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It seems thot in March, +1' •.C., the Antigone made Sophocles fa-
rncus. The poet, fifty. five years old, had now produced thirty-two
plaY'; because of th is one, tradition relates, the people of Athens
elected him, the next year, to high office. We hear he shared the corn-
DlIndof the second fleetrent to Samos.
When the people of Sames failed to support the government just
e>tablUhed for them by forty Athentan ships, Athens sent a fleet of
w.ty ship> to restore democracy and remove the rebels. The Aegean
t\len wa> an Athenian sea, Pericles, the gt<at political leader and advo-
cateof finn alliance, was first incommand.
Pericles', political, and Sophocles' poetic, authonty had grown duro
ing Athens' expansion. Sophocles had been • close friend of the con-
servatlve Kimon, Pericles' chief political .iva1, who died in 449. Before
hi> successful presentation of Antigone, Sophocles had become Pen-
des' friend.
In 1-+f, when the AthcllliUl people chose Pericles as their leader.
they demanded greatness: democracy combined with imperialism.
Periclean democracy meant free speech, free aswciatloll. and open ac-
cea to PO'W'Cf limited by law; iot, assuming that intelligence IS born 111
.U, law created by all is the best ruler. Illlpen.:olism-to which the
Samian War is to be referred-emeant wealth, the power to enjoy. If,
moreover, enjoyment J.s itself a kind of PO'HCT, it too must be limited
by law: the law which defines enjoyment .. qe.uty. Freedom, justice,
and beauty are the components of greataess which the Athenians had
chosen for themselves when thcy granted "fit literary acclaim. and
then imperialduty, to Sophocles.
Sophocles and hi, fellow-citizens chose to widen democracy and ex-


tend imperialism. The alternative for the east-Greek peoples was olio work; and third, that Sophocles was not Aristotle's pupil. The first
t'ltthy and Spartan influence. This choice-which the Sarnians tried stricture forces, us to concentrate attention On the text itself, without
II) make for themselvcs-involved Iess exploitation. but far m~ re- precluding comparison with the Theban legends;' the second frees us
. .ion. The inhabitants of oligarchic states lacked freedom and, from comparison in anticipation. (If I were concerned primarily with
--G o/tcn,'bcauty; instead, the principle of justice was rationalized by their the later plays, I should start with Antigone.) The danger of Anstote-
;§ apologists, who broadly wed terms such lIS "order" and "stability," in lian criticism lies not only in ill anachronism but in a basic confusion
I:. . ~ich they claimed to find the CSSCI)CC of good rule. In this world as to the purpose of poetry. Even were we more secure m our assump'
IJ) ., c1~te, it is not surprising that the Athenians WIShed the author of tions concerning Aristotle's own meaning, we could not understand
-l.< "? ARl/iOne to hold military office. A man who was so skilled was aho Sophocles better 'lor this. We would be, at best, seeing the poet
~ i wile. Sophocles might be expected to [udge rightly and govern well through the eyes of one of hi, spiritual great-great-grandchildren, a less
-Q :..:: should the cargo of free society, legal limits, and the acquisitive and rewarding discipline, probably, than to regard him from our own view.
, <:! aesthetic instincts shift and clash in the waves of crisis. point. Worse, we could be confining our judgment of poetry to the
~ ~ The few details of Sophocles' life that tradition provides combine requirements of an irrelevant moral philosophy. Sophocles as poet
~ iii b<icf glimpses. Sophocles, for instance, must have known Anaxa- showed what he believed to be actual. In Antigone. he presented the
~ -J,:j- gtlI1IlI and Hcrodotos, but how he alI~ted them, or they him,. is ob- fall of the just and the evil consequences of good acts, The Antigone
q", .., SCUI~. The sub-theme of custom vs, nature. (nomos-physis) m the doubtless disgusted Aristotle (Poetics, '4 pb. 4.{;).
9- :}-M.,Ii& . .one indicates that Sophocles was acqualn. ted "':Ith o",.otem!" Until new evidence appears, one must presume' that Sophocles in-
/j) r::. ~tie teaching, but c!Oa'nol show what stand, If any, ne.t «
, • debate. An anecdote t~1s how once, dunng the Samian ai>,
.w, Pericles scolded the poet for showing more interest in a certain
,0 ~~e,
Vi Cli ~10 c.'"
:5'>~ A;Q.&
vented many events in the story of his Antigone: (I) the form of
Kreon's decree; (2) the quarrels between Antigone and Ismene; (3)
the double bunal of Polyncices by Antigone and the final cremation-
l!lIy than in his war duties. Then again, in old age, we hear, SOphocl.... \0"Q.,('\ \oM burial by Kreon; (4) the love of Antigo~eand Hal~on; (5) the e~.
.~ his impotence, likening himself to a slave who had at last e ~ ~., \ ) tombment of A.ntigOne;. (6) Teiresias intervention and Kreon s
·.aiPcd from a maniacal master. Finally, there is the talc that in 4'0 change of mind: and (7) the suicides of Antigone. Hairnon, and
c, wbcn Asclepius was brought to Athens to purify the city, Sophocle Eurydice.
kept the god in his own house until a temple was built. From t}J~ i! " Some of these inventions pose problems: What is the poetic or dra.
•Ippcars likely that Sophocles was an officer of the cult of Asclepius, Il matie purpose of the double burial? Why IS the love story introduced
It,clillicult not to believe that the author of Antigone was truly , at all, and then made known only when the action is nearly half over?
.Iet. Why is Kreon made, contrary to instructions, to bury Polyneices first
'With the Antigone, Sophocles began work on material that. ipte,. and then proceed, too late, to try to save Antigone? Is Eurydice mtro-
Clted"im for the rest of his life. A dozen yea" later-~ps ~ tlIe duced merely to add to Kreon's sorrow? These are some of the ques.
plague ycar 4'9, the Yelr of Pericles' death-she staged o;;wpus);\u. tions that need to be answered chiefly from internal evidence.
His last play, Oedipus at Kolouos, may have busied him up to that The difficulties of the Antigone are clue in large part to thematic
~ in 406/5 when, it is said, lIS he recited from the Antigone to some complexity; this in turn IS due to variety of vision, or duplication of
(ricnds, Sophocles died, viewpoint, partly inherent in the subject, then intricately schemanzcd
in treatment.
The Theban myths are stories of royal families. Such stones are, on

'II considering the Antigone, the reader should be aware of three reo
strictions: first, that the play is our main source for its story; second,
the surface at least, necessarily split into public and domestic facts.
This double aspect of the activities of Its characters is obviously im-
portant In the Antigone. But here too It i~ well to remember that the
that the Oedipus Rex and Kolonos, written at wide intervals long Athenians believed the city-state was based on kinship. 111e poet',
after, cannot be used safely to criticize events or characters in the early I. See Appendix, Pp- 9)'98, where these legends are detailed.
----_ - .. - .. -_._---_ _-


vuil!!l- 1iivided again when he interprets legend for his contem- tively; and this dichotomy-<:crtainly a vital one for Athenians of +p
~ Sophocles deliberately anschromzes when Kroon is addressed D.C. when' the price and rewards of empire were on the scales of con-
q ,..·Homeric king and i0F6'tP democratic ugmntmts like an oli- science-c-is promment throughout Sophocles' play. Again. the story of
pn:f!.-whiledeporting himself like a tyrant. .' ....mphion'..... rgive wife Niobe IS used directly to iIIummate the figure
Aiiother complicating factor .. the purely dramatic splitting of vi- of Antigone, who applies the parallel to herself (979'85). then alludes
Uoq between audience and a variety of speakers. The characlm do
(' 0 17., 8) to Argela and Polyneiccs, in whom we may again see the
)( not'~'· act; far more. th comment on action, critiau: motives. misfortune of ....mphion, destroyed by his marriage. The fact that
:,/-'-' aDil ideo>; all these moral utterances are .. tute or 00Wh; crude Polyneices' name makes him a "fighter in roomy battles" and at the
' ; Ofptle, intentionallyor accidentally ironic, just .. the author wilhes. "me time a "party in many quarrels" is noted by the Chorus (1,9'4 0)
>(\" 'The viIion of each character IS limited in such a way ~ to enable the when they reproach him, in retrospect, for bringmg war horne from
~ audicrtce, wit Its ~ 5 IV to com re, cnticll.e, and grad- Argos.
't'-\ uaUy assemble a composite vuion. Th~ audience i.s II viewpoint: The names Antigone and Hairnon also seem part of the recel ved
:" the character>, it ;, a part of the author's imaginatlon. Sophocles' legend. It appears that Sophocles took their mearung seriously, lor
mcaa!P& ClW, in the ensemble of characters " it affects an audience he created an Antigone who, "born to oppose." relics On innate cour-
of ~ Periclean age, -which now." then, cxi>lo in the imagination. age In facing tyranny, and he devised the manner of Hannon's death,
~te ill doubJinp of vision, the play .. extraordinarily mavin.&- where "blood";' poured wastefully forth.
''-llInMnity is never frozen into symbol. It may be taken at tribute ~ It iJ not surprising that Teiresias ap~rs in the AlltigOJle. Any irn-
tile """'"" of the ....ntigone that it hu been found llCltto impouibli,' po~nt oo.:une~ce in Thebes might demand the use of prophetic
by thoSe who study the play; not to describe the characters at real power; for any such event would probably attract the attention of '
pcopIe. those gods whom the Thebans considered their own. In fact, the gods
who figure in the play are all participants 10 the story of Kadmos,
• the onginality of much of the ,tOly of Antigone, we can see \\ Ij-'? where they appear m this urder: Zeus, Apollo, Ares, Athena, Aphro-
!bat known portion. of Theban myth may have been prototypes of .\, ,'0' I dite, and Dionysos. What these gods do and mean 10 the Antigone
tbeplafl persons, events, and themes, and that these could have had • ~\~ will be considered shortly.
clear rrJc.ance to the +\'" B.C. . . well.. to general hu'tnan nature. S The Theban legends, from which Alltigone was built. display a
~ 'toned "lOWTl men" (Spanoi) and so incited them to fra- -\0 double Vision of reality: action is divine and human. Human action,
~ .war. Lykes imprisoned .... ntiope. I think it not unli~y that ,,~vi\ .. .~o0l 1iIS: noted, is S:Ubd.i.vide.d into facts of public and of prIVate. life. In the
Ktcoo', decree (,9'11)' and later.entombment of ....ntigone (9,1"1 1) '\;. 10Q,) ~e-S \ human and pU~hc aspects th~re IS special ~eleva~ce to ~he 440$ D.C.
rclIcct those two bit. of legend. One remembers too that Kreon, like ";;,~ o ~ Here too the vrewpoint IS split. An Athenian might enjoy-being re-
c:::::Y, )\1,;.

Ka4m<lo, loses his children, and _ also to abandon his throne. minded of ancient enmity between Boeotians and Peloponnesians. It
uu,I eXposed hi. son Oedipus, thel ;, disowned and left him to die. Qj\QI . i.I interesting, in this regard, that. Sapltodes does Hot presuppose or
K.-. dl.own. Haimon (914) wJ>e" he c:aJ1J him a slave, and effcc- ,. .I~ ~ '\o~71 prepare the ....ttic tale of Theseus' mtcrventicn ill Thebes and enforce.
ti~ lCllds him to his death (9.8-.. ). Lykos, like Kroon. walregtnt ,; l}-"''j :70''<1 ment of burial of the ....rgive war dead. (Teiresias seems to allude to
~ becoming king. Kreon's name-which can mean nothing but M~tIJ~ I \ if this possibility in 1170-7 and "57'9' Kroon. however. does m fact bury
~ ruler." "the regent"-is provided by tradition; Sophocles lUes \ - o\;.
~~ of this, for Kreon's rule iJ, if legitimate, ignoble. . ;;: I
J'-;' S<~ o
<, Polyn~lces, and so removes the motive for Theseus' famous settle-
Q,V'- ment.) Sophocles suppresses iii Aattermg tale and eliminates Theseus

figules of Amphion and Zethos are also relevant to the An-
tI&one. The brothers personify the arts of peace and of war, respec- ~I
~'> 0t""
kfl? as iii potentia~ hero ex machma. Hi,S Intention in so doing IS surely that
he wanted his Thebes to represent more than the Thebes of history,
and its people to. struggle with problems which no clever Intruder
EPJlUb couldsolvesimply. Here are no tricks of popular appeal,
a..LIne refetences 11:lJ'OO&,hoo t, unku otherwLse lndleated, are to lTIy

The Thebes of Antigone is an image of the city-state. As such, it

duality, divine and human. The Thcban legends emphasize SIX major
Illust show some public facts of Importance to Periclean Athemans: deities; the persons of the Alltigolle tend to interpret one another and
these faets arc ideas in conAict. Kreon (&><r18) expounds a tyrannical
explain phenomena With reference to these gods. Both Kreon ("4)
and oligarchrc, Haimon (837.62) a democratic view of law and lead- \> and Antigone (550-1) assume the approval of Zeus; to Krcon, he rep-
crshlp. The combining of tyrannical and oligarchic In Krcon IS a pc· C)v"\ resents power, to Antigone Justice. Yet, Antigone attributes her Iam-
culiar pairing of different. though logically compatible, concepts 0
government; though few oligarchs would have admitted the cornpatr-
U& J ily's misfortunes to 111m (6-8), and Kreon blames hIS rum on an un-
'-) named god (1467; could he be Eros?). The Sentry and Chorus (3 "T
1 I Q,\1
bility, many democrats might insist upon it. Kreon's laws arc his own; '('II ~6, 350-1) assign the first bunal of Polynetces to the gods; Kreon '/.'
the pnnciple b<:hind them is obedience to power, their alleged pur- \,O\e"S denies H1lS categorically. The onlooker IS convinced the characters be-
pose IS stability, their app.;Irent motive powcr.hunger. Harmon's P!'!" lieve what they say when they say It, but cannot tell which among
ciple is reason, hIS motive love for Antigone, Harmon. democracy, them IS nght. The gods arc unreliable, their role ambiguous. Tciresias
presumably representing Zeus and Apollo. appears too late to aYe~
Eros; Krcon, autocracy, Arcs-the diagram has appeal. Krcon is a mill-
tary leader who IS not governed by civil norms. An Athenian general, disaster: if the gods do not clearly intervene there, one doubts that
however, had to render an account of his acts to the people. Athenians ~ '<they Intervened at the beginning. The Chorus twice (first and fifth
associated Jaw with freedom from autocratic rule; laws, to Pericles, stasuns) pray to Dionysos in vain. Eurydice is prevented from seeking
were the enactments of the maronty of citizens duly assembled. -, 5 Athena's aid (1363'7).
In this play, Antigone obeys a law which the citizens, as a WhOieJJ1.Ji~ j1e.. There remain Ares and Aphrodite. These are, ill Antigone. at least
approve. In order to do so. she must die under Kreon's edict. (It IS rv' ,-' S
Important to recall that m Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes-the only ['<Ioi \ v
extant tragedy on this theme before the Ant/golle-It is a demOCfilfl
I as much symbols, War and Love. as gods; but there IS no doubt they
arc personally active in the play. When one thinks, first, that the
daughter of these two was Harmonia (Kadmos' wife in the legend).
cally voted interdict which denies burial to Polyneiccs, though\ and then hears the central ode (94",7) where Love "conquers" and
WIthout specifying a penalty for disobcdicnce.} Antigone suffers what) drives men mad. the difference between Love and War seems justly
any Individual nsks who asserts freedom under t~ranl1Y, or I1ldIVIUU<LI- minimized by the Chorus; one IS tempted to sec the two as a pair.
Ism against pressure to conform For tillS act of public heTOlslll,J!2 Love, which inspired Harmon to speak on behalf of Antigone, and
Illative IS domestic. Never docs she gl\'C a political explanation of her had prompted Antigone to heroic action, also caused their deaths.
~: on the contra. ' from the start she ass~lmes It IS her hercdita ( Love seems no less a destroyer than War.
duty to .bUry Polynclccs. and it I~ fr~m Iulteritcd courage that ~hc c~. . } But this must be nonsense; and, before the play ends, it appears so.
peets to gain the strength requued for the task (42.-4). Antlf]one5 Love IS blamed by the Chorus while Kreon rules. That is, the very
public virtlle is the proouct of personal loyalty. conditions of.the play which make It a tragedy are abnormal. It IS not
Kreon. by contrast, turns from political to domestic tyranny, then I(reo n I normal to deny anyone burial, CIne's nephew still less. or to bury one's
justifies the first with analogies to the second. Declaring (22.2.-3) the I" niece. or anyone, alive. Neither is it normal for Love to destroy, or
worthlessness of anyone who "cherishes an individual beyond Ius tre;n for War only to rescue. In the parodos, the Chorus thank Arcs for
homeland," he denies Ius nephew burial. Then, refusing to pardon his Ares will return as a destroyer. Kreon is to blame. He knows Ares well,
niece, his son's fiancee, Antigone, he claims (798-807) that he must saving Thebes, but Thebes has not been saved. "Harmony" is absent.
kill her to preserve public order and to uphold law, which he equates but Aphrodite not at all, and so separates them. He exposes this igno-
with the rule of the strong. At present, Kreon is a political tyrant; ranee when he says (703) that it makes no difference who marnes
probably he has long been OJ domestic one. By this time, a .modern whom. His thoughts, as his manner of speech shows" are full of Arcs;
audience might decide that the dichotomy-public and pnvatc--:-Is his conception of government IS militaristic, "Spartan." one IS tempted
more apparent th:m real. The two aspects appear inseparable and in- to say. Kreon made Lo.. . e seem. to the Chorus, the same as \Var. The
teractive. Athenians would have had no doubt: their city-state W;J$ gods, here, seem indifferently to be forces which affect men, and forms
assumed to be fundamentally a kinship unit. .. of human feeling and action.
Not unrelated to the theme of autocracy and freedom IS that other


Human Jivine, like public and private. may be the dual images of of his marriage In Argos, while because of this she must herself die un-
on integral object. The Antigone displays schematic pairing and an- married, The ensuing ode alludes to the power of Zeus and of Dlony-
nthcsis In structural detail as well as in idea. TIle Tbcban myths arc 50S, and the indifferenceof Ares to human suffering.
well suited to double vision, to curious couplings. and to division of The Tetresias Scene also is in two parts. The first part mirrors both
natural pairs. Minos and Rhadarnanthys. Zethos and Ampluon. the the Sentry's report of the first burial and Hannon's Interview with
metamorphoses of Tcircsias-ccach a two.m.onc relation of a different reon. Like the Sentry, Teiresias is accused of taking bribes, when,
sort-suggest even more complicated relationships within the legend using arguments similar to Haimon's In the pica for Antigone, he asks
at the point where Antigone begins. Kroon to bury Polyneices, In the second half of the scene, Teireslas
./"lftcoklcs and Polyneices, and their sisters, Antigone and lsmene. arc tells Kreon his crime IS double.
I children of Oedipus and his mother [ocasta: the two pairs are the . The Chorus call upon Dionysos for the second and last time. The
brothers and sisters of Oedipus, their father, and the grandchildren of 1\ ~t Messenger, like the Sentry at his second entrance, finds the Chorus
~~ "t\thClf mother [ocasta, The two boy~ h~ve.been sundered In rivalry for \J f' alone; then: iust as the Sentry was lamed by Kreon (468), the Mes-
~ vtf\{f\'-' 'power. and have killed each other In smgrc combat. Kreon: by decree, \ senger lS met by Eurydice (1359). He tells first of thecrernation-
5 has sent Etcokles to the Underworld and kept Polyncices m the burial o.f Polyneices. then Of. the second and final parting of Kreon

~ ,&

1'\. ~
~\1 ·upper air; the one, buried, is free, while the oth~r, left exposed, IS con-

Similarly, dunug the wa,r, one of Kreon s two son,s. Megarcus
(or Menoikios), has died by his own hand and temporarily saved the
city; the other, Halmon, survives, but Will, at the end of the play, also
die by suicide, after failing to save Antigone. When the play begins.
i and Hairncn, that lS the death of the latter. He concludes that the
dead are joined together. Haimon and Antigone are together. b;;t
Polyncices and Etcokles, Haimon and Mcgarcus too, are all now on
the same side of the earth. When Kreon returns, Eurydice has died.
Kreon, is led into the palace, where only Ismene remains.
\ \<\E..'[)' then. Antigone and Jsmene have been parted ,from their br,oth:fS. and ) The Antigone seems compounded of pairs which life sunders:
Haimon has been separated from Mcgarcus, ,by death. while Eteokles Eteokles and Polyneices, Megareus and Harmon, Ismene and An-
and Polyncrccs, united in dying, have been divided in death. I ngone, Kreon and Harmon, Antigone and Haimon. The last, the most
In the firstscene, Antigone aud Ismcnc quarrel and part. The Chorus Vital pair, never meet during the play, This somber keynote-doomed
Invoke "Zeus, Arcs. and Dionysos. Kreon enters. hears of the first pairs-is sounded by Ismene (56.7»; Oedipus and [ocasta begm the
\~'buflal of Polyncrccs. and accuses and disuusses the Sentry. The tale, and Kreon may end it with Ismene and Antigone. Parting is the
~\,)~Chorl1s sing an ode about the dual nature of mankind: like the god,S doom life offers. This is the dramatic lesson of the prologue, where
in daring, but mortal; and possessmg equally great potential for evil Antigone and Ismene disagree almost from the start; there IS no hint
and good. of such a break in Aeschylus' Seven-it is evidently Sophooles' in-
( Schcuianc p;millg continues as th,e Sentry returns to report tl~c vention.
SCCOll d burial and the capture of Antigone. The second and final dis- \ --oe;th, 011 the contrary. ullites and reunites. This is a fact of faith
missal of the Sentry is followed by a second and final break between ( for Antigone (1047'51) as she faces death; she will join her father,
I Q)t\. ) Antigone and lsrnene, both of whom Kroon considers guilty. The ' \ mother, brothers: though she does 110t now know it, her tomb will be
;( "Chorus Slug about the fall of men and the eternal p<Jwer O.f us, ) her wedding chamber (1436-7). Those who die arc reconciled. Kreo11
I and Ismene, who alone survive the action of this play, remain separate

~ ) concluding that when gods destroy a man they cause hun to confuse
\ \«,Ol'{ good and bad. aile for one. Next, Hairnon and ,Kreo.n talk. ThiS I~ t~ and solita[)'-
V· \ ceuter of the play; at the exact center is Kreon s claim that obedience -Why, if death cancels rifts, can life not do so? Surely ~7~:'3'e, !2.
(f"O"1Eldcrs saves men's lives In battle. Kreon condemns Antigone and t,~e world of the AntIgone. love IS absent from life. ~ is respon-
dnves his son away. The Chorus sing of Love under two asr:cts: gen- Sible. It lS he who parts what should be inseparable. The Chorus re-
\ "tic and inescapable, a playful conqueror and an eternal law. Antigone peatedly see, in the play's grim partings, the operation of the curse of
~oe..\aISo considers Love and War as she goes to her prison, comparing her- Laios. but attach the hereditary guilt to Antigone. Tlus is doubtful.
(self to Niobe and further noting that Polyncices ~icd in war because The same old courtiers blame Love-in the third stasnnon-cfor quar-

IN I ,OUCTION \ n 0\')
U" \' \'V ~as Eros., Aph~ite, in the family and the state-~ c.:ntral to
reb. The true heir to Laios' fault IS Krenn. The curse is nothin su r- Oe.O.l . t 10 mcanlOg as to ]'X2tign. .
Ilatuml. but rather a rc
mark the warnings of family history.
hum;)1 00 foolish to S If the first b~riallcts ~reon discount the divinity of a reveren: act,
.... the second bunallets him argue, again wrongly, againtt love, and to
Laios first betrayed Pclops, king of Argos. then exposed his own rout and dn,:"Love, from .~. and from Thebes. In 6~siJ. Kreon
SOil, Oedipus; in so doing he created enmity with the Argives, and ca,n only transfer h,s pohtic#l c1kM. the double dnty ofltw;irding
defiled his own home. Kreon, who had abetted Eteokles' treacherous fll~ds a?d harming enemies. to the case of Etcokles amq'olyneiecs.
usurpation of the Theban throne, and who allowed his son to die in
the course of the consequent war. insulted dead Polyneices along with
S HI$ p~bhe argument has no place for love, since hit pu~c~ arc III
) fact dictated by the sp.irit of enmity, Antigone realized~l'om the
the dead, then disowned hIS younger son and buried his niece \ start (IN5), When TellQlllS reports bad Q!IlCns and u~ to
alive. Krcon chose two ways to I....aios· one, to exacerbate Argive hostil-
relefot,hit account includes a description (115"7) of the a"lb;rds
ity, amI five ways to violate his own familv's sancti~. Kreon is Lai~' " atlac~lIlg each other: they are virtually at war because al'Xr""n',

ape and his exaggeration. Betrayal of faith and dIsregard of fanllly
bonds are the themes of KrePn's rejgn permt'<lted with hate. life laeles
~dl:Cj' .As Kr~n's suppression of love has~ed civil dishanllony
a., destroyed 111$ home, .t has abo mterposed ,trife betw«n men and
cohesiveness; the lar 0 'fe the anti·world of must the no",,:oIa= to divine knowledge. ,
then contam love. Antigone's devotion to her brother is truly a kind of reverence
TIle play begins with a burial, that of Eteokles. and a denial of (1O,~). She. who (6'1"3) WlIS born to love both her brothetsdesprrc
burial to Polyneices ('(}.33)' The end IS similar: Kreon burns and the nft between them, has had the sharpest insight mto KJ'C\l{l', error
bunes Polynciees (1386-<)7) and opcns Antigone's tomb (13<)8-<). of.fission ~ (ef.• 10-11), In " "18, she is compared by the ScAlly to a
though HOlman had broken in, the entrance was still blocked), Kreon mother bird: such is the nature of her concern for Poly~When
leaves Antigone there, though he has hoped to lead her back Iivmg,
HamJOIl, whom he hoped to call away (14"'4), he carries home dead,
she leaves f~r the tomb, Amigone bewails her childless l!ate i ti07•. »),
Docs she think, 11$ death apprOK!la,' that she has been wroncrThit is
Whcn Kreon buries Etcoklcs he begins tragIc events: when he ex, another double focus on love, '1be love that made A n _ bury
humcs Antigone, he ends them. Polynelces IS a moral force; the love she regrets m lbe kmu!ln j, a

i" r~·'p1\
In the first thud of the play, there arc two further burials. of Poly-
ucices. 111c first, when made known. shows Krcon as a tyrant who at·
tributes ~which others fcclls divlIlC, to reed for mon . Kreon's
~'j0(le.~ '7,
Kf '0)~ 0,",.

~tural force: both together are the "mandate" of the third~imon.
Antigone it :ertainly not at "fault:' She obeyed love va.t~,;ro)y-
nerces, ,she. did not thereby reiect the living love of HaIl1l0......'.':'.~ had
v, ",\ ov.S cru Ity.lII t lIS regard, is still clearer '"te~ (1193'1>0<») when ~ pV r\ 0- no choice m the first. and was prevented by Kroon from cbocilii.g the
_ 'JS~\ cusesTwcslas-who has asked him, on plain grounds of piety. to bury 's lIb os;, .seeond; Antigone "feels pain" only for the second, thoug/:l'it;... for
'" Po)ynelccs-Qf the same venality, TI,e second burra! of Polyn"'ces \ ---c..-'<-\ ,,1'\ the first that, to avoidpain, she dared and dies, .~
shows that Antigone not cons irators. did the deed, and not for ~e,; ~e question cfKreon's choice in disposing of PolYlleic:e. before
money, but or love, Kreon relects love when he condemn,S hIS niece, y\ ' seeing to Antigone is treated ill the nf!!,~,~ ',313<r98, Kreoo cannot
While Antigone was prompted by her love to fulfill a religious duty. understand that the law he has broken IS 1I0t what tradition, the "os',
llaimon IS inspired to political acnvity. to argument. Kreon rejects tablished laws" (119')' ordains, but is the force of Love (Qrof Jus.
with militanstic slogans (7')8-8'4) the democratic arrd humane views tice) which moves these lam and makes them sacred. He _ in'
Haimon presents. Kreon's s~h, a ain IS the·~r of the . stead, t,o. his initial precepts: that the homeland is most iIDPort't.,t,
love's ar uments are a Kreon With notions of statecraft the individual least (...·3). and that it is the stability of thellate that
drawn directly (d. "4'9) from command In wartime, At the close of makes love possible ( .. 8-<). Kreon has turned the busi~ back,
the episode (934'4 1 ) Kreon orders Antlgones bunal. Then in th~ ode wards. He may obey the letter of traditional law, and bury P~.
which directly follows, when the Chorus hymn Love. one IS reminded
,),TI';.-defeat but the spint, which 1$ love, family fceH ng, and loyalty. h~,~es
that Antigone has called Kreon's decree martial (39-4

vJ ().r 13
I I ~ • " ,_ " ., u,· . "vuuLlluN

still, Kreo", last error, then, IS his first. He learns this in Antigone's raged community stoned a public enemy, it performed a kind of ~I
tomb. As he hllrries tl,ere, he still divides love from the law hy which rite, covering and concealing the offender. When Kreon prollOUAl:e3
he lives. doom on Antigone (93H) he has her "hidden ... in a ~_liol.
As to Eurydice, I have hinted in the resume (p. II) that she ts a II

IOW when he seeks to exhume her, it is trom stone (I 39B-9J\MO'Ie-


kind of double of Krcou. The "marriage ill Hades' house" Kroon over, we know that the ene~y of the people is nor Antig~ h t .' , .
originally suggested (to Antigone, 644-6, then to Hairnon, 794'5) has Kr~n ..When he buries Antigone In stone, Kreon is hillllClf"jn', lIia

eshlJ1a. hO~. . ' the c?mmunity, the state (ct. 885'9); but Kreon buria,
been consummated (1436-7). TI,e death of Antigone and Haimon
thas, as ItS offspring, the death of Eurydice. As I have noted, Kreon's ~th A?~, his better idf, and does 50 in the presence of the bu!:.
'o,'v entry early in the play (468) corresponds to Eurydice's (1359), In the nfied C1lizem. He hopes, by a technicality, to cover guilt· really lle
\Jr"\ first, Kreon returns as the Sentry tells the Chorus that Antigone is stifles corudence.> I ' .'

I guilty of burying Polyneiccs. The Sentry completes his report to Teirerilu says (1148) that Kreon is Wollking "the ra~."1 cdge.. .' . II
Kreon, who thereupon resolves to execute Antigone. As a result of Kreon's balance, clearly, hll$ failed him more than once-(Kreon f1Ib
this resolve, Kreon condemns himself, as well as Antigone, to.a living a~y from love; by hi.! martial Olat=ft, he wrecks the Slabilityhe liN
death. When Eurydice enters, at an approximately corresponding posi- sought for the co".'munity; he loses his home through tyranny: ilU
tion toward the end of the play, the Messenger is telling the Chorus
of Haimon's dcath. He completes the tale, adding Antigone's suicide, show this appea~ to be the main purpose of the double confron~
to Eurydice, who then consigns herself to death. She dies eu"ing between Isrnene and Antigorn:, "mene and Kreoo/(65 1'718).
Kreon, not for Haimon's only, but for Megareus' fate as well. The Kreonbegl,ns the scene, ..yiog he hal nursed twin plagues, a lllIit~
dual scheme IS completed: Kreon euned himself when he ordered .traltoTS, In ~IS home. On~ won~ what that horne is like; u~d,,~
Antigone to 60 punIShed, poets Kroons understanding of his $OIlS, lI$ well as of his nieces, ~.
The 'onglllal sentence was stoning, but Kreon changed It to immur- may also abstract his word! hom the immediate context, and tliii!!<
mg in Older to avert a curse from the city (934'7). Perhaps the change the two girls represent rebellion and submission, positiveand nega~
of sentence also represents a retreat m policy forced on Kreou. (Agam l",t.gone rcbcb for a reason Kreon /aib to understand. IsmeneJ.\l-
",ePY\ 1I0te: no penalty IS specified III the Seven Agamst Thebes.) Harmon (jowly submits, without approving KfCOl'I',j ideas or actions. :.Joo
../M~ had said the people of Thebes approved Antigone's deed (8,9-5°). tbinb t?a:, like the C~rw, I.'mene wiil abandon Kroon at the ~~
W \/ Public stomng, in which the whole community could participate, was
fAoo.'J punishment for public enemies. If the Thebans would refuse to take
end, Thill! the tylllllt. handicap: the brave rebel, while the PI'
t~ 85'~",
stand by to bear witn...; the former may actually destroy him,';
J part in such an event, Krcon IS well advised not to require it of them. ne re;t allow.him corrupt and .deshoy himself (d. 8J7-8, '
;),\,l}O"Q. But here too the two-in-one scheme is a picture-of Kreon's reversed ,(reon I comkmnahon of both wterI seems an uneonscous act" ,
~ understanding. Teiresias emphasizes the direct, rev~rsal of natur,e ;roni~ justice; it shows the lyrint is 1IJ deadly to those who penn~
ovJ ("40-7)' which is, however, typical of Krcon s thinking. Kreon 0 to misrule as to those wIIq stop him; and itl,,"cstl that v
tv "principles" arc themselves blameworthy (117')' Tciresias, moreover, 'l1ay be han aWllre that thc.lUbject loyal to hi! rule is ClSentialJl'~
is a technician, an aug~r; he finds Kreon's wrongdoing formally offen- I,",to"10 IllS potelltia! for good.
sive. By the doubled crime of separation, of keeping Poiyneices in the W~e" l~e asks Antigone (6'73"i) wh"tlifc will be worth ~
light and segregating Antigone (d. 55) from the liVing, Kreon hll$ cut love,~M$Swer points to Kreon, The implication is that ~
_interfered both with gods of the Underworld .nd with the O~ympians and Isrnene li'< qe.tined to live on, after the play ends. bereft olall
in their respective domains. The mechanical nature of Kroon s offense they love or should love. Antigone does not know this: Sophocles !pVCI
IS eh.ractcristle. It IS also, III its duality, typical of the whole play~ C, the words weight, Antigone does know, and _011 here to mClIn, tbat'
offense to the gods of the netherworld, Kreoll finally offends Zeus ( Kroon, b\ depriving life of love, h.. emptiOd it Of wlue. In th" cpf7'
(1170-7: 1202'5)· sode, Antigone and Isrnene are split apart for the xcond time. ~:
Yet, in :l sense, Krcon did not change thc sentence. When an out- two scene. (i7'125; 657'91) are mirror-images, In the prologue,~'

ngone invited Isrnene to risk death with her; now Antigone rejects Jhi;)' gricvtd for her. they blamed Antigone for her doom, When they
Ismcne's offer to be her partner in death. Ismene refused then; now m~t have Used. thea ~oquence to plead with Kroon. they IOOthed
Antigone refuses. Antigone chose to risk death rather than live with- thea own conscience with the tal)' lore of hereditary CUl'lCl. Xreon
out love, for to abandon Polyneices' need would have been to abandon puts these men in their place iurtly ....hen he tells them (71)that
her love of him; accordingly, the death she risked was meaningful they, as well as he, have ~ertniDCd" Antigone's dell, th)lt WII their
~e.-~(12o-,). But Isrnene chose to live on without love (ef. 683), and own tree will that they denied, not AI>tigonc's, when Ihcy '-;ncd
;;:'S ; would now choose a useless, seemingly meaningless death, She feared so long locked in silence by fear.1be pby's most abnnint"doub\e.
) death, and so would not help Antigone: now that she cannot help, she focus fixes the men of the Cbo!\lS, who sec truth but do not fal:cit,
\ fearslife. The scheme completes itself. ( ~ the old gentlemeq.~the Chona persisted in ~ing
When Isrnene pleads for Antigone's life, to Kreon, she starts with I ') ~reon a edict as Law, they were not pLaying the past of conoes~atn-es,
the same question (6<)8")): how can she live without Antigone? Kroon (\ \ IV) () ~,~n the finer sense; they mereI,' y being cautious. "A law,n !!ley',,",' say
says to forget her. Then Ismene asks about Hairnon: if Kreon can v ilO
<'Ie. m effect ("'17'52 ) , :'IS.~ llJIliI it is ~ngcd," Ismcne, ~ only
w, e r e ,

despise the girl his son loves, he does not love his son. Kreon does not. ..-(S ~ because ~f her proxnruty to the case, did regard the decree aslllljust,
~ But elsewhere Kreon seems to seek love. When Haimon enters, Kreon Y but considered It necessaryto obey (97"8) at long as otherr'CIid 00.
\ \ ;}-0 askshim. "Do you love me" (ncrl) "whatever I do and how?" Kreon \ This, t.hen, is the plea of the callous and of the weak: conformity.
, S 0.; has confused love with obedience before this, After the first burial of , A~ltgone"ppooed conventional piety'to Kreon's edict. Her ~
,/ Q....J Polyneices, Kroon contrasted the behavior of discontented citizens nor. -'o-6.jl wu that a law I'llUIt oot violate morality. HaiUsliii, on
\ o~ with what they should do: "properly shouldering the yoke, , , which the OW'r hand, appealed to the COIUeIUus of men: his waJ a demo-
~ s\1'~ is the one way of showing love to me" (36<r70).(l1e tested the The- cratic argument, based on the belief that a law must be in harmony
i\\).(V Q bans' love with hi,S d~ree, and, found it wan:ing; ,now, as he sentences with the considered opinion of the citizens. The personal motive of
I> Antigone for defying the decree, he finds Harmon s love hollow. Kroon both Antigone and Haimoo in opwsing Kroo;;-happens to be identi.
;j"\jt- Jj.\W is to be pitied for his incomprehension. What he seeks__ is the love of ,;oJ: love. In this play, traditional morality and majority opinion hap-
ffJ beast for human master; he has. himself, no love to give, on,ly com' pen to agree; that this it a love match not made daily is shown by the
mands.) . Seven ApilUt Thebes. . .
~ Even cruel Arcsloved, though-loved Aphrodite. One should, there- We may conjecture that, to Sophocles, the question of desnocraey
fore not be shocked when Kroon leaves the stage heartbroken, Until VI,autocracy was more basic than piety vs, secular law, In the An.
Hairnon dies, and Eurydice, he seems capable of no emotion but u,one; ,he seems to a~prove rel,i£iow tradition .. a moral _ be-
anger. When he condemned Antigone, he said that with her death cause, like consensus, It offen likelihood of truth: tradition is'ti!ited
he had "everything" (606). Now, he prays for his own death, which .tcmporany, conscruus also numerically. the first through CiIUlftS
is everything he still wants (15")' This I~ convin~in~it is dis- Curt,Olll, the second by di~ of individual ideas, The greater prob-
turbing too: the man IS a man, and he IS to be pltied.,One must ability that Kreon, in his tynmnicaJ isolation, would be WIOll& is
blame him; but as he blames himself, one wonders. Did he, after all, demonstrated when he shOWl hinuelf to be wrong; the Idvantaae of
love his wifeand son? He did, and did not know it, he could not know democratic consensus is, here, emphasized by its endorsement of plow
that In which he did not believe) ~ ' tradition,
If we sympathize, at last, with at least the humanity of Kreon, It So hodes does. however, admit tlult reIi ion contains troub\c:aomc
is Jess easy to excuse the Chorus, The old courtiers learn wisdom lat~; ambiguities: piety may deman right behavior, but the gods them-
perhaps. like Krenn, too late. They, however, arc not fools; in their . selves Ire not reliable guides to what is right. Teiresia.s, one remem-
songs they have shown subtlety and learning. Yet these men ex~"sed be~, appears too late. Similarly, Sophocles does not ignore the possi.
and supported Kroon's folly until Kreon. in effect. gave up hIS aU, blllty ()l mass human error; the majority of Thebans, like Ismene,
thority (.,68-77). 1110lIgh they knew what law IS, and ~~ugh they ag~ with Antigone, but obey Kroon, Fearing Kroon, the people fon
worshiped Love as well as Aresand Dionvsos, nevertheles~,::n while Anltgone,
, who is thereby at isolated in her rectitude as Kreon Ii 111.


sulated in his perversity. Freedom needs strength as well as sensitivity.

TI,e popular attitude toward Kroon is that of the Sentry, whose terror ANTIGONE
neither stifles his disapproval (39'-404) nor slows his obedience (408.
'3, 5>7-37)' From this, one may guess that Sophocles recognized that
thc rights of the exceptional Individual are precious, at least when, as
with Antigone, such rights confirm the freedoms which the majority
continue, even secretly, to approve.
To us, to who reon's fla rant misdeed is his invasion of personal
and conscIentious lights. Sophoclessays this much: neither shou d the
ordinary individual, who is wrong, rule the majority, who are passive, "
..jY nor should the extraordinary individual, if right, acquiesce. The tragic
I>'~~ problem of popular rulcrhere free citizens seem to violate by con-
"'\ \ sensus the rights of minorities and of individuals, unusual and ordinary v~
-is only suggested. The Antigone's complacent courtiers abet one(Ch,r
tyrant, and become, in effect, a board of tyrants. We know their like
in institutions, agencies, departments. and bureaus, which, for the sake
of "the law till it is altered," and such generally accepted purposes as
health, defense, education, and finance, erode freedom. Until such old
men Jearn wisdom, Antigones will be "born to oppose," who, unless
gentleness prevails, will be driven again and again even by the
Choruses of democracy, either to civil disobedience or -to criminal

The text I have followed IS R. C. [ebb's In Sophocles, Part III: The

Antigone (Cambridge, 189'). supplemented by A. C. Pearson's in
Sophoclis Fabulae (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, '9'4)' [ebb's prose
version and commentary proved consistently valuable.
I wish to thank the General Editor for generous help. No one ac-
quainted with his work is in danger of blaming him for the faults of

Edmonton, Alberta RICHA.RJ) EMIL BUUN'

'<fil, '97 '

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