The story, Antigone written by Sophocles, is based around the conflict between Antigone’s Conscience and the town’s policy.
The full meaning of this play is to be found in the contrast between Antigone and her uncle Creon. Antigone’s concern of burying Polynices is founded on Greek ideas about death. An unburied body meant that a soul was condemned to torment.To bury the body was more than just simply a matter of family loyalty, it was an act of faithfulness commanded by the Gods. Antigone takes on that responsibility even though it means betrayal to the town, the rejection of her fiancï¿½ Haemon, the rejection of her only sister Ismene, and her own death.
She is truly obstinate about the event. As it turns out she is justified in her thinking but we do not know this until Tiresias comes in and then to everyone’s dismay it is too late to matter.Antigone’s two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, have recently killed each other for power over the town. Polynices had returned from exile to try to regain the throne and was therefore seen as a traitor.
Because Eteocles was the legitimate successor and Polynices the invader Creon has decided to punish the corpse of Polynices by denying it burial. Antigone insists that Polynices’s body must be buried and asks her sister, Ismene, to help. Ismene will not help her sister because she feels that by disobeying the laws that she would also be defiling the Gods, and that they are only women so there is nothing they can do.The chorus, old men of Thebes, sings unfolding the tragic events of the battle, which depicted the men’s horrible fate. Creon enters and gives a speech about the importance of faithfulness to one’s country and the government.
Eteocles died in the battle, leaving Creon to see him as a hero and will have a proper burial. Polynices is in his mind portrayed as the traitor and will not receive a proper burial and his burial is actually outlawed. In those respects Creon becomes the possessor of the throne as Polynices and Eteocles died.
The chorus agrees to obey his orders, but seems to hint at their disapproval. No one seems to agree with this law but very few step up to him and tell him that he is wrong.A sentry, one of those Creon posted over the corpse, arrives and says that somebody has sprinkled the body with dirt in a type of symbolic burial.
The chorus wonders if a God has done it because there is no sign of human work. Creon is furious at the information, and at the suggestion that his law could possibly be against the Gods. He argues that the Gods disapprove of all traitors, and says that his sentries must have been bribed. He orders the sentry to locate the person responsible as soon as possible.The Sentry later returns with Antigone who he says was caught trying to bury Polynices’s body. He describes a dust storm that was around the body and this description of a dust storm around the unburied Polynices suggests the displeasure of the Gods.
I feel that Antigone should want to bury her brother and is justified in my mind in trying to do so. She has unconditional love for her brother and does not want him to see harm in life or even in the afterlife. She also believes that she should obey the Gods and not in Creon’s laws.Creon feels that Polynices was a traitor and that traitors should not be given the pleasure of burial. He seems to be very egotistical in his thinking and when anyone steps up to him he seems to turn the blame around on someone else by introducing some illogical thinking.Antigone outright admits that she wanted to bury her brother and tried to.
Antigone confronts Creon, saying that she chose to obey divine law rather than his law, and says that she’d be willing to die for what she believes in. Creon accuses her of acting like a man. Creon suspects that Ismene might have had something to do with this and therefore she is brought in for questioning. Ismene comes in and joins her sister and says that she had a part in the attempted burial but Antigone will not allow her to fall for something that she had no part in.
This shows us a change in Ismene’s attitude from the beginning of the story. In the beginning Ismene wanted to have nothing to do with this burial and says she will not stand behind her sister at all. Now she has decided to join Antigone by saying that she had a part in the attempted burial.Haemon joins them and assures his support for his father’s decision. Creon speaks on the importance of submission, and about keeping women in their place.
Haemon says that the town is against Creon, and suggests that there could be a rebellion. He also cites the importance of being flexible, and asks Creon to change his mind. They have an argument.
When Creon threatens to kill Antigone before his eyes, Haemon leaves but still feels that Antigone should be praised for what she has done and not killed for it. Creon announces that he will spare Ismene’s life, but will confine Antigone to a cave to starve to death. The chorus sings of the power of love.Before she goes, Antigone grieves over her gloomy future, picturing her meeting with her family in the underworld, and wondering why the Gods are not coming to save her.
She is led away to the cave, calling on Thebes and the Gods to witness her death.Tiresias, the blind fortune-teller, enters and tells Creon about what he has recently seen, and signs indicating that the Gods are angry with Thebes. Tiresias advises Creon to change his mind about not burying Polynices. Tiresias is obviously tired of Creon and tells him that he is sick and that he has no business with the dead. Tiresias becomes very angry and leaves and condemns Creon decision as an act of grave impiety, and predicts that he will be punished by the loss of his own childAfter Tiresias leaves Creon becomes scared. The leader thinks that Tiresias should be listened to because he has never lied before. The leader tells Creon to go and free Antigone, Creon agrees. He sends attendants to free Antigone and claims that he will bury Polynices’s body.
A messenger reports that Haemon has killed himself. Haemon’s mother Eurydice enters and asks to hear how it happened. The messenger tells how, after burying what was left of Polynices’s body, Creon and his men found Haemon lamenting over Antigone, who had hanged herself. Haemon lunged at Creon with his sword, but missed, then ran himself through and died in Antigone’s arms. The messenger comes out of the palace and reports that Eurydice has become the day’s third suicideCreon wants to be exiled and forgotten about. He feels completely responsible for all of the deaths. The chorus ends the play with an observation on wisdom achieved through sufferingI enjoyed this story right until the end; it seemed to keep you reading with the constant introduction of new events. At the end of the story I was left feeling deeply sorry for Antigone and actually hating Creon as if I was in the story.
Sophocles does a very good job telling the story and it seems to reflect ancient Greek way of life but also it is written in a way that we still can relate to it. It is very similar to many challenges raised in modern times. Do you stand by your laws and ways of thinking, or do you let your beliefs go just to save someone who you feel has done wrong? This story shows us the answer to this question and does it very dramatically.
In the end Robert Fagles does an awesome job translating the story and Sophocles does an even better job telling it.