Analyze the following passage of Antigone. What has happened, and what is the significance of this passage to the entire play?


Dear lady, I will witness of what I saw, and will leave no word of the truth untold. Why, indeed, should I soothe thee with words in which must presently be found false? Truth is ever best.-I attended thy lord as his guide to the furthest part of the plain, where the body of Polyneices, torn by dogs, still lay unpitied. We prayed the goddess of the roads, and Pluto, in mercy to restrain their wrath; we washed the dead with holy washing; and with freshly-plucked boughs we solemnly burned such relics as there were. We raised a high mound of his native earth; and then we turned away to enter the maiden's nuptial chamber with rocky couch, the caverned mansion of the bride of Death. And, from afar off, one of us heard a voice of loud wailing at that bride's unhallowed bower; and came to tell our master Creon. And as the king drew nearer, doubtful sounds of a bitter cry floated around him; he groaned, and said in accents of anguish, 'Wretched that I am, can my foreboding be true? Am I going on the wofullest way that ever I went? My son's voice greets me.-Go, my servants,-haste ye nearer, and when ye have reached the tomb, pass through the gap, where the stones have been wrenched away, to the cell's very mouth,-and look. and see if 'tis Haemon's voice that I know, or if mine ear is cheated by the gods.' This search, at our despairing master's word, we went to make; and in the furthest part of the tomb we descried her hanging by the neck, slung by a thread-wrought halter of fine linen: while he was embracing her with arms thrown around her waist, bewailing the loss of his bride who is with the dead, and his father's deeds, and his own ill-starred love. But his father, when he saw him, cried aloud with a dread cry and went in, and called to him with a voice of wailing:-'Unhappy, what deed hast thou done! What thought hath come to thee? What manner of mischance hath marred thy reason? Come forth, my child! I pray thee-I implore!' But the boy glared at him with fierce eyes, spat in his face, and, without a word of answer, drew his cross-hilted sword:-as his father rushed forth in flight, he missed his aim;-then, hapless one, wroth with himself, he straightway leaned with all his weight against his sword, and drove it, half its length, into his side; and, while sense lingered, he clasped the maiden to his faint embrace, and, as he gasped, sent forth on her pale cheek the swift stream of the oozing blood. Corpse enfolding corpse he lies; he hath won his nuptial rites, poor youth, not here, yet in the halls of Death; and he hath witnessed to mankind that, of all curses which cleave to man, ill counsel is the sovereign curse.

EURYDICE retires into the house.

In this particular passage, the messenger has entered the royal palace to tell Eurydice of the deaths of Antigone and Haemon. They've both committed suicide. The messenger saw their corpses at first hand, and is able to give a completely truthful account of what happened.

The dramatic significance of the scene is that it shows us the tragic effects of Creon's stubbornness. Haemon and Antigone are dead because of him, and his wife Eurydice will soon follow suit to the underworld.

Expert Answers

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As is always the case in Greek tragedy, the inciting events of Antigone happen off stage. In keeping with established dramatic convention, these events are related by a messenger who goes into considerable detail as he relates what happened. In this particular case, the messenger saw the corpses of Antigone and Haemon firsthand. Eurydice, Haemon's mother and wife of Creon, cannot doubt that the messenger is telling the truth.

The messenger tells Eurydice—and the audience—that he looked inside the vault where Creon had imprisoned Antigone and saw her hanging; in a last act of defiance, Antigone had committed suicide. Antigone's lifeless body was being clasped by Haemon, who expressed anger to his father Creon as he approached him. Grief-stricken, Creon implored his son to come to him, but Haemon was in no mood for a reconciliation. He took out his sword and attacked Creon. Upon seeing that he missed, he turned the sword on himself and died.

The sad news brought by the messenger represents the inevitable consequences of Creon's cruelty and stubbornness. Antigone and Haemon are dead because Creon insisted that Polynices's body should remain rotting out in the streets unburied. And now Creon's wife Eurydice, after hearing the terrible news about her son, will follow suit. She takes her own life after cursing Creon for the death of both her sons.

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