Mourning the Public Body in Sophocles’ Antigone

2017-05-21T04:40:41Z (GMT) by Jennifer R. Ballengee
At the close of Oedipus at Colonus (c. 401 BC), the last extant play of Sophocles and his final treatment of the myth of Oedipus’ accursed family, a strange dramatic event occurs. As the thunder of Zeus peals overhead, Oedipus’ body, located somewhere offstage, disappears forever, simultaneously bestowing a remarkable power upon the site where he departs from earthly life. Perhaps stranger still, for the form of the drama, are the responses that Theseus and Antigone have to the catastrophe. According to the messenger who reports the details of Oedipus’ death to the chorus (and the watching audience), the epic hero who alone among humans has permission to witness Oedipus’ passing actually fails to see the singular event.