How does Antigone die?

Antigone dies by her own hand. She hangs herself in the walled-up cave in which she's been imprisoned by Creon. What is particularly tragic about Antigone's death is that it takes place not long before Creon changes his mind and agrees to release her.

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Antigone commits suicide by hanging herself, but the roots of her death lie in following the moral law of the gods rather than the immoral law of her uncle, Creon.

Creon has decreed death to anyone who buries Antigone's brother Polynices, who rebelled against Creon in a civil war. Creon wants Polynices's bird-eaten, desecrated corpse to act as warning to other Thebans not to challenge the state.

Antigone understands this violates Greek custom and the law of the gods that demands that every Greek get an honorable burial. She ritually buries Polynices, knowing this will anger Creon and most likely lead to her death, but she insists on obeying a higher law than Creon's.

Creon sentences her to be entombed alive. His son, Haemon, who is betrothed to Antigone, the wise seer Tiresias, and the chorus all speak out against this as an outrage against Antigone. However, Creon, like Oedipus, suffers from the tragic flaw of pride or hubris and won't listen to advice until it is too late. When he does finally rescind Antigone's sentence, she is already dead by her own hand. As a result, he loses his family, as both Haemon and Euridyce kill themselves. Creon is left broken, with nothing to live for.

Antigone's brave stand against her uncle and her courage and agency in choosing the time and means of her own death have long been used as symbols of social resistance and the honor of placing one's conscience above a state's immoral laws.

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If there's one thing that we know about Antigone, it's that she's a very brave, independent woman who'll always do what she believes to be right, no matter what the consequences are.

In an act of extraordinary courage, Antigone has openly defied King Creon by performing burial rites for her late brother Polyneices, whose corpse was left to rot out in the open on Creon's orders.

But as Antigone discovers to her cost, there are limits to how much defiance she can offer. Creon, furious at Antigone's disobeying his express commands, has her walled up inside a cave. This way he will bring about her death—through slow starvation—without necessarily incurring the wrath of the gods.

Had Creon chosen to put Antigone to death in a different fashion such as beheading, then he would have been ritually polluted, as it was considered unholy at that time for someone to kill a member of their family.

In any case, Antigone finds herself in a hopeless situation. With no realistic chance of being saved, she commits suicide by hanging. Such a sad demise is tragic enough in itself, but what makes Antigone's end all the more tragic is the fact that Creon changes his mind and orders her to be released not long after Antigone kills herself.

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The manner of Antigone's death is grounded in the religious beliefs of the Greeks. Creon has decreed that it is forbidden to bury the body of Polynices, Antigone's brother, as he was a traitor to Thebes. Antigone, though, as a woman, has the sacred responsibility to conduct funerary rites for members of her family and thus attempts to bury the body. When Creon discovers that Antigone is the culprit, he faces a dilemma. Antigone is his niece. To kill a member of his own family would bring the wrath of the gods down upon him and Thebes, precisely what he is trying to avoid. He solves the problem by walling Antigone up in a cave where she will gradually starve to death. Since he is not actively murdering her, and in a sense offers the gods the opportunity to save her, he hopes to avoid ritual pollution. Antigone, despairing of her fate, commits suicide by hanging just before Creon changes his mind and orders her to be released. 

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In the play, Antigone is sentenced to death by her uncle, King Creon, for the crime of burying her brother, Polynices. Polynices had been killed during an attempt to take Thebes from his brother, Eteocles, who also died during the battle. Under Creon’s decree, the punishment for burying Polynices is death by stoning.

Creon does not sentence Antigone to death by stoning, however. He orders her entombed alive, so as to avoid the public spectacle of her death. The sentence is still death, but it is a death away from the eyes of the public. Further, it is neither a swift nor a merciful death, but rather one from the prolonged suffering of deprivation.

Antigone accepts her death sentence as the price for doing what she knew to be the right thing, but she does not submit to despair or to the cruel death Creon attempted to impose on her. Rather, she takes her life by her own hand, hanging herself within the tomb:

[I]n the furthest part of the tomb we descried her hanging by the neck, slung by a thread-wrought halter of fine linen….

In this way, Antigone defies Creon even in her death, for she chose both the time and manner of it.

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