Antigone

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CLASSICAL GREEK TRAGEDY 
 
  Sophocles ANTIGONESOPHOCLES (496?-406 B.C.)
Antigone
An English Version by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald
Person Represented
ANTIGONE
ISMENE
EURYDICE
CREON
HAIMON
TEIRESIAS
A SENTRY
A MESSENGER
CHORUS
SCENE: Before the Palace of Creon, King of Thebes. A central double door, and two
lateral doors. A platform extends the length of the facade, and from this platform
three steps lead down into the “orchestra”, or chorus-ground. TIME: Dawn of the
day after the repulse of the Argive army from the assault on Thebes.
PROLOGUE
[ANTIGONE and ISMENE enter from the central door of the Palace.]
ANTIGONE:
Ismene, dear sister,
You would think that we had already suffered enough
For the curse on Oedipus:1
I cannot imagine any grief
That you and I have not gone through. And now ––
Have they told you of the new decree of our King CreonISMENE:
I have heard nothing: I know
That two sisters lost two brothers, a double death
In a single hour; and I know that the Argive army
Fled in the night; but beyond this, nothing.510ANTIGONE:
I thought so. And that is why I wanted you
To come out here with me. There is something we must do.
                                                            
1 Oedipus, once King of Thebes, was the father of Antigone and Ismene, and of their brothers Polyneices and Eteocles. Oedipus
unwittingly killed his father, Laios, and married his own mother, Iocaste. When he learned what he had done, he blinded
himself and left Thebes. Eteocles and Polyneices quarreled, Polyneices was driven out but returned to assault Thebes. In the
battle each brother killed the other; Creon became king and ordered that Polyneices be left to rot unburied on the battlefield as a
traitor. [Editors’ note] ISMENE:
Why do you speak so strangelyANTIGONE:
Listen, Ismene:
Creon buried our brother Eteocles
With military honors, gave him a soldier’s funeral,
And it…

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Antigone

In Sophocles play Antigone the main characters; Antigone, Creon, Ismene and Haemon go through the process of Greek tragedy, which consists of Creon transforming from the proud lord of Thebes to a defeated, grief-stricken mortal. The play takes place in the city of Thebes and its countryside. This story seems the same as other Greek tragedies in that one of the character’s decisions affects other characters, usually with a negative outcome. Creon and Antigone are both stubborn and do not listen to others. Creon declares that Antigone will be killed since she decided to go against his decree, that her brother Polyneices would not be buried since he fought against Thebes and Eteocles. Creon is warned that, “stubborn self-will incurs a charge of stupidity”  (L, 1028) and that he should reconsider his options. With no regard to what he’s been told Creon his decision does not falter. Finally when Creon comes to his senses it is too late, he discovers his son Haemon has killed himself and that Antigone is dead too. The play ends with Creon regretting his actions and both dead.

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Creon is faced with a difficult decision. To either bury Polyneices in accordance to the Gods, or to let his body be, “ devoured by birds and by dogs and mangled for the seeing.” (L, 205). His reasoning is that Polyneices attacked Eteocles at Thebes. Each killed by one another, yet Eteocles receives proper burial. Creon states that Polyneices, “wanted to burn his fatherland and the temples of his family’s gods from top to bottom” (L, 199). Creon views Polyneices as an evil man who should not receive proper burial for his attack against Thebes. Throughout the play Creon justifies his decision by using his powerful position as leverage. He does not listen to the city or his son Haemon who tells him, “the people, all Thebes together, deny it “ (L, 733).

Creon asks, “the city will tell me what orders I should give?” (L, 734). Showing arrogance and uncaring, stating, “should he rule the land for anyone other than myself” (L, 736). Near the end of the play Creon is advised by Tiresias to, “yield to the dead, and do not goad the deceased” (L, 1029). Now Creon comes to his senses, realizing the mistake he has made and decides to free Antigone and grant Polyneices proper burial. Unfortunately Creon is too late. He discovers that Haemon has killed himself, then Antigone after learning of Haemon’s fate.

Antigone is defiantly a martyr, risking life for the proper burial of her brother Polyneices. Her reasons are noble and righteous in the eyes of the gods and she knows she will pay with her life for defying Creon. To her following her beliefs in the gods is more important than Creon’s decree. When confronted by Creon she did not believe that,  “Creon, a mortal, could overstep gods’ written and unshakable traditions” (L, 454). This has no effect on Creon, who considers her a slave and that she, “is not allowed to think big” (L, 479). With that Creon sentences Antigone to death even though she was to be wed to Haemon. Antigone knows that not burying her brother, “will keep her from dying nobly.” (L, 97), which justifies her actions against Creon. By “honoring things of gods.” (L, 77) which is more important than the decree, she will be able to die nobly. From the beginning of the play Antigone knew that challenging Creon was asking for death. Ismene warns that, “we are both women” and they should “not battle against men”  (L, 62). Ismene’s statement tells Antigone not to forget herself, that she is a woman and has no power, especially against Creon.

Yet she still stands for her belief that she “must please those below than those here”  (L, 75) is definitely more important, considering that after life she will be with the gods eternally.

Both Antigone and Creon are headstrong and unwilling to back down in their decisions. Antigone’s sister Ismene calls her headstrong for having no regards for the laws of the city. Following her belief in what the gods say over a mortal man’s wishes. Creon’s son tries reasoning with him, saying, “you are mistaken in what you say”  (L, 685). Creon does not listen, saying to Coryphaeus, “are we at our age to be taught” (L, 726). Creon disregards his son simply because of his age. However Antigone’s is seen as a martyr for following the gods. She was acting in accordance to the gods, giving proper burial to the dead. Creon has made himself godlike, that he is incapable of making mistakes and all other opinions fall upon a deaf ear. In the play the citizens of Thebes agree with Antigone, not Creon. From this conflict Antigone is to be entombed while alive. This not only affects Antigone but Haemon as well, since they were to be married. At first, Creon was sure of his actions and approved of all events. It is not until the end that Creon heeds the words from Tiresias the prophet. Creon decides to free Antigone only when it is too late. First Creon is hit with the death of his son, “his blood drawn by a hand of his own” (L, 1175). Then Antigone’s death, she took her own life after hearing of Haemon’s death. Creon is struck with grief saying, “yes, I killed, I killed you” (L 1319), since his stubbornness is what caused this. In conclusion to the play Creon realizes his mistakes and wishes to, “no longer see another day” (L, 1332). He has paid for his pride and unwavering decision.

In conclusion I agree with Antigone’s position. She defied Creon’s decree knowingly to allow Polyneices proper burial and peace with the gods. Her reason for defiance was her beliefs in the gods and that in the afterlife following the laws of man do not precedence over the laws of gods. Creon has defied the gods with his decree, not allowing burial of Polyneices. He oversteps his power and acts as if he were a god, not making any mistakes and having no need for input from others. If he wanted to be right and act in accordance to the law of the gods he would have allowed the burial, instead of making his foolish decision, which cost him the lives of Haemon and Antigone. All of this could have been prevented if he would have allowed the burial instead of, “slaying the dead again” (L, 1030) by holding a grudge against a person after death. Now he sees the error of his ways and is left with the responsibility of two people’s deaths.

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