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Guards – Guards of Thebes, and the grave of Polynices
Polynices and Eteocles- Brother’s of Antigone and Ismene, both dead and non-exsistant
Tiresias- the blind prophet
Eurydice- Creon’s wife
Summary of the Novel
The novel starts off with the Chorus introducing all the characters in the story, they also clue in that Antigone will rise against the King and die.
Next, the Chorus basically explains how the tragedy will occur. They say how Antigone’s brothers were responsible for Thebes after the death of Oedipus. Etocles was the elder of the two so he became King, while Polynices rebelled and was actually sent to a neighboring kingdom. Polynices led that kingdom’s army onto Thebes and Etocles and Polynices kill each other in a duel on the battlefield.
Due to the death of the two brothers, Creon becomes King of Thebes. He brings Etocles body back to have an honorable burial and leaves Polynices body to rot in the battlefield and declares it law that no one shall bury him.
That night, Antigone sneaks out of her house and buries her brother on the battlefield, thinking that he is still family so he deserves a burial. After coming home, her Nurse actually thinks she went off with another lover.
When the discovery of the buried body is made by the guards in the morning, there is a lot of argument between guards as to who should tell Creon. They are all afraid of what he will do to the man who sends the message. The “First Guard” is the unlucky man who is sent to tell him.
Creon is more calm than the guard anticipated and just tells him to go uncover the body and keep it a secret.
The Chorus then declares the tragedy is starting and the “spring is wound” and will “uncoil by itself”.
Antigone goes back out in broad daylight and tries to bury Polynices again. This time, she is caught and arrested by the guards and brought to Creon.
Antigone confesses to Creon and he orders the guards out and he basically lets her get away with it. She tells him that she’ll just do it again.
Creon then becomes angry and actually curses the pride of Oedipus and goes on a rant saying how her death will be the “natural climax” of her life, just like Oedipus and how Oedipus’ family didn’t care about happiness. He then declares that that reign is over now that he is king.
Creon and Antigone then go back and forth for a number of pages. Creon is basically cursing her family and telling her how her brothers were bad people and their lives were meaningless. He found them tangled in a bloody pulp on the battlefield and he brought the “prettier” of the two back to become a martyr (Etocles). Antigone becomes very angry and her voice is getting louder which makes Creon want to keep her quiet or else the townspeople will hear, then he would have to kill her.
The people of the town hear, and Antigone is taken away to be imprisoned. Haemon tries to stop it, but Creon says he can do nothing now that everyone knows.
Creon doesn’t want to be directly responsible for her death so he leaves her in a vault where she will either live or die, and it is not up to him.
Tiresias comes to Creon after he does this and warns him of the actions he has made. He basically says the gods are not happy and that he will be severely punished if he does not undo everything he has done.
Creon says that Tiresias’ prophecy is “for sale” and does not believe him.
Haemon goes to see Antigone after she writes him a letter. When he gets to the chamber he finds that she had hung herself. Creon gets there and finds him mourning her body, he tries to go to him but Haemon gets up and hits him, then stabs himself next to Antigone.
When the word of what happens gets back to the kingdom, Creon’s wife Eurydice kills herself.
Creon is then left all alone in the world which is his punishment from the gods.
Themes and Symbols
Sight – Sight again plays a role in this story just like Oedipus Rex, though it is not as important. The appearance of the blind prophet Tiresias always brings up this idea of sight. He cannot see physically, but he sees things that other people cannot. Creoncannot see the truth until it is too late even after Tiresias warns him of what was to come. Creon’s inability to see this truth causes the death of all of his family members.
Themes and Symbols Cont.
Eurydice – Creon’s wife Eurydice is a symbol of the Fates in this book. In the beginning of the story, the Chorus tells us that she is destined to knit in her room until she dies. After hearing the news of her son’s death, she stabs herself with her knitting needle. This has a connection with the Fates who have the “thread of life” and it is cut when the person is to die. Obviously, Eurydice cannot knit once she is dead so its like her thread has been cut.
Themes and Symbols Cont.
Irony – Irony plays another role in this story just as it did in Oedipus Rex. Creon thinks that his actions are a benefit to the people and that he is acting upon what they want because Oedipus didn’t do that. His idea of “making an example” out of Polynices body was far from the benefit that the town needed. He only realized this after rejecting Tiresias’ warnings about his actions. The irony comes in where he thinks he is doing the right thing where in truth him “doing the right thing” causes the death of all his family members and leaves him alone in the world.
Like Oedipus Rex, Antigone uses the Strophes and Antistrophes (which we discussed in our first powerpoint) to allow the Chorus to relay important messages that the audience needs to know, sort of like narration.
This style is of traditional Greek Tragedy in the form of a play. The style of the play is basically the same as any other play, with the addition of these Parados (the name of the Chorus interruptions)
In the fifth century, tragedies were written for an Athenian religious celebration in the City Dionysia.
This celebration was a 3 day festival in which 3 tragedy poets were chosen to write a tetralogy (4 plays) of 3 tragedies and a satyr play. Then each morning of the festival, one writer’s body of plays was shown. It is believed that Sophocles was one of the great tragedy writers that were chosen to write for this festival. Thus making Antigone a very important Greek Tragedy of the time period.
Mike – Well we all know how I feel about sad endings, but somehow I feel like Sophocles sad endings have a little more of a meaning than Shakespeare's. Yeah sure, everybody dies, but Creon is left all alone to sulk in despair. It’s lovely. The book was overall another good read and I look forward to reading more Sophocles tragedies.
Dillan – Antigone is another story of family related tragedy, much like its predecessor. Sophocles is beginning to display a pattern geared toward either the inability for stubborn men to lead without consequences or for mans inability to live happily outside fates control. It is a good read but not as powerful as Oedipus Rex.
Kevin – Sophocles’ Antigone was all around a pretty good story. There is a little room between this book and Oedipus Rex, but it is not enough to affect how the story unfolds. It is a classic story where a character disobeys the wishes of the gods and is punished for doing so. For once, I believe a cruel ending was necessary.