Sophocles wrote the ancient play Antigone in 441 BC. The play begins with Antigone speaking with her sister Ismene. Antigone wants help from Ismene to bury their brother, Polyneices. Antigone repeats Creon’s decree that anyone who attempts to bury Polyneices will be stoned. Creon is the new king, so his threats are real. But Antigone can’t sit idly by while her brother is food for the vultures. She feels compelled to bury him. Yet, there’s no way Ismene is going to help her. The thought of being stoned to death petrifies Ismene. Ismene reminds Antigone that they have already lost so much of their family due to the curse of Oedipus.
Ismene doesn’t want to lose Antigone as well. Unfortunately, Antigone makes it clear that she is not going to budge. Antigone is determined to bury Polyneices. When Ismene realizes she can’t change Antigone’s mind, she at least asks Antigone to keep her plans secret.
In the next scene, the Chorus is praying out loud to the god Apollo. In the prayer, the Chorus is giving thanks for their recent victory. Yet the victory came with a steep price. The city of seven gates, Thebes, lost seven of their generals which they had sent out to defeat the seven enemy generals. All died, including the brothers Eteocles & Polyneices who represented the opposing sides of the battle. The brothers ended up killing each other with their bare hands.
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Creon enters and restates his decree. They will bury Eteocles with full military honors. Meanwhile, they will leave Polyneices’ body out to rot. No one is to bury or grieve for the traitor Polyneices. Then Creon asks the Chorus to follow his orders. But, they ask that younger men carry out the task. Creon states that isn’t an issue as soldiers are already guarding the body. Then, a guard runs into the room. He states that someone has performed a burial of Polyneices’ body.
Unfortunately for the guard, he didn’t see who did it. This upsets Creon and he tells the guard that he had better find out who did, or he will be killed in their place. Creon even accuses the guard of taking a bribe and allowing someone to bury Polyneices. The guard leaves to find the perpetrator. Almost immediately, the guard comes walking back into the throne room to speak with King Creon. This time the guard is hauling Antigone, Creon’s niece. The guard claims that he arrested Antigone while she was burying Polyneices. The guard explains that when he returned to his post he swept the dirt off of Polyneices. That’s when Antigone came back to bury Polyneices again and got caught in the act.
The guard is relieved, which contrasts against the obvious pressure Creon must feel his new predicament. Antigone immediately admits to the crime. She calls herself guilty and doesn’t try to deny it. She continues with an attack on Creon for his immoral decree. Antigone states that she would have rather died than have left Polyneices unburied. Creon remarks that even the stubborn Antigone will be made to follow the law, even if it takes violence.
Antigone continues to argue with Creon. Her logic is that Polyneices deserved a burial as much as Eteocles. She says that Polyneices his actions in life should have no bearing on how his remains are treated. Meanwhile, Creon argues that by honoring Polyneices Antigone dishonors at Eteocles. Ismene comes into the room and his question by Creon. Creon wants to know if Ismene helped Antigone in her treasonous crime. Ismene admits that she did help Antigone. But, Antigone won’t let Ismene share the blame. Antigone tells Creon that Ismene is lying. Plus, Antigone is angry at Ismene.
Antigone remarks that she doesn’t need any friends like Ismene who only help her in words, but not in action. Antigone is a dead woman walking. Creon has no intentions of sparing Antigone, despite them being family. Additionally, Antigone makes no attempts to try and save herself. Creon imprisons the two women while he finalizes his decision. Haemon, Creon’s son & Antigone’s fiancé at first agrees to defer to Creon’s decision. Yet, Haemon does make a case for Antigone. Haemon states that there’s a growing sentiment amongst the population that Antigone does not deserve to die. Her convictions to bury her brother were noble. The Chorus weighs in and advises Creon to heed Haemon’s warning.
Unfortunately, the discussion devolves into a shouting match after Creon questions Haemon’s character. Creon reasons that Haemon is a fool to defend a traitor. Haemon asks what will be the fate of Antigone and Creon explains her punishment. Antigone is to be sealed in a cave and starved to death. Teiresias the seer comes in and tries to talk some sense into Creon. Teiresias claims that Creon is making a huge mistake. His biggest mistake is his incapability to admit that he was wrong to not bury Polyneices.
After the seer leaves the Chorus advises Creon to take Teiresias seriously. According to the Chorus, the seer has never been wrong before. The Chorus suggests Creon release Antigone & then bury Polyneices. Creon finally agrees and leaves to free Antigone.
Unfortunately, a messenger comes in & informs the Chorus that Antigone and Haemon are both dead. Haemon, frustrated at Creon’s decision took his own life. Eurydice, the queen of Thebes comes in when she overhears the messenger. She’s stunned and asked the messenger to repeat his message. The messenger says that Haman found his love, Antigone strangled by a rope. Haemon got extremely upset. He tried to kill his father but then turned his sword on himself. When Creon returns to the palace we learn that Eurydice has also killed herself.
The messenger tells Creon on that before Eurydice committed suicide she cursed Creon for having taken away her only son. Creon can’t believe what has happened. He admits that he is responsible for the death of his son and his wife. Creon is so shocked by the events that have transpired that he’s not even able to walk away. Instead, he has to command his guards to come and carry him away.
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