You are on page 1of 1

I wili begin with Haernon's exit.

He came In to plead with

Creon for Antigone's life, and has been so brutally repulsed
tbat he has gone out making obscure threats towards his
H. D. F. KJTTO ON THE ROLE OF THE GODS IN ANTIGONE father. At this point the chorus performs an ode, a typical
choral ode, filling a pause in the action with appropriate com- \thONSJ
[H. D. F. Kitto (1897-1982) was a professor of Greek at rnent. Thinking of the unfllial conduct of Haemon theycsrng ~
the University of Bristol. England. and a well-known about the power of Love, Eros, which can pervert the minds
classical scholar. Among his publications are Form and even of the upright. They go on to observe that Eros Is a power
Meaning in Drama (1956), The Greeks (1957), and that ranges through the whole universe-man, animals, gods:
Greek Tragedy: A Literary Study (1966). In this extract, Aphrodite sits enthroned beside the Great Powers, and wieids
Kitto declar,:s tbat tbe role of the gods is crucial to the absolute sway. Whereupon Antigone is led in, and the action
understanding of Antigone. both In the conflict between continues.
Antigone and Creon and between Creon and Haemon.]
But if this is the way in which we understand the ode-'Here
Mr. F. L. Lucas bas recently declared his opinIon that the final the Congregation wiil sing a Hymn-e-we have scarcely begun
scenes of the Antigone are weak: the piay flags when Antigone to understand Sophocles, It is true that these reflections on the
is removed. Mr. Lucas is by no means the first critic to say this. power of Love are suggested to the chorus by what Haemon
The criticism proves one thing conclusively, that the critic has has said to his father: it is also true that time after time in thiS
not understood what the play is about. On the 'one level 1\'\r. play the chorus says things which are true, but are said about
Lucas has understood the play well enough, that on which the the wrong person-as when in the second ode they speak of
heroic and passionate Antigone defies the tyrant at the cost of the wicked lawbreaker. and in the thlrd ode about evil seeming
her life. On this level the gods do indeed come Into the pic- good to the one whom the god is minded to destroy: in each
ture. since Antigone is convinced that she is doing the gods' case they are thinking of Creon's adversary, but in each case it
wiil. But this Is only part of the picture. and if one sees only a is Creon himself whom the words fit. The two stanzas on Lover;•• J
part. under the Impression that one is seeing the whole, it is are not religious poetry written as an interlude by a pious
not surprising if one finds the picture iii-designed, Mr, Lucas dramatist; they are an important Rart of the real drama'0:reon (' ,fOn
and those who agree with hIm think that the Antigone, like has already defied one part of divine law In refusing bunal to a ~
other Greek plays, Is concerned with exciting or at least inter- fellow human being: now he defies another of the majestic
esting people and actions-as of course It is-and when the powers of the Universe in brutally disregarding Haernons love
most exciting one disappears from the action he begin;;.tp for Antigone.)At this point Sophocles remarks to us: 'Eros,
yawn. What the critic is really yawning about is the gOdS: he Aphrodite, are gods. They are not to be played with: they are
does not realize that they are there. and have been from the pretty strong. Just wait and seeJ'-for this is the way in which
beginning. They enter into the structure of this play more than the ode would be taken by an audience which had not had the
some of us realize. advantage of reading books about Greek Tragedy, and was not
misled by ideas derived from more romantic kincs of tragic
45 Accordingly, when this audience heard, later in the play,
how the desperate Haemon turned from his lover's dead body
upon his father and tried to klli him, and then killed himself,
) and thus led straight to the suicide of the Queen and the total
extinction of Creon's house, it would not say. as we do. 'This is
1J 1.11
T' (\?
all vel)' exciting, no doubt. but. really, ! am much more inter-
ested in Antigone than in Creon: It would say 'What an awful
illustration of the folly of a man who presumes to anger a god!
-,-H. D. F. Kitto, Sophocles: Dramatist &. Philosopher (London:
Oxford University Press. 19581. pp. 35-37