For you have been sent forth on a road that is long for an
old man. (19-20)
isn’t so attractive. Resting on a “rough rock” isn't really the nicest way to
end a day of hiking. She recognizes that her father’s age affects his ability
to move, and that he needs more rest because of it. The road she’s talking
about is literal, the road they walk on, but also figurative: his difficult
OEDIPUS. Pity this wretched phantom of a man,
Oedipus. For mine is not the form of old. (109-110)
Oedipus doesn’t feel
like himself anymore, because the years have transformed him. He doesn’t even
look like himself (his form is different) and compares himself to a phantom.
This might be foreshadowing; he is
about to die, after all. Old age is like a pre-death for Oedipus.
ANTIGONE. Be silent. For here come some who are
Aged in years, watchmen of where you sit. (111-12)
Oedipus isn’t the
only oldster in this play. The Chorus is also made up of old men, the “watchmen”
of the grove. These guys are basically the old people who sit around all day
and watch the world pass by. Their job is to protect the sacred field, and
maybe their advanced age is a sign of all of their wisdom. They are the only
ones in the play who act rationally, especially compared to Creon and
Were you begotten with
Unseeing eyes? Miserable and
Long has your life been, as I would guess. (149-52)
The Chorus recognizes
that Oedipus is blind, and they guess that if he were born blind he must have
had a miserable life. They also slip a little indirect observation in, too; his
life must have been “long.” It’s not just wrinkles and salt-and-pepper hair
that gives Oedipus his elderly look; it’s also the suffering on his face that
adds to his aged appearance.
ANTIGONE. Let step fit step,
Lean your old body forward,
Onto my loving hand. (199-201)
her life to supporting her father; literally. Her youthful body has to stand in
for his, showing him where to step, holding up his weight. This is the picture
of love, because old age is, for Oedipus at least, nothing but trouble.
OEDIPUS. [. . .] My body would not have the strength
To shuffle along, desolate, without someone to guide me.
that Antigone is sort of his life force in his old age. He can’t really walk
all that well, so he uses her strength, like an energy vampire, in order to get
around. But is it really his physical strength that is lacking in the twilight
years? Or is it more like his hope is running out and he needs her young
attitude to protect him?
OEDIPUS. I come to give this miserable body of mine
As a gift to you, not a serious thing to behold, but
The gains from it are superior to any beautiful form.
Ha! Oedipus is
offering his body up to Theseus as a gift. But not like that. No, he believes
that his body will be a good luck charm if it’s buried in Athens. He
acknowledges that it’s not that sexy (“not a serious thing to behold”) but the
power is not in the appearances; his body may be old but it’s a darn attractive
good luck charm.
OEDIPUS. Oh dearest child of Aegeus! Only for the gods
Is there never old age or death!
All other things almighty time confounds.
The strength of earth decays, that of the body decays,
Trust dies, and distrust blossoms forth. (607-11)
Old age is related to
decay in Oedipus at Colonus. It’s all
about things breaking down and returning to the earth. And Oedipus is pretty
much back to the soil. But old age is also a sign of being human, as is death. This
explains why Oedipus reminds us that the gods are the only ones who don’t have
to deal with fine lines and the crypt.
CHORUS. Be confident! It will be by your side! For even if I
The strength of this land has not grown old! (726-27)
Oedipus just said
that the gods are the only ones who don’t grow old (see above), but actually
the Chorus has a really good point. The land doesn’t get old and feeble either.
The people who live in Athens, and Oedipus, too, have grown old. But the city
is always renewing itself with young blood, making it forever young.
CREON. I have not come with any wish to take any action,
I am old, and I know that I have come to a city
That has great strength, if any in Greece does. (733-34)
Creon admits, Oedipus
isn’t the only one who’s getting old. He relates youth to being able to take
action and get things done. But Creon is no spring chicken. He knows that he’s
an old fart and that the Athenians can take him in a heartbeat. That’s why he
first tries using his nice words to get Oedipus to do what he wants.