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The Second Burial of Polyneices Author(s): Joseph S. Margon Source: The Classical Journal, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Oct.

- Nov., 1972), pp. 39-49 Published by: The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3296026 Accessed: 11/08/2009 03:54
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THESECOND BURIALOF POLYNEICES

HE LONG AND INCONCLUSIVE DEBATE concerning the second burial of


Polyneices in Sophocles' Antigone has, without exception, centered on the problem of finding a motive for Antigone's return to her brother's corpse.1 The different views regarding the very nature of the burials have given rise to many and varied interpretations of her motivation, all of which have failed to provide an exegesis of the burials that is entirely consistent with the factual details found in the text. Many scholars regard both burials as symbolic rather than as makeshift attempts at actual and physical inhumation.2 they face the difficulty of explaining why Consequently, Antigone revisits the body when she has already accomplished her purpose with the first burial.3 Jebb, apparently, was the first to recognize this inconsistency and to a solution: "The essence of the symbolic rite was the sprinkling of dust. She suggest had done that (245). Was it not, then, done once for all? In Horace (C. 1.28.35) the passer-by is free when the dirt has been thrown; he can go his way. I have never seen this question put or answered. The only answer which I can suggest is that, at her first visit, she had not brought the xoai."4 IThe problem of the first burial is whether Antigone, the gods, or Antigone with the aid of the gods buried Polyneices. For the performance of the first sepulture by Antigone alone, see Joseph S. Margon, "The first burial of Polyneices," CJ 64 (1969) 289-295. 2Richard Jebb, Sophocles: the plays and fragments "Antigone," Part III, 3rd ed. (Amsterdam 1962), p. 86, n. ad 429; W. H. D. Rouse, "The two burials in Antigone," CR 25 (1911) 40-42; J. E. Harry, "Studies in Sophocles," Univ. of Cincinnati Studies, ser. 27 (1911) 20-25; J. Cowser, "The shaping of the Antigone," Proceedings of the Classical Association 36 (1939) 38-40; J. L. Rose, "The problem of the second burial in Sophocles' Antigone," CJ 47 (1952) 219-221; Bernard Knox, The heroic temper (Berkeley 1964), p. 64; Albin Lesky, Greek tragedy, transl. H. A. Frankfort (New York 1965), p. 104. 3Because of this apparent lack of motivation, both Rouse, op. cit., and Harry, op. cit., assign the first burial to Ismene: Antigone, unaware of what her sister has done, goes to the corpse, thinking to bury it for the first time. The only textual support for their view is Ismene's statement:
56epaKa TroVpyo, e'irep
rTia aitria `6' bMoppoOeK, / KaCt [UveeTaXW KatL Tppw

(536-537).

The

opposing evidence is weighty. (1) The prologue has revealed Ismene as too timorous even to assist Antigone, let alone undertake the burial by herself. (2) If Ismene actually performed the burial, why does she appeal for Antigone's sanction with the words elIrep i6' booppoOce (536)? (3) If Ismene is responsible for the first sepulture and Antigone only for the second, a confusing situation would arise in the culmination of the play: one sister would go free, and the other would be punished, though both had committed the same act. The reader would have the right to see some significance in this fact in addition to a more complex development of Ismene's character and a greater role for her in the play. See G. M. Kirkwood, A study of Sophoclean drama (Ithaca 1958), p. 71, for his remarks on this far-fetched interpretation. Cf. H. D. F. Kitto, Form and meaning in drama (New York 1960), p. 140-142, and A. J. A. Waldock, Sophocles the dramatist (Cambridge 1951), p. 125-127. See n. 60, below. 4Jebb, p. 86, n. ad 429.

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JOSEPH S. MARGON

Jebb makes no attempt to explain why Antigone did not bring the libations and he offers his solution with little conviction. The reason for his diffidence is plain: there is no suggestion in the text that the Xoai are missing from the first burial. The guard in his report of that burial declares (245-247): Kal 677 ortTOr VKpOV Tltc &pTtL / XEycA c / KOVwL rraXviva Kabpaytoarvcaaoca Xpni.6The phrase, WTLt6t'av Odiaqc fer3Ke KCat XPc a KtpayLtoreToaqc Xpri (247), seems to indicate the performance of all the requisites of burial, including the necessary libations. Still, Jebb interprets these words to mean the offering of flowers and wool.7 It is not likely, however, that the guard in his detailed description of the first burial (249-258) would have failed to include the obvious presence of flowers and wool, which, except for the covering of dust, would have made the greatest visual contribution to the almost supernatural appearance of the burial.8 The guard, moreover, when he returns to his post and the dust is removed from the body (407-410), makes no mention of the removal of flowers and wool, & which surely would have been removed, had they been present. K&ipavoarevuaa XP7j, it seems probable, testifies to the presence ofxoaCat the first burial. Therefore, Jebb's explanation of Antigone's motive for revisiting the body seems forced and weak. An even more damaging flaw makes Jebb's interpretation of the second burial virtually untenable. He misconstrues the time and circumstances of Antigone's first visit. 'Iaking Ismene's words ev VVKT7i vV (16) to mean "last night,"9 Jebb believes 7Tn that the prologue opens at dawn.10 He concludes, then, that Antigone must have performed the first burial in the early morning light before the guards had taken up their watch over the body.11 Otherwise, they would surely have seen Antigone and apprehended her.12 To support this interpretation, Jebb takes the words b TrpJ)TO r/l,epooK6OTro (253), which are used to describe the man who discovers the burial, to signify that "the man who took the first watch of this day" was "the first who had watched at all."1 3
More recent scholarship has argued convincingly for translating Tr 'v VVKT7\ vtv "in

the present night."14 Given its proper meaning, the phrase places the dramatic time of the prologue at night. The meaning, moreover, of b 1TpOJtOo pE?poo K07roc can hardly sustain the interpretation that the man who discovered the burial was "the first who had watched at all"; for it would be absurd of the guards to accuse each other of complicity in the burial (259-267), had its discovery been made when they had just

5cf. Edward J. Messemer, "'lhe double burial of Polyneices," 349, n. 3, understands 6)t'ia
KOdVt to indicate

CJ 37 (1942)

516-517.

oW. Schmid in Schmid-Stahlen, Gescbichte der griechiscben Literatur (Munich 1959), I.ii, p.
the absence of libations. We see the same phrase,

however, in the guard's description of the second burial (429), and on this occasion it is absolutely certain that the xoaL were poured (430-431). Therefore, it is possible to consider 6Ltia as an ornamental epithet. (f. A. I. von S. Bradshaw, "The watchmen scenes in the Antigone," CQ 12
(196(2) 208.

7Jebb, p. 56, n.Id 245 f. X:or the guard's motive in making the first burial seem as extraordinary as possible, see Margon. art. cit., 293.
9')ebb, p. II. n. a, 15 f. 1Ilebb, p. 57. n. a 12 lbiid.

I()lcbb. p. 8. n..J 1-99; p. 57. n. a. 253 f.


253 f.

13 Ibid.
14Bradshaw. p. 203; (f. Knox. p. 180-181. n. 43.

THE SECOND BURIAL OF POLYNEICES

41

come on duty for the first time.15 Nor would the guard have been so hesitant and reluctant to appear before Creon (223-236) unless he feared ounishment for the lack of vigilance which had permitted Antigone to bury the body.16 Jebb's failure to recognize that Antigone performed the first burial in darkness when the guards were on duty leaves his interpretation of the second buriaf with a question of major significance which he has neither perceived nor answered: why does Antigone rely on the concealment of a dust storm to revisit the body in daylight (415-431) instead of waiting for the protection of night which she had used so successfully to elude the guards, accomplish the first sepulture,17 and make her escape.18 J. Cowser, too, believes in the symbolic nature of the burials but, unlike Jebb, he thinks the first burial complete with libations.19 He attributes Antigone's motive for her second visit merely to her wish to display open defiance of Creon, an intention which, he believes, she expresses to Ismene when she claims that she wants to be known as the doer of the deed (86-87). But we should probably view her remark in quite a different light. Antigone in her opening speech has spoken of the evils deriving from Oedipus (1-6). Ismene has enumerated these evils in somewhat greater detail (49-57): their father was guilty of parricide and incest, their mother of incest, and their brothers of fratricide. The two sisters are the only members who have not committed acts of sacrilege and sin. With the opportunity to perform what she considers a noble deed (38-39), Antigone can ameliorate a bit the reputation of her family, but only if she gains recognition as the person responsible for the burial. KaTavba' 7roXX6v 0xONcwv / otycZa', eav pri iraoc Therefore, her words, O'it0lot, voa KTpVtnS rdTce (86-87), need not be construed as an expression of open defiance of Creon but rather as regard for her family. A goal of defiance on Antigone's part,
15Cf. Bradshaw, p. 201; Knox, p. 180-181, n. 43, though placing the action of the prologue and the performance of the burial at night, follows Jebb in thinking that the guards take up their post in the light of dawn. Cf. Ivan Linforth, "Antigone and Creon," University of (california publications in classical philology 15, no. 5 (1961) 194. 16See Margon, p. 291, for Antigone's ability to escape the detection of the guards. (f. Bradshaw, p. 202-203. 17There is some evidence, which Jebb does not use, that the performance of libations (I umeni ides 107-109) and burial (Troades 446) were improper at night. Even if this rather inconclusive evidence is correct, the circumstances of the Antigone are not those of an ordinary death and sepulture, and if Antigone was willing to transgress custom by burying her brother at night, she would hardly shrink from the impropriety of pouring nocturnal libations. 18Knox, p. 64, considers the nature of the burials symbolic and, like Jebb, looks upon the performance of libations as Antigone's reason for returning: "The real burial they lAntigone and Ismene] might have successfully completed together must now be replaced by a burial which Antigone will carry out alone; perhaps a sense of the inadequacy of the first attempt is what brings her back a second time, in daylight, to pour libations on the corpse she has only managed to cover with a light film of dust (256)." Linforth, p. 200, makes no attempt to distinguish the nature of the burials and is content with Jebb's explanation of Antigone's second visit. A. (. Hulton, "Tlhe double burial of the Antigone," Mnemosyne 16 (1963) 284-285, does not make it clear if he thinks the burials symbolic. Nor does he specify whether the first burial occurred at night or in the day. He agrees with Jebb, however, that libations were not offered the first time and suggests (p. 285) a reason for their omission: "Why the libation was not poured the first time remains unexplained, but is by no means inexplicable. Antigone may well have been prudent enough to consider two short visits safer than one." This view is patently inadmissible on two counts: first, in all probability libations were made at the initial burial (see second paragraph, above); secondly, had Antigone as much concern for her safety as Hulton implies, she would surely have chosen to go to the body at night, as she had before, rather than in broad daylight, notwithstanding the concealment of the dust storm. 19Cowser, p. 39.

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JOSEPH S. MARGON

moreover, would conflict harshly with her own single-minded perception of her deed when she says: Oi'VTovv'XOetv, a\aXXovlltplCkev Eopvv (523). Even Cowser is hesitant to push this feature of his interpretation too far: "We cannot say that the double burial was introduced in order to convince us that Antigone was a defiant rebel; it seems rather that the rebellious aspects of her deed are brought to light to justify the double burial, which Sophocles must have found it necessary to introduce for other reasons."20 Cowser, then, attempts to infer these reasons from the additional advantages that two burials give to the characterization of Antigone and the action of the play: her deed demands speed and at the same time a display not of spasmodic but deliberate courage; the evidence against her must be complete; there is need of a witness to report her action in a messenger's speech, since she works in isolation.21 If, however, as Cowser claims, libations were made the first time and a symbolic burial cannot be invalidated, once it has been performed,22 what is Antigone's purpose in repeating the burial and why does she not just give herself up after the first sepulture? To surrender herself would certainly satisfy the requirement of displaying deliberate courage; her confession would make the evidence against her complete and likewise eliminate the need of a messenger speech; her own report, moreover, of what she has done would surely represent open defiance of Creon, especially since it would be beyond his power to undo the symbolic rite. Even if one agreed with Cowser's highly questionable view of Antigone as a defiant rebel, his disregard of these conspicuous difficulties makes his explanation of her return to the body inadequate. J. L. Rose also views the burials as symbolic, nor does he deny that Antigone poured xoa( the first time.23 He suggests that she comes back to the corpse, prepared to offer additional libations, just as people today visit a grave to bring flowers.4 From what we know, moreover, of Greek funerary customs, it was traditional to make repeated libations as nourishment for the spirit of the dead.25 But Rose, like Jebb (see third paragraph, above), commits the mistake of placing the first burial in the light of dawn rather than at night.26 Consequently, his neglecting to explain Antigone's urgency to revisit the body in daylight and her readiness to trust the uncertain concealment of a dust storm rather than wait for the already proven protection of darkness spoils his suggestion of additional libations as a possible motive for her return to the corpse.27 The inability of those scholars who regard the burials as symbolic to find a plausible motivation for Antigone's second visit to the body has led others to take a different view of the nature of the burials. Tycho von Wilamowitz looks upon the first burial not only as symbolic but also as an actual, though temporary, inhumation, since it is effective in protecting the body from the depredations of animals.28 At the same time 20Cowser,p. 40. 21Ibid. 22Cowser,p. 39. 23Rose, p. 219. 24Rose, p. 220.
25See Bradshaw, p. 209. 27Rose never argues the possibility that it was improper to offer libations at night. See n. 17, above.
to Creon says: arlieTa 6' o'ure O0rp6O OVTC TOV KVVUV / IX0O6vroq, ob aTTraL(oavTroC eepaivero

26Rose, p. 219.

Tecbzik des Sophokles (Berlin1917), p. 28-29. The guardin his first report 28i)ie dramatiscbe

(257-258). For the effectiveness of the first burial as protection for the body, see Bradshaw, p. 204. Cf. Margon, art. cit., 294.

THE SECOND BURIAL OF POLYNEICES

43

he believes the burial complete with all due religious observances.29 Unable, however, to find any motive for Antigone's returning to the corpse, he sees the second burial as an exciting theatrical incident which serves the purpose of lending dramatic clarity to the play's form and greater suspense to its action.3 Wilamowitz argues: (1) If Antigone had been brought back by the guard, captured during the first burial, this telescoping of the dramaturgy would have produced an extremely confusing effect; it would be almost insurmountably difficult to reveal clearly, fully, and dramatically in one scene Creon's motive for denying the burial, the chorus' attitude toward both his edict and the unknown transgressor of it, and Creon's and the chorus' reaction to Antigone's capture. (2) A second burial allows for a gradual and suspenseful buildup of the situation. After the first episode the reader knows what Creon and the chorus cannot even guess: Antigone is the transgressor of the edict. This difference in knowledge leads the reader to look forward with anticipation both to the surprise that awaits Creon and the chorus and to the confrontation of the two main characters. Without this gradual building of the situation, the initial meeting between Creon and Antigone would not be climactic.31 Having pointed out these undeniable advantages which a second burial confers on the play, Wilamowitz excuses Antigone's lack of motivation for a second visit to the corpse on the grounds that this omission would escape the notice of so uncritical an audience as that of fifth-century Athens.32 But it is hardly sound for a critic to interpret a work on the basis of what others may have missed instead of on his own observations. And even if we accepted Wilamowitz's interpretation, we would still have to admit that a second burial without legitimate thematic motivation, however theatrical and advantageous to the drama as a whole, represents a glaring instance of faulty dramaturgy for which we generally condemn a play; for an unmotivated incident, created no matter for what reason, destroys the organic unity which a work, if it is to be well constructed, must possess; if characterization and incident do not work

29Wilamowitz, p. 31. 30Wilamowitz, p. 33-34. 31Two other advantages, which Wilamowitz fails to mention, should be noted: (1) Ihe interval of time offered by a second burial permits Creon to dominate the first episode, since Antigone is not present. Without his domination of a whole episode early in the play, his part would be too foreshortened to sustain the significance of his role in the last third of the play when Antigone is gone from the stage. Lacking a proper foundation for Creon's prominence in the conclusion of the drama, the play would lose its balance and fall into two distinct parts which would disrupt its unity of form; (2) a single burial could never have disclosed so forcibly the intensity of Antigone's determination to bury her brother. Kitto, p. 156-158, content to accept Jebb's view (see first paragraph, above) that the xoai are missing from the first burial, regards the performance of libations as an excuse for a second burial that affords the play as a whole important benefits. William M. Calder III, "Sophokles' political tragedy, A;igm,u' ," GRBS 9 (1968) 397-398, does not consider the nature of the burials nor Antigone's motivation but, following a line similar to Wilamowitz's, is satisfied to look only to the advantages of two burials in revealing Creon's reaction. Cf. E. T. Owens, "Sophocles the dramatist," Univ. of loro,to quarterly 5 (1935-1936) 229-231. 32Wilamowitz, p. 33-34. Cf. Kitto, p. 157.

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JOSEPH S. MARGON

reciprocally, a play loses its credibility. 3 3 These are the very reasons that first led Jebb and later others to seek a motive for the second burial. Erdmann Struck, recognizing the inadequacy of Wilamowitz's interpretation, nevertheless adopts his concept of the nature of the first burial and develops it further in an attempt to provide the missing motivation. He views Antigone as first going to the corpse to give it actual protection from animals and later returning to perform the 4 In necessary symbolic rites. support of his belief, however, Struck is forced to take KctpaLaytTevaa? & Xpr (247) to mean only the strewing of dust at the first burial.35 As we have seen, the phrase probably includes the pouring of libations (see second paragraph, above). The most serious obstacle, moreover, to our accepting Struck's interpretation is his failure, like Jebb's and Rose's, to show why Antigone, for a merely symbolic action, felt the need of such haste that she returned during the day, when she had previously escaped the guards under the cover of night.36 This difficulty is all the more apparent in Struck's account, because he correctly places the time of the first burial at night with the guards at their post.37 In contrast to the aforementioned scholars, A. T. von S. Bradshaw contends that the Greeks of the fifth century made no distinction between an actual and symbolic burial.38 This view marks a fine but significant difference from Wilamowitz's concept of the earlier burial as dual in nature, for that notion allowed Struck to argue for inhumation at one time and, later, for the performance of libations. Bradshaw, in keeping with his theory, believes in the performance of libations the first time and in the effectiveness of that sepulture as protection for the corpse.39 He explains the motive for Antigone's second visit in this fashion: "The purpose of eirttvt53tLot is Xoai such that even if Antigone had already offered them once, an Athenian audience would still find it perfectly natural for her to offer them again. It is a mistake to think of xoat simply as one of the elements in the ritual of burial. Burial is normally a Isingle act of piety, whereas libation is the repeated offering of nourishment to the spirit of the departed for a considerable time after death.40 Understanding the importance of darkness to the success of the first burial,41 Bradshaw explains Antigone's returning in daylight by suggesting that Sophocles uses the dust storm to reenforce the credibility
33Aristotle's dicta in the Poetics regarding the need for probability or necessity in the development of the incidents of the plot (1451b9-1452alO) and in the portrayal of character (1454a15) are strictures that have to do with the credibility of a work. Eugene Ionesco's The bald soprano is a play in which nothing develops from probability or necessity, and yet it is credible. The Antigone, however, like all Greek tragedies is predicated on a development of incidents and characters according to probability or necessity, and if anything appeared motivated improbably or unnecessarily, credibility would be destroyed; whereas the Ionesco play would lose its credibility, if any incident or character were developed through probability or necessity. The distinction in the maintenance of credibility in these two plays is due to the difference in their frames of reference. 34Erdmann Struck, "Der zweimalige Gang der Antigone zur Leiche des Polyneikes," Gymnasium 60 (1953) 333. Cf. Max Pohlenz, Die griechische Tragodie: Erlauterungen (Gottingen 1954), p. 80. 35Struck, p. 329-330. 36Struck makes no attempt to support his view with the impropriety of pouring libations at night. See n. 17, above. 37Struck, p. 333. 38Bradshaw, p. 204, n. 1. Cf. Pohlenz, p. 82. 39Bradshaw, p. 208; p. 204. 40Bradshaw, p. 209. Cf. Rose's view, seventh paragraph, above. 41Bradshaw, p. 201-203.

THE SECOND BURIAL OF POLYNEICES

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ot her previous action in eluding the guards: "Why should not Antigone have reached the body unobserved under the cover of darkness when she does so later in the
daylight under cover of that very convenient dust-storm .... The storm is a dramatic

necessity to account for Antigone's reaching the corpse unobserved on her first visit."4 The dust storm, however, while it may enhance the credibility of the first burial, is really superfluous as supporting testimony, since Bradshaw himself has proved with much stronger arguments that the earlier sepulture takes place at night But the main flaw in Bradshaw's view is his error in taking a with the guards present. dramatic effect, which would merely benefit the credibility of an earlier part of the play, as Antigone's reason for performing a second burial during the day. It is unthinkable to credit Antigone herself with choosing the concealment of a dust storm in the daylight simply for the sake of demonstrating to an audience that the obscurity of night had made it possible for her to reach the body, unseen, on her first visit. Instead, her previous success would seem to indicate to Antigone that the night was the most suitable time for a safe return to the corpse.44 Because Bradshaw cannot provide her with a reason for preferring to make her second visit during a dust storm in the daylight rather than waiting for the night, the performance of recurring libations seems improbable as the motive for her return.45 Of the various theories regarding the nature of the burials, scholars have considered least promising the one remaining possibility, that both burials are physical and actual and not at all symbolic. The reason for their reluctance to reach this conclusion is obvious: the probable pouring of Xoa at the first burial (see second paragraph, above) and the certainty of libations at the second (431) represent a symbolic aspect of burial. Nevertheless, H. J. Messemer has tried to prove that both burials are not symbolic but attempts at actual and physical inhumation. In rejecting the first sepulture as symbolic,46 he dismisses Horace C. 1.28.35 (see Jebb's n. ad 429, first paragraph, above) as too distant in time and culture to be used as authority for a Greek burial custom of the fifth century. Messemer points out as well that the three handfuls of dust mentioned in the Horatian poem do not appear in the play at all. What does appear, and only in the description of the second burial, are the words XoaLct vKvv oar&pet (431); but it is one thing to scatter three handfuls of Tptorov6otLt rTOV dust over a body and quite another to crown a corpse with thrice-poured libations. In (255) to describe, on addition, Messemer stresses the guard's use of the word rpavoVtaro his discovery of the first burial, how the dust covered the body. Herodotus employs the same expression to depict how a band of Persians vanished in a sandstorm (3.26). If the corpse of Polyneices is hidden from sight, even though, as the guard says, the
42Bradshaw, p. 202. 43Loc. cit., n. 41, above. 44Bradshaw, p. 208, mentions the evidence against the propriety of the performance of libations (Eumenides 107-109) and of burial (Troades 446) at night, but he dismisses it as support for his view of the second burial. Cf. n. 17, above. 45No one, to my knowledge, has combined a portion of Cowser's interpretation (see fifth and sixth paragraphs, above) with part of Bradshaw's and Rose's (see seventh paragraph, above). Such a view might claim that Antigone chooses the daylight for her second visit both to display open defiance of Creon and, fully expecting to be caught, to offer additional libations for the last time. This interpretation, however, would alter the meaning of the play, particularly through the characterization of Antigone, placing the emphasis on her defiance of Creon rather than on her devotion to her brother. Cf. fourth and fifth paragraphs, above. 46Messemer, p. 518-520.

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covering is Xe1rrT7(256), the body assuredly must be covered with more than three handfuls of dust. Since Messemer credits the first burial with effectiveness as protection for the body,47 he accordingly attributes Antigone's motive for her second visit to her desire to afford the corpse continued protection from defilement by animals: "If, somehow, the protection that she had secured for the dead body of her brother on one occasion, at the risk of her own life, were rendered inadequate or useless, she would, characteristically, run the same risk once again. If it was worth her life once, it certainly was a second time."48 Nowhere in the play does Antigone express this motive directly, but there is an abundance of indirect testimony. Numerous references to the burial are followed immediately with mention of defilement by birds and dogs. Antigone is the
first to speak of it (29-30): oicovol / yXVKVK)p0rouavpov eioopcbot 7TrpOXaptv jopac.

Next Creon mentions it (205-206): eav 6' 'aOa1Tov Kati 7rpoC oiovcwv bi uas / KaL7Trpoq KVvc7v beor(aT aiKaOe6v T' i6bev. Then the guard speaks of it (257-258): arlpeta 6' ovre ob Or?p6 07TE TOVKVVPjv/ EXO0WToc, O7rctOlaTO : e'efpaverTo. Haemon, purporting to be the voice of the populace, comments on the city's approval of Antigone (692-695) for
protecting the body of her brother (696-698): T v i ro 7reTrTTCr' vXOatoiarrTl ea' KrVp KOw/ C 'Oaraov v Xepo eovpova / 7Tt7-rov av'rrie abvTaE e' eOa 7' v Tr7oq. oiw

or Creon but also most of the characters in the play speak of defilement bears unquestionable weight.49 Since the removal of dust, moreover, cannot invalicate a symbolic burial, as Cowser has pointed out (see sixth paragraph, above), the action of the guards in uncovering the body after the first burial is telling proof of their purpose to ensure the ravaging of the corpse. So runs Messemer's view.5 At first glance, this rather impressive argument appears to point emphatically to protection of the body as Antigone's motive for both burials.51 Yet this interpretation has failed to receive acceptance among scholars or even to invite closer examination, because Messemer has neglected to explain numerous and important details which weaken or, in some places, contradict his view. (1) Does Antigone know, for instance,

state, the defilement of Polyneices' body (1015-1018): -7 K OppEVOC Kail ravTa T7-C oc i // \rpe vooel IroXtt . / 7r' oicCv fIrXol p rv v upatpat e TaEX pcp iav'Tee re Kai Kvvcpv f3opac / TOv bvoppdPov reTrrcroC Oi68ITov 'ovov. The fact that not just Antigone

Finally, Teiresias expresses the ultimate horror that has brought a sickness upon the

47Messemer, p. 524. 48Ibid. 49Kitto, p. 148-149, makes no effort to solve any of the puzzling details of the second burial, but he does concur to a great extent in his opinion of Antigone's motive: "What Sophocles emphasizes, time after time, is the mangling of Polyneices' body ... This is a dramatic fact, and I suggest it is an important one. It is clearly one which we must take into account when we are considering Antigone's motives." 50Messemer, p. 522-524. 51Messemer, p. 522, also cites v. 1018-1019, 1025-1026, and 1040-1041 from Acschylus' Septem to support his proof of Antigone's motive for the burials in the Sophocles work. There is some question about the genuineness of the conclusion of the Septem (see D. W. Lucas, The Greek tragic poets, 2nd ed. [New York 1964], p. 79; H. D. F. Kitto, Greek tragedy, 3rd ed. [London 19611, p. 54, n. 1; H. Lloyd Jones, "The end of the Seven Against Thebes," CQ [19591 80-114); but genuineness here is beside the point. Messemer fails to realize the unsoundness of borrowing motivation from one play to verify the motivation for the same incident in another. If this were a valid practice, what is to prevent anyone from assuming, for example, in Sophocles's Electra that, after Orestes has committed the second murder, the Furies will pursue him just as in the Oresteia and just as it is suggested in the conclusion of Euripides' Electra; or that in all three works Orestes has the same motive for the murders?

THE SECOND BURIAL OF POLYNEICES

47

before her departure for the second burial, that the guards have removed the dust of the previous sepulture? Her cry of a bird cS oiTrav Kev67 / ebviScveoaaoCv bpspavov 3Xe/7 Xexo (424-425), when she sees the body bared (426), seems to disclose not only anguish but her surprise at not finding it still covered. Consequently, if her expectation was to find the body undisturbed, the motive which Messemer ascribes to her for returning to the corpse - to recover it with protective dust - becomes invalid. If, on the other hand, she thought that she would find the body uncovered, the meaning of the metaphor (424-425) must be clarified; and, furthermore, the way in which she learned that the dust had been removed must be shown. (2) Messemer never specifies whether the first burial occurred in darkness or at dawn and, attaching no importance to the nocturnal performance of the initial sepulture, fails to consider the significance of Antigone's urgency to revisit the corpse in the middle of the day (415-416). (3) While Messemer successfully effaces the Horatian poem as authority for the first burial (see twelfth and thirteenth paragraphs, above), he cannot reconcile with his concept of a physical and actual burial the symbolic aspect of libations, which he readily admits were performed the first time.52 If, moreover, the burials are merely physical and if Antigone returns solely to protect her brother's body again with a new covering of dust, why does she come, bearing an urn of libations in readiness to fulfill a symbolic rite? Clearly, there is something erroneous in Messemer's view of the nature of the burials as only physical and actual. The omission of any explanation for these prominent details detracts from Messemer's view, but nevertheless the undeniably strong testimony which he has marshalled should not be discounted. Perhaps this evidence can be made to contribute more meaningfully to a conclusive exegesis of the second burial, if answers can be found to these three questions which his interpretation has raised but left unresolved. (1) Sometimes even the error of a brilliant scholar can be helpful in drawing attention to the solution of a problem. In this respect, Max Pohlenz makes just such an instructive mistake when, in reference to Antigone's first covering of the body, he speaks of "Kreons Befehl, sie wieder zu entfernen."53 At no point in the play does Creon give this order. Instead, his command to the guard is to find the criminal (306-307). Yet Creon's intention is so obvious to the guards that, before they take up their watch again, they sweep the dust from the body (409-410) without ever being told to do so. If they understand his intention so well, surely Antigone, too, must be aware that when the guards have discovered the burial, they will remove the dust.54 Therefore, since she had expected to find the corpse bared, her cry as if robbed when she beholds the body (423-426) cannot be one of surprise. Rather it is a cry of shock and anguish which it is frequently humanly natural to feel with full impact even when the misfortune has been anticipated.55 52Messemer, 517. p. 53Die griechischeTragodie(Leipzigand Berlin1930), p. 95. 54Antigone cannot know that the guardsdid not immediatelysweep away the dust on their discoveryof the burialbut waited until the guardhad returnedfrom makinghis reportto Creon. Still, she is correct in her surmisethat the coveringof dust cannot remainon the body for any length of time. A possible explanationof the guards'delay in removingthe dust is their wish to the preserve evidenceof the burialwhich Creonmight havewantedto verify. 55The changein Antigone from intensely expressiveemotion and distressto completelack of dismay when the guards seize her (433-435) is easily explained. The shock which one would was normallyexpresson beingcaptured,whetherapprehension anticipatedor not, is dissolvedby a strongeremotional factor: her satisfactionthat now all will know her as the doer of the deed, a above. desirewhich she revealedto Ismenein the prologue(86-87). Cf. fifth paragraph,

48

JOSEPH S. MARGON

(2) All interpretations have neglected to clarify why Antigone chooses a dust storm in the middle of the day for her second visit instead of waiting for the night. In fact, only Bradshaw (see eleventh paragraph, above) has even considered the question, and his answer has proved unacceptable.56 Yet the key to a proper understanding of Antigone's motive for the second burial lies principally in the explanation of this rather obvious difference between the two sepultures. Antigone's knowledge that the guards will uncover the body soon after she has buried it must cause her a twofold anxiety: how long will the body, unprotected by a covering of dust, escape the depredations of animals; and how soon can she return to restore the protective covering? She realizes the necessity of repeating the burial, even before she makes her second visit. She knows also the need for haste. This urgency is proven when Teiresias, later in the day, declares that birds and dogs have defiled the body of Polyneices (1016-1018). Still later in the same day, the Messenger describes
/ how they came to the place ev0' EKEtTO ?e7XEC KvooTrdapaKTOV aocLta fHoXvve&Kov

and burned what was left of the body (1202). The guard in his second report to Creon describes how a dust storm which hid everything from sight arose at noon and lasted a long while (415-422). The prolonged length of the dust storm offers Antigone her first opportunity to reach the body, undetected, since her performance of the burial at night. She must realize, too, that, even if the second burial is successful and she is not apprehended, the guards will uncover the body and she will have to repeat the burial. In fact, she will have to continue to repeat the burial as often as the guards remove the dust.7 In this sense the burial is ultimately ineffectual and represents a hastily conceived and executed token burial. But as Antigone told her sister, when Ismene accused her of desiring to accomplish the impossible (90), she would do everything within the limits of her power (91). (3) It has been suggested before that there is an inconsistency in Messemer's concept of the sepultures as only physical and actual. It should be apparent, moreover, at this point from the variety of theories regarding the nature of the burials that we do not have sufficient knowledge, extrinsic to the play, of the fifth-century attitude toward burial to specify its nature in the Antigone. Therefore, the best approach, it seems,is to select, from the numerous possibilities which scholars have suggested, the one theory that is contextually congruent with all the details of both burials. Bradshaw's belief, that the Greeks of this time did not distinguish between a symbolic and actual burial, is the only view which fits this requirement and will serve to explain why Antigone comes to the second burial, prepared to offer libations. Since, according to this concept, one does not think of libations and inhumation as categorically different aspects of burial, when Antigone goes to cover the body again, she brings libations, as
ETL(1197-1198)

56Lewis Campbell, Sophokles: the plays and fragments "Antigone," vol. I, 2nd ed. (Hildesheim 1969), p. 494, n. ad 417 f., also tries to give motivational use to the dust storm in accounting for Antigone's return to the body, claiming "she fears that the corpse, lying in an exposed position, may have been disturbed by the violence of the wind." This interpretation is clearly wrong, for it
cannot be reconciled with her words iK 8' apiat KCaKaC lpaT& TOLUt roip'yoy / 'cepyaaopeavotq

(427-428). Antigone would not "Call down curses on those who had done the deed," if she had returned, thinking that the wind might have exposed the body. 57Gilbert Norwood, Greek tragedy (New York n. d.), p. 140, is quite correct when he writes: "If Creon is resolved, she cannot 'bury' Polyneices." He is mistaken, however, when he adds: " ... this gruesome contest could continue indefinitely." Since guards are on duty near the corpse, Antigone will inevitably be captured, if not the second time, then the third or the fourth.

THE SECOND BURIAL OF POLYNEICES

49

she had on the first occasion. Having resolved the inconsistencies in Messemer's view and filled in its hiatuses, we have, at last, an interpretation of the burials that fits the facts of the play and reveals Antigone's motive for returning to the body. Just as Creon, who is determined to make a distinction between the rewards due a patriot and a traitor,58 forbids the burial of Polyneices, so Antigone, moved by her piety toward the gods (450-460) and her devotion to her family, 9 feels compelled to bury the body of her brother. Knowing that the corpse has been uncovered after the first burial and will not escape the depredations of animals unless she acts quickly, she returns to rebury it at the earliest opportunity, in the daytime rather than at night, under the cover of a dust storm. Furthermore, if we accept as fact that the Greeks of the fifth century didnot differentiate categorically between the physical and symbolic aspects of burial, it becomes clear why Antigone performs a second libation when she covers the body again.

The clarification of the reason for Antigone's return to the corpse of Polyneices has freed the play from the stigma of an unmotivated incident (see tenth paragraph, above).60 No longer, moreover, need we regard the occurrence of Antigone's second visit as a thematically unmotivated excuse to ensure those undeniable advantages which, as the younger Wilamowitz (see eighth paragraph, above) and others (see n. 31, above) have observed, two burials confer on the play's form and action; but now we can appreciate in the second burial that perfect union of form, incident, and meaning which characterizes great literature. JOSEPH S. MARGON University of California, Santa Barbara 58Antig. 194-206, 284-289, 512, 516, 518, 520, 522.
59Antig. 80-81, 466-468, 511, 523, 900-903.

60Since Antigone has been providedwith a motive for the second burial,we have conclusive refutationof Rouse's and Harry'sbizarretheory (see n. 3, above), which, owing to theirinability to find a motive for Antigone,creditsIsmenewith the first burialand presumes Antigone'ssecond visit to be reallyher first.