Antigone (Sophocles)

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Antigone (Greek: Ἀντιγόνη) is a tragedy by Sophocles written before or in 442 BC. Chronologically, it is the third of the three Theban plays but was written first.[1] The play expands on the Theban legend that predated it and picks up where Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes ends.

Contents

Synopsis

Before the beginning of the story, two brothers leading opposite sides in Thebes' civil war died fighting each other for the throne. Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, has decided that Eteocles will be honored and Polyneices will be in public shame. The rebel brother's body will not be sanctified by holy rites, and will lie unburied on the battlefield, prey for carrion animals like worms and vultures, the harshest punishment at the time. Antigone and Ismene are the sisters of the dead Polyneices. In the opening of the play, Antigone brings Ismene outside the palace gates late at night for a secret meeting: Antigone wants to bury Polyneices' body, in defiance of Creon's edict. Ismene refuses to help her, fearing the death penalty, but she is unable to stop Antigone from going to bury her brother herself, causing Antigone to disown her.

Creon enters, along with the Chorus of Theban Elders. He seeks their support in the days to come, and in particular wants them to back his edict regarding the disposal of Polyneices' body. The Chorus of Elders pledges their support. A Sentry enters, fearfully reporting that the body has been buried. A furious Creon orders the Sentry to find the culprit or face death himself. The Sentry leaves, but after a short absence he returns, bringing Antigone with him. Creon questions her after sending the Sentry off, and she does not deny what she has done. She argues unflinchingly with Creon about the morality of the edict and the morality of her actions. Creon becomes furious, and, thinking Ismene must have helped her as he saw her upset, summons the girl. Ismene tries to confess falsely to the crime, wishing to die alongside her sister, but Antigone would not have it. Creon orders that the two women be temporarily locked up. Haemon enters to pledge allegiance to his father. He initially seems willing to join Creon, but when Haemon gently tries to persuade his father to spare Antigone, claiming that 'under cover of darkness the city mourns for the girl', the discussion deteriorates and the two men are soon bitterly insulting each other. Haemon leaves, vowing never to see Creon again.

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