eye on the tomb and stop vandals from defiling and angering the gods, but also outside of Thebes, where it might bring some more divine fury. Jeez, that's asking a lot. Can't poor Oedipus just die in peace?   


Theseus, king of Athens, saves the girls. In return, Oedipus lets him know where his secret gravesite is so that Athens will always have a magical source of power. The earth swallows up Oedipus, painlessly. After crying it out, his daughters go to Thebes to try to sort things out there between their feuding brothers.