Antigone By Sophocles; translated by Ian Johnston Dramatis Personae (Fill in relationship information for each character listed. ) ANTIGONE: ________________________ISMENE: ______________________________ CREON: ____________________________EURYDICE: ___________________________ HAEMON: __________________________TEIRESIAS: ___________________________ Polynieces: __________________________Eteocles: ______________________________ Oedipus: Father of Antigone, Ismene, Polynices Jocasta: _______________________________ and Eteocles; son and husband to Jocasta
Prologue [In Thebes, directly in front of the royal palace, which stands in the background, its main doors facing the audience. Enter Antigone leading Ismene away from the palace] ANTIGONE Now, dear Ismene, my own blood sister, do you have any sense of all the troubles Zeus keeps bringing on the two of us, as long as we’re alive? All that misery which stems from Oedipus? There’s no suffering, no shame, no ruin—not one dishonour— which I have not seen in all the troubles you and I go through.
What’s this they’re saying now, something our general has had proclaimed throughout the city? Do you know of it? 10 Have you heard? Or have you just missed the news? Dishonours which better fit our enemies are now being piled up on the ones we love.
ISMENE I’ve had no word at all, Antigone, nothing good or bad about our family, not since we two lost both our brothers, killed on the same day by a double blow. And since the Argive1 army, just last night, has gone away, I don’t know any more if I’ve been lucky or face total ruin. 0 ANTIGONE I know that. That’s why I brought you here, outside the gates, so only you can hear. ISMENE What is it? The way you look makes it seem you’re thinking of some dark and gloomy news. ANTIGONE Look—what’s Creon doing with our two brothers? He’s honouring one with a full funeral and treating the other one disgracefully! Eteocles, they say, has had his burial according to our customary rites, to win him honour with the dead below. 30 But as for Polyneices, who perished o miserably, an order has gone out throughout the city—that’s what people say. He’s to have no funeral or lament, but to be left unburied and unwept, a sweet treasure for the birds to look at, for them to feed on to their heart’s content. That’s what people say the noble Creon has announced to you and me. For Creon this matter’s really serious. 40 Anyone who acts against the order will be stoned to death before the city. Now you know, and you’ll quickly demonstrate whether you are nobly born, or else a girl unworthy of her splendid ancestors.
ISMENE Oh my poor sister, if that’s what’s happening, what can I say that would be any help to ease the situation or resolve it? ANTIGONE Think whether you will work with me in this and act together. 50 ISMENE In what kind of work? What do you mean? ANTIGONE Will you help these hands take up Polyneices’ corpse and bury it? ISMENE What? You’re going to bury Polyneices, when that’s been made a crime for all in Thebes? ANTIGONE Yes. I’ll do my duty to my brother— and yours as well, if you’re not prepared to.
I won’t be caught betraying him. ISMENE You’re too rash. Has Creon not expressly banned that act? ANTIGONE Yes. But he’s no right to keep me from what’s mine. ISMENE O dear. Think, Antigone. Consider 60 how our father died, hated and disgraced, when those mistakes which his own search revealed forced him to turn his hand against himself and stab out both his eyes. Then that woman, his mother and his wife—her double role— destroyed her own life in a twisted noose.
Then there’s our own two brothers, both butchered in a single day—that ill-fated pair with their own hands slaughtered one another and brought about their common doom. 70 Now, the two of us are left here quite alone. Think how we’ll die far worse than all the rest, if we defy the law and move against the king’s decree, against his royal power. We must remember that by birth we’re women, and, as such, we shouldn’t fight with men.
Since those who rule are much more powerful, we must obey in this and in events which bring us even harsher agonies. So I’ll ask those underground for pardon— 80 since I’m being compelled, I will obey those in control. That’s what I’m forced to do. It makes no sense to try to do too much. ANTIGONE I wouldn’t urge you to. No. Not even if you were keen to act. Doing this with you would bring me no joy. So be what you want. I’ll still bury him.
It would be fine to die while doing that. I’ll lie there with him, with a man I love, pure and innocent, for all my crime. As for you, 90 well, if you wish, you can show contempt for those laws the gods all hold in honour. ISMENE I’m not disrespecting them. But I can’t act against the state. That’s not in my nature. ANTIGONE Let that be your excuse. I’m going now to make a burial mound for my dear brother.
ISMENE Make sure you don’t reveal to anyone what you intend. Keep it closely hidden. I’ll do the same. ANTIGONE No, no. Announce the fact— 100 if you don’t let everybody know, I’ll despise your silence even more. ISMENE Your heart is hot to do cold deeds. ANTIGONE But I know I’ll please the ones I’m duty bound to please. ISMENE Yes, if you can. But you’re after something which you’re incapable of carrying out. ANTIGONE Well, when my strength is gone, then I’ll give up.
ISMENE A vain attempt should not be made at all. ANTIGONE I’ll hate you if you’re going to talk that way. 110 And you’ll rightly earn the loathing of the dead. So leave me and my foolishness alone— we’ll get through this fearful thing. I won’t suffer anything as bad as a disgraceful death. ISMENE All right then, go, if that’s what you think right. But remember this—even though your mission makes no sense, your friends do truly love you. 117 [Exit Antigone away from the palace.
Ismene watches her go and then returns slowly into the palace. ] In the space below, write a paragraph in which you compare and contrast Antigone and Ismene. Include examples from the text (with line numbers) to support your answer. Parados Scene 1[The palace doors are thrown open and guards appear at the doors] CHORUS LEADER But here comes Creon, new king of our land,118 son of Menoikeos. Thanks to the gods, who’ve brought about our new good fortune.
What plan of action does he have in mind? What’s made him hold this special meeting, with elders summoned by a general call? [Enter Creon from the palace. He addresses the assembled elders] CREON Men, after much tossing of our ship of state, the gods have safely set things right again. 125 It’s impossible to really know a man, to know his soul, his mind and will, before one witnesses his skill in governing and making laws.
For me, a man who rules the entire state and does not take the best advice there is, but through fear keeps his mouth forever shut, such a man is the very worst of men— and always will be. And a man who thinks more highly of a friend than of his country,135 well, he means nothing to me. Let Zeus know, the god who always watches everything, I would not stay silent if I saw disaster moving here against the citizens, threat to their security. For anyone who acts against the state, its enemy, I’d never make my friend. For I know well our country is a ship which keeps us safe, and only when it sails its proper course do we make friends. These are the principles145 I’ll use in order to protect our state. That’s why I’ve announced to all citizens my orders for the sons of Oedipus— Eteocles, who perished in the fight o save our city, the best and bravest of our spearmen, will have his burial, with all those purifying rituals which accompany the noblest corpses, as they move below. As for his brother—155 that Polyneices, who returned from exile, eager to wipe out in all-consuming fire his ancestral city and its native gods, keen to seize upon his family’s blood and lead men into slavery—for him, he proclamation in the state declares he’ll have no burial mound, no funeral rites, and no lament. He’ll be left unburied, his body there for birds and dogs to eat, a clear reminder of his shameful fate. 165 That’s my decision. For I’ll never act to respect an evil man with honours in preference to a man who’s acted well. Anyone who’s well disposed towards our state, alive or dead, that man I will respect. See to it then, and act as guardians of what’s been proclaimed. Don’t yield to those who contravene my orders.
CHORUS LEADER No one is such a fool that he loves death. CREON Yes, that will be his full reward, indeed. 175 And yet men have often been destroyed because they hoped to profit in some way. [Enter a guard] GUARD I’ve come here clinging to the hope that I’ll not suffer anything that’s not part of my destiny. CREON What’s happening that’s made you so upset? GUARD I want to tell you first about myself. I did not do it. And I didn’t see the one who did. So it would be unjust if I should come to grief. 185 CREON You hedge so much. Clearly you have news of something ominous. GUARD Yes.
Strange things that make me pause a lot. CREON Why not say it and then go—just leave. GUARD All right, I’ll tell you. It’s about the corpse. 190 Someone has buried it and disappeared, after spreading thirsty dust onto the flesh and undertaking all appropriate rites. CREON What are you saying? What man would dare this? GUARD I don’t know. There was no sign of digging, no marks of any pick axe or a mattock. The ground was dry and hard and very smooth, without a wheel track. Whoever did it left no trace.
The corpse was hidden, but not in a tomb. It was lightly covered up with dirt, 200 as if someone wanted to avert a curse. That’s why I’m now here, not of my own free will or by your choice. I know that—for no one likes a messenger who comes bearing unwelcome news with him. CHORUS LEADER My lord, I’ve been wondering for some time now— could this act not be something from the gods? CREON Stop now—before what you’re about to say enrages me completely and reveals hat you’re not only old but stupid, too. 210 No one can tolerate what you’ve just said, when you claim gods might care about this corpse. Would they pay extraordinary honours and bury as a man who’d served them well someone who came to burn their offerings, their pillared temples, to torch their lands and scatter all its laws? Or do you see gods paying respect to evil men? No, no. For quite a while some people in the town have secretly been muttering against me. 20 They don’t agree with what I have decreed. I well know that these guards were led astray— such men urged them to carry out this act for money. To foster evil actions, to make them commonplace among all men, nothing is as powerful as money. It destroys cities, driving men from home. Money trains and twists the minds in worthy men, so they then undertake disgraceful acts. Money teaches men to live as scoundrels, 230 familiar with every profane enterprise.
But those who carry out such acts for cash sooner or later see how for their crimes they pay the penalty. For if great Zeus still has my respect, then understand this— I swear to you on oath—unless you find the one whose hands really buried him, unless you bring him here before my eyes, then death for you will never be enough. That way you’ll understand in future days, 240 when there’s a profit to be gained from theft, you’ll learn that it’s not good to be in love with every kind of monetary gain.
You’ll know more men are ruined than are saved when they earn profits from dishonest schemes. GUARD Perhaps. But I never did this. CREON This and more— you sold your life for silver. GUARD How strange and sad when the one who sorts this out gets it all wrong. 250 [Exit Creon back into the palace. The doors close behind him] [Exit the Guard away from the palace] Fill in the chart with excerpts from dialogue in this scene (include line numbers) and what each shows about Creon? |Excerpt from Scene One |What does this show about Creon? | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | Ode 1 CHORUS There are many strange and wonderful things, but nothing more strangely wonderful than man. The qualities of his inventive skills bring arts beyond his dreams and lead him on, sometimes to evil and sometimes to good.
If he treats his country’s laws with due respect and honours justice by swearing on the gods, he wins high honours in his city. But when he grows bold and turns to evil, then he has no city. A man like that—260 let him not share my home or know my mind. Scene 2 [Enter the Guard, bringing Antigone with him. She is not resisting] CHORUS LEADER What this? I fear some omen from the gods. I can’t deny what I see here so clearly— that young girl there—it’s Antigone. GUARD This here’s the one who carried out the act. We caught her as she was burying the corpse. Where’s Creon? [The palace doors open. Enter Creon with attendants] CREON Why have I come just in time? What’s happening?
What is it? GUARD I bring this girl,270 captured while she was honouring the grave. And now, my lord, take her for questioning. Convict her. Do as you wish. As for me, by rights I’m free and clear of all this trouble. CREON This girl here—how did you catch her? And where? GUARD She was burying that man. Now you know all there is to know. CREON Do you understand just what you’re saying? Are your words the truth? GUARD We saw this girl giving that dead man’s corpse280 full burial rites—an act you’d made illegal. Is what I say simple and clear enough? CREON How did you see her, catch her in the act? GUARD It happened this way.
When we got there, after hearing those awful threats from you, we swept off all the dust covering the corpse, so the damp body was completely bare. Then we sat down on rising ground up wind, to escape the body’s putrid rotting stench. Then suddenly a swirling windstorm came, 290 whipping clouds of dust up from the ground, filling the plain—some heaven-sent trouble. In that level place the dirt storm damaged all the forest growth, and the air around was filled with dust for miles. We shut our mouths and just endured this scourge sent from the gods. A long time passed. The storm came to an end.
That’s when we saw the girl. She was shrieking— a distressing painful cry, just like a bird who’s seen an empty nest, its fledglings gone. 300 That’s how she was when she saw the naked corpse. She screamed out a lament, and then she swore, calling evil curses down upon the ones who’d done this. Then right away her hands threw on the thirsty dust. She lifted up a finely made bronze jug and then three times poured out her tributes to the dead. When we saw that, we rushed up right away and grabbed her. She was not afraid at all.
We charged her with her previous offence 310 as well as this one. She just kept standing there, denying nothing. CREON You there—you with your face bent down towards the ground, what do you say? Do you deny you did this or admit it? ANTIGONE I admit I did it. I won’t deny that. CREON [Exit the Guard. ] Tell me briefly—not in some lengthy speech— were you aware there was a proclamation forbidding what you did? ANTIGONE I’d heard of it. 320 How could I not? It was public knowledge. CREON And yet you dared to break those very laws? ANTIGONE Yes. Zeus did not announce those laws to me.
And Justice living with the gods below sent no such laws for men. I did not think anything which you proclaimed strong enough to let a mortal override the gods and their unwritten and unchanging laws. They’re not just for today or yesterday, but exist forever, and no one knows330 where they first appeared. So I did not mean to let a fear of any human will lead to my punishment among the gods. I know all too well I’m going to die— how could I not? —it makes no difference what you decree. But if I’d allowed y own mother’s dead son to just lie there, an unburied corpse, then I’d feel distress. What going on here does not hurt me at all. If you think what I’m doing now is stupid,340 perhaps I’m being charged with foolishness by someone who’s a fool. CHORUS LEADER It’s clear enough the spirit in this girl is passionate— her father was the same. She has no sense of compromise in times of trouble. CREON [to the Chorus Leader] But you should know the most obdurate wills are those most prone to break. The strongest iron tempered in the fire to make it really hard— that’s the kind you see most often shatter. 350
This girl here was already very insolent in contravening laws we had proclaimed. Here she again displays her proud contempt— having done the act, she now boasts of it. She laughs at what she’s done. Well, in this case, if she gets her way and goes unpunished, then she’s the man here, not me. No. She may be my sister’s child, but she’ll not escape my harshest punishment— her sister, too, whom I accuse as well. 360 She had an equal part in all their plans to do this burial. Go summon her here. I saw her just now inside the palace, her mind out of control, some kind of fit. Exit attendants] When people hatch their mischief in the dark their minds often convict them in advance, betraying their treachery. How I despise a person caught committing evil acts who then desires to glorify the crime. ANTIGONE Take me and kill me—what more do you want? 370 CREON Me? Nothing. With that I have everything. ANTIGONE Then why delay? There’s nothing in your words that I enjoy—may that always be the case! And what I say displeases you as much. But where could I gain greater glory than setting my own brother in his grave?
All those here would confirm this pleases them if their lips weren’t sealed by fear—being king, which offers all sorts of various benefits, means you can talk and act just as you wish. 380 CREON In all of Thebes, you’re the only one who looks at things that way. ANTIGONE They share my views, but they keep their mouths shut just for you. CREON These views of yours—so different from the rest— don’t they bring you any sense of shame? ANTIGONE No—there’s nothing shameful in honouring my mother’s children. CREON You had a brother killed fighting for the other side. 390 ANTIGONE Yes—from the same mother and father, too. CREON Why then give tributes which insult his name? ANTIGONE
But his dead corpse won’t back up what you say. CREON Yes, he will, if you give equal honours to a wicked man. ANTIGONE But the one who died was not some slave—it was his own brother. CREON Who was destroying this country—the other one went to his death defending it. ANTIGONE That may be,400 but Hades still desires equal rites for both. CREON A good man does not wish what we give him to be the same an evil man receives. ANTIGONE Who knows? In the world below perhaps such actions are no crime. CREON An enemy can never be a friend, not even in death. ANTIGONE But my nature is to love. I cannot hate.
CREON Then go down to the dead. If you must love, love them. No woman’s going to govern me— 410 no, no—not while I’m still alive. [Enter two attendants & Ismene] CREON You there—you snake lurking in my house, sucking out my life’s blood so secretly. I’d no idea I was nurturing two pests, who aimed to rise against my throne. Come here. Tell me this—do you admit you played your part in this burial, or will you swear an oath you had no knowledge of it? ISMENE I did it— I admit it, and she’ll back me up. 420 So I bear the guilt as well. ANTIGONE No, no— ustice will not allow you to say that. You didn’t want to. I didn’t work with you. ISMENE But now you’re in trouble, I’m not ashamed of suffering, too, as your companion. ANTIGONE Hades and the dead can say who did it— I don’t love a friend whose love is only words. ISMENE You’re my sister. Don’t dishonour me. Let me respect the dead and die with you. ANTIGONE Don’t try to share my death or make a claim430 to actions which you did not do. I’ll die— and that will be enough. ISMENE But if you’re gone, what is there in life for me to love? ANTIGONE Ask Creon.
He’s the one you care about. ISMENE Why hurt me like this? It doesn’t help you. ANTIGONE Save yourself. I won’t envy your escape. ISMENE I feel so wretched leaving you to die. ANTIGONE But you chose life—it was my choice to die. CREON I’d say one of these girls has just revealed440 how mad she is—the other’s been that way since she was born. ISMENE How could I live alone, without her here? CREON Don’t speak of her being here. Her life is over. ISMENE You’re going to kill your own son’s bride? CREON Why not? There are other fields for him to plough. ISMENE No one will make him a more loving wife than she will. CREON
I have no desire my son should have an evil wife. ANTIGONE Dearest Haemon, how your father wrongs you. 450 CREON I’ve had enough of this—you and your marriage. ISMENE You really want that? You’re going to take her from him? CREON No, not me. Hades is the one who’ll stop the marriage. CHORUS LEADER So she must die—that seems decided on. CREON Yes—for you and me the matter’s closed. No more delay. You slaves, take them inside. From this point on they must act like women and have no liberty to wander off. 460 Even bold men run when they see Hades coming close to them to snatch their lives. The attendants take Antigone and Ismene into the palace] In the space below, write a paragraph in which you explain who is right: Antigone or Creon? How do you know? (Give examples from the text and include line numbers. ) Ode 2 CHORUS Those who live without tasting evil have happy lives—for when the gods shake a house to its foundations, then inevitable disasters strike, For now the light which has been shining over the last roots of Oedipus’ house is being cut down with a bloody knife belonging to the gods below—470 for foolish talk and frenzy in the soul. Oh Zeus, what human trespasses can check your power?
Even Sleep, who casts his nets on everything, cannot master that—nor can the months, the tireless months the gods control. Scene 3[The palace doors open] CHORUS LEADER Here comes Haemon, your only living son. Is he grieving the fate of Antigone, his bride, bitter that his marriage hopes are gone? 480 CREON We’ll soon find out—more accurately than any prophet here could indicate. [Enter Haemon from the palace] My son, have you heard the sentence that’s been passed upon your bride?
And have you now come here angry at your father? Or are you loyal to me, on my side no matter what I do? HAEMON Father, I’m yours. For me your judgments and the ways you act on them are good— I shall follow them. I’ll not consider any marriage a greater benefit490 than your fine leadership. CREON Indeed, my son, that’s how your heart should always be resolved, to stand behind your father’s judgment on every issue. So, my son, don’t ever throw good sense aside for pleasure, for some woman’s sake.
You understand how such embraces can turn freezing cold when an evil woman shares your life at home. What greater wound is there than a false friend? 500 So spit this girl out—she’s your enemy. Let her marry someone else in Hades. Since I caught her clearly disobeying, the only culprit in the entire city, I won’t perjure myself before the state. No—I’ll kill her. And so let her appeal to Zeus, the god of blood relationships. If I foster any lack of full respect in my own family, I surely do the same with those who are not linked to me by blood. 510 The man who acts well with his household will be found a just man in the city.
And in the thick of battle at his post he’ll stand firm beside his fellow soldier, a loyal, brave man. But anyone who’s proud and violates our laws or thinks he’ll tell our leaders what to do, a man like that wins no praise from me. No. We must obey whatever man the city puts in charge, no matter what the issue—great or small, 520 just or unjust. For there’s no greater evil than a lack of leadership. That destroys whole cities, turns households into ruins, and in war makes soldiers break and run away. When men succeed, what keeps their lives secure in almost every case is their obedience.
That’s why they must support those in control, and never let some woman beat us down. If we must fall from power, let that come at some man’s hand—at least, we won’t be called 530 inferior to any woman. HAEMON Father, the gods instill good sense in men— the greatest of all the things which we possess. I could not find your words somehow not right— I hope that’s something I never learn to do. But other words might be good, as well. Because of who you are, you can’t perceive all the things men say or do—or their complaints. Your gaze makes citizens afraid—they can’t say anything you would not like to hear. 40 But in the darkness I can hear them talk— the city is upset about the girl. They say of all women here she’s least deserves the worst of deaths for her most glorious act. When in the slaughter her own brother died, she did not just leave him there unburied, to be ripped apart by carrion dogs or birds. Surely she deserves some golden honour? That’s the dark secret rumour people speak. For me, father, nothing is more valuable550 than your well being. For any children, what could be a greater honour to them than their father’s thriving reputation? A father feels the same about his sons.
So don’t let your mind dwell on just one thought, that what you say is right and nothing else. A man who thinks that only he is wise, that he can speak and think like no one else, when such men are exposed, then all can see their emptiness inside. For any man, 560 even if he’s wise, there’s nothing shameful in learning many things, staying flexible. In the same way, those sailors who keep their sails stretched tight, never easing off, make their ship capsize—and from that point on sail with their rowing benches all submerged. So end your anger. Permit yourself to change. CREON
And men my age—are we then going to school to learn what’s wise from men as young as him? HAEMON There’s nothing wrong in that. And if I’m young,570 don’t think about my age—look at what I do. CREON And what you do—does that include this, honouring those who act against our laws? HAEMON I would not encourage anyone to show respect to evil men. CREON And her— is she not suffering from the same disease? HAEMON The people here in Thebes all say the same— they deny she is. CREON So the city now580 will instruct me how I am to govern? HAEMON
Now you’re talking like someone far too young. Don’t you see that? CREON Am I to rule this land at someone else’s whim or by myself? HAEMON A city which belongs to just one man is no true city. CREON According to our laws, does not the ruler own the city? HAEMON By yourself you’d make an excellent king590 but in a desert. CREON It seems as if this boy is fighting on the woman’s side. HAEMON That’s true— if you’re the woman. I’m concerned for you. CREON You’re the worst there is—you set your judgment up against your father. HAEMON No, not when I see ou making a mistake and being unjust. CREON Is it a mistake to honour my own rule? 600 HAEMON You’re not honouring that by trampling on the gods’ prerogatives. CREON You foul creature— you’re worse than any woman. HAEMON You’ll not catch me giving way to some disgrace. CREON But your words all speak on her behalf. HAEMON And yours and mine— and for the gods below. 610 CREON You woman’s slave— don’t try to win me over. HAEMON What do you want— to speak and never hear someone reply? CREON You’ll never marry her while she’s alive. HAEMON Then she’ll die—and in her death kill someone else. CREON Are you so insolent you threaten me? HAEMON
Where’s the threat in challenging a bad decree? CREON You’ll regret parading what you think like this— you—a person with an empty brain! 620 HAEMON If you were not my father, I might say you were not thinking straight. CREON Would you, indeed? Well, then, by Olympus, I’ll have you know you’ll be sorry for demeaning me with all these insults. [Creon turns to his attendants] Go bring her out— that hateful creature, so she can die right here, with him present, before her bridegroom’s eyes. HAEMON No. Don’t ever hope for that. She’ll not die630 with me just standing there.
And as for you— your eyes will never see my face again. So let your rage charge on among your friends who want to stand by you in this. [Exit Haemon, running back into the palace] CHORUS LEADER My lord, Haemon left in such a hurry. He’s angry—in a young man at his age the mind turns bitter when he’s feeling hurt. CREON Let him dream up or carry out great deeds beyond the power of man, he’ll not save these girls— their fate is sealed. 640 CHORUS LEADER Are you going to kill them both? CREON No—not the one whose hands are clean. You’re right. CHORUS LEADER How do you plan to kill Antigone? CREON
I’ll take her on a path no people use, and hide her in a cavern in the rocks, while still alive. I’ll set out provisions, as much as piety requires, to make sure the city is not totally corrupted. Then she can speak her prayers to Hades,650 the only god she worships, for success avoiding death—or else, at least, she’ll learn, although too late, how it’s a waste of time to work to honour those whom Hades holds. In the space below (or on the back if you are working on paper), write a paragraph in which you describe Creon’s character. Use examples from scene 3and use line numbers. Antigone enters from the palace with attendants who are taking her away to her execution] Scene 4 CHORAL LEADER When I look at her I forget my place. 655 I lose restraint and can’t hold back my tears— Antigone going to her bridal room where all are laid to rest in death. ANTIGONE Look at me, my native citizens, as I go on my final journey,670 as I gaze upon the sunlight one last time, which I’ll never see again—for Hades, who brings all people to their final sleep, leads me on, while I’m still living, down to the shores of Acheron. CHORUS
Surely you carry fame with you and praise, as you move to the deep home of the dead. You were not stricken by lethal disease or paid your wages with a sword. No. You were in charge of your own fate. 680 So of all living human beings, you alone make your way down to Hades still alive. ANTIGONE Oh, you are mocking me! Why me— by our fathers’ gods—why do you all, my own city and the richest men of Thebes, insult me now right to my face, without waiting for my death? CHORUS You pushed your daring to the limit, my child, and tripped against Justice’s high altar— perhaps your agonies are paying back690 some compensation for your father. ANTIGONE
Now there you touch on my most painful thought— my father’s destiny—always on my mind, along with that whole fate which sticks to us, the splendid house of Labdakos—the curse arising from a mother’s marriage bed, when she had sex with her own son, my father. From what kind of parents was I born, their wretched daughter? I go to them, unmarried and accursed, an outcast. Alas, too, for my brother Polyneices,700 who made a fatal marriage and then died— and with that death killed me while still alive. CHORUS To be piously devout shows reverence, ut powerful men, who in their persons incorporate authority, cannot bear anyone to break their rules. Hence, you die because of your own selfish will. ANTIGONE Without lament, without a friend, and with no marriage song, I’m being led in this miserable state, along my final road. 710 So wretched that I no longer have the right to look upon the sun, that sacred eye. But my fate prompts no tears, and no friend mourns. CREON Don’t you know that no one faced with death would ever stop the singing and the groans, if that would help?
Take her and shut her up, as I have ordered, in her tomb’s embrace. And get it done as quickly as you can. As far as she’s concerned, we bear no guilt. But she’s lost her place living here with us. 720 ANTIGONE I’m the last one, dying here the most evil death by far, as I move down before the time allotted for my life is done. But I go nourishing the vital hope my father will be pleased to see me come, and you, too, my mother, will welcome me, as well as you, my own dear brother. When you died, with my own hands I washed you. I arranged your corpse and at the grave mound poured out libations.
But now, Polyneices,730 this is my reward for covering your corpse. However, for wise people I was right to honour you. I’d never have done it for children of my own, not as their mother, nor for a dead husband lying in decay— no, not in defiance of the citizens. What law do I appeal to, claiming this? If my husband died, there’d be another one, and if I were to lose a child of mine I’d have another with some other man. 740 But since my father and my mother, too, are hidden away in Hades’ house, I’ll never have another living brother. That was the law I used to honour you.
But Creon thought that I was in the wrong and acting recklessly for you, my brother. Instead I go in sorrow to my grave, without my friends, to die while still alive. What holy justice have I violated? But if these people here are being unjust 750 may they endure no greater punishment than the injustices they’re doing to me. [Antigone is led away under escort] This scene presents both sides of the argument for and against Antigone. While the Chorus has sympathy for Antigone, he speaks for Creon. In the T-Chart below, fill in the main points for both arguments (include line numbers). At the bottom, evaluate which argument is stronger. Argument AGAINST Antigone |Argument FOR Antigone | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | Scene 5 [Enter Teiresias, led by a young boy] TEIRESIAS
Lords of Thebes, we two have walked a common path, one person’s vision serving both of us. The blind require a guide to find their way. 755 CREON What news do you have, old Teiresias? TEIRESIAS I’ll tell you—and you obey the prophet. CREON I’ve not rejected your advice before. TEIRESIAS That’s the reason why you’ve steered the city on its proper course. CREON From my experience I can confirm the help you give. TEIRESIAS Then know this— your luck is once more on fate’s razor edge. CREON What? What you’ve just said makes me nervous. 765 TEIRESIAS You’ll know—once you hear the tokens of my art. I was afraid. So right away up on the blazing altar I set up burnt offerings.
But Hephaestus failed to shine out from the sacrifice— dark slime poured out onto the embers, oozing from the thighs, which smoked and spat, bile was sprayed high up into the air, and the melting thighs lost all the fat which they’d been wrapped in. The rites had failed—775 there was no prophecy revealed in them. Our state is sick— your policies have done this. In the city our altars and our hearths have been defiled, all of them, with rotting flesh brought there by birds and dogs from Oedipus’ son, who lies there miserably dead. The gods no longer will accept our sacrifice, our prayers, our thigh bones burned in fire.
No bird will shriek out a clear sign to us,785 for they have gorged themselves on fat and blood from a man who’s dead. Consider this, my son. All men make mistakes—that’s not uncommon. but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only sin is pride. Men who put their stubbornness on show invite accusations of stupidity. Make concessions to the dead—don’t ever stab a man who’s just been killed. What’s the glory in killing a dead person one more time? CREON Old man, you’re all like archers shooting at me— For you all I’ve now become your target— even prophets have been aiming at me. 800 I’ve long been bought and sold as merchandise among that tribe.
Well, go make your profits. If it’s what you want, then trade with Sardis for their golden-silver alloy—or for gold from India, but you’ll never hide that corpse in any grave. Even if Zeus’ eagles should choose to seize his festering body and take it up, right to the throne of Zeus, not even then would I, in trembling fear of some defilement, permit that corpse810 a burial. For I know well that no man has the power to pollute the gods. But, old Teiresias, among human beings the wisest suffer a disgraceful fall hen, to promote themselves, they use fine words to spread around abusive insults. TEIRESIAS Alas, does any man know or think about . . . CREON [interrupting] Think what? What sort of pithy common thought are you about to utter? TEIRESIAS [ignoring the interruption] . . . how good advice820 is valuable—worth more than all possessions. CREON I think that’s true, as much as foolishness is what harms us most. TEIRESIAS Yet that’s the sickness now infecting you. CREON I have no desire to denigrate a prophet when I speak. TEIRESIAS
But that’s what you are doing, when you claim my oracles are false. CREON The tribe of prophets— 830 all of them—are fond of money TEIRESIAS And kings? Their tribe loves to benefit dishonestly. CREON You know you’re speaking of the man who rules you. TEIRESIAS I know—thanks to me you saved the city and now are in control. CREON You’re a wise prophet, but you love doing wrong. TEIRESIAS You’ll force me to speak of secrets locked inside my heart. 840 CREON Do it—just don’t speak to benefit yourself. TEIRESIAS I don’t think that I’ll be doing that— not as far as you’re concerned.
CREON You can be sure you won’t change my mind to make yourself more rich. TEIRESIAS Then understand this well—you will not see the sun race through its cycle many times before you lose a child of your own loins, a corpse in payment for these corpses. You’ve thrown down to those below someone850 from up above—in your arrogance you’ve moved a living soul into a grave, leaving here a body owned by gods below— unburied, dispossessed, unsanctified. That’s no concern of yours or gods above. In this you violate the ones below.
And so destroying avengers wait for you, Furies of Hades and the gods, who’ll see you caught up in this very wickedness. Now see if I speak as someone who’s been bribed. 860 It won’t be long before in your own house the men and women all cry out in sorrow, Like an archer, I shoot these arrows now into your heart because you have provoked me. [Exit Teiresias, led by the young boy] CHORUS LEADER My lord, my lord, such dreadful prophecies— and now he’s gone. Since my hair changed colour from black to white, I know here in the city he’s never uttered a false prophecy. CREON I know that, too—and it disturbs my mind. 70 It’s dreadful to give way, but to resist and let destruction hammer down my spirit— that’s a fearful option, too. CHORUS LEADER Son of Menoikeos, you need to listen to some good advice. CREON Tell me what to do. Speak up. I’ll do it. CHORUS LEADER Go and release the girl from her rock tomb. Then prepare a grave for that unburied corpse. CREON This is your advice? You think I should concede? CHORUS LEADER Yes, my lord, as fast as possible. 880 Swift footed injuries sent from the gods hack down those who act imprudently. CREON Alas—it’s difficult. But I’ll give up. I’ll not do what I’d set my heart upon. It’s not right to fight against necessity. CHORUS LEADER Go now and get this done.
Don’t give the work to other men to do. CREON I’ll go just as I am. Come, you servants, each and every one of you. Come on. Bring axes with you. Go there quickly—890 up to the higher ground. I’ve changed my mind. Since I’m the one who tied her up, I’ll go and set her free myself. Now I’m afraid. Until one dies the best thing well may be to follow our established laws. [Creon and his attendants hurry off stage] In the space below, write a paragraph in which you explain what made Creon change his mind. Use quotes (include line numbers) for support. Exodos [Enter a Messenger] MESSENGER For Creon, in my view, was once a man we all looked up to.
For he saved the state, this land of Cadmus, from its enemies. He took control and reigned as its sole king— and prospered with the birth of noble children. 900 Now all is gone. For when a man has lost what gives him pleasure, I don’t include him among the living—he’s a breathing corpse. CHORUS LEADER Have you come with news of some fresh trouble in our house of kings? MESSENGER They’re dead— and those alive bear the responsibility for those who’ve died. CHORUS LEADER Who did the killing? Who’s lying dead? Tell us. 910 MESSENGER Haemon has been killed. No stranger shed his blood. CHORUS LEADER
At his father’s hand? Or did he kill himself? MESSENGER By his own hand— angry at his father for the murder. CHORUS LEADER Teiresias, how your words have proven true! MESSENGER That’s how things stand. Consider what comes next. CHORUS LEADER I see Creon’s wife, poor Eurydice— [Enter Eury
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