In Episode Four of Antigone, is Sophocles using the Fourth Choral ode to condemn Antigone for her pride or to praise her courage in accepting fate?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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It can actually be argued that the chorus is saying both things to Antigone in Episode Four. Specifically, in the fourth choral ode, the chorus refers to desires turning into "frenzies," meaning derangement, or insanity, which appears to be a description of Antigone's desires and can also refer to Creon's as well. They also argue that these deranged desires "turn just unjust," meaning that they turn a righteous person into an unrighteous person. Hence, it appears that they are condemning Antigone's actions in this ode. However, they also declare that her early death will bring her fame in a later passage in Episode Four.

In a later passage, they tell her that her early death will bring her fame, not just because she is dying young, but because she has made the explicit choice to die young, as we see in the Chorus's lines:

Your death will bring you glory,
Your death will bring you fame,
Death chooses other mortals
But you have have chosen death.
You go to death by choice. (824-829 translated by David Feldshuh)

Since the chorus is saying that her choices will make her famous, it can be said that the chorus is praising her for her courage. They are praising her for her courage in accepting her fate, but more importantly, they are praising her for having the courage to make the choice she made and defying the law.

However, the chorus also says things to indicate that they think Antigone is a foolish, headstrong girl and that she went too far in deciding to take the law into her own hands. We especially see this argument in their lines:

You dared too much
You went to far--
You threw yourself against the throne justice, and there you fell. (859-861 translated by David Feldshuh)

In saying that she "dared too much" and "went too far" the chorus is definitely chastising her decision to defy Creon's law. Earlier, they even parallel Antigone's stubbornness with Oedipus's own stubbornness in the lines, "She's clearly the fierce daughter of a fierce father; she doesn't know when to bend with the wind" (485-486). In other words, the chorus is arguing that Antigone does not know when to yield to greater forces, that she is stubborn. Therefore, while the chorus is lauding her bravery, including her bravery to act against the law, it seems that ultimately they believe that Antigone is headstrong and has made a brave yet foolish decision.


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