Introduction to Antigone

Antigone is a play by Sophocles, believed to have been written and performed in the mid-fifth century BCE. It is the third of Sophocles’s surviving Theban plays, which present the mythology surrounding Antigone’s father, Oedipus, who unknowingly married his mother and murdered his father. Antigone is also a near-direct continuation of Greek playwright Aeschylus’s earlier play, Seven Against Thebes, which depicts the referenced battle between Antigone’s brothers, Polynices and Eteocles. 

Antigone is primarily concerned with the differing demands of natural laws and man-made laws. Creon, the current ruler of Thebes, bans anyone from burying Polynices, as Polynices attacked the city. However, Antigone asserts that she would fail in her sisterly and godly duties by refusing to honor her brother with the proper burial rites. This tension drives the conflict of the play, and Sophocles seems to indicate that natural laws and familial loyalty should take precedence over legal institutions.

A Brief Biography of Sophocles

Sophocles (c. 497/6–406/5 BCE) was a Greek playwright who changed Greek drama by lessening the role of the chorus. Although the device was still used in the playwright’s works, its size and importance was significantly reduced when he introduced the third actor. This revolutionary change was so popular that even his revered predecessor, Aeschylus, adopted the convention. Eschewing the poetic roots of tragedy, Sophocles also changed Greek drama by defining it as what happens between people. Sophocles’s most famous character, Oedipus, typified the idea of the protagonist who has a “tragic flaw”—the very human quality of misjudging one’s place in the world. Whether the incest, suicides, and murders that befell Oedipus and his clan were Oedipus's fault or a cruel twist of fate, they firmly established the importance of Sophocles in the evolution of Greek tragedy. His plays, particularly Oedipus Rex and Antigone, are frequently read and studied today.

Frequently Asked Questions about Antigone

Antigone

Creon abuses his power by refusing to allow Polynices to be mourned or buried. He does not want to honor Polynices by giving him a burial, and he also wants to maintain control. His abuse of power...

Latest answer posted April 3, 2021, 12:28 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Antigone

In Sophocles's Antigone, Creon decrees that Polynices's body is to be left unburied on the battlefield, where it will be exposed to the elements and animals. He also states that anyone who attempts...

Latest answer posted April 2, 2021, 12:17 pm (UTC)

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Antigone

Creon has decreed that anyone who buries Polynices will be subject to death. He wants his rebellious nephew's rotting, bird-eaten corpse to serve as a reminder to the people of what happens to...

Latest answer posted April 2, 2021, 11:41 am (UTC)

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Antigone

In Sophocles's Antigone, Creon decrees that Polynices is a traitor to Thebes and that his body is to be left unburied on the battlefield. He also states that anyone who attempts to bury Polynices...

Latest answer posted April 2, 2021, 11:58 am (UTC)

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Antigone

The moral lesson of Antigone is that the law of the gods is higher than human law. Any human law that violates divine law is a sin. Antigone is right to disobey Creon's immoral law forbidding the...

Latest answer posted April 2, 2021, 12:18 pm (UTC)

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Antigone

In one sense, the play Antigone involves a battle of wills between Antigone and Creon. It is Antigone's choice to defy Creon's statute that forbids the burial of her deceased brother, even as she...

Latest answer posted April 2, 2021, 7:28 pm (UTC)

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Antigone

Ironically, Antigone's tragic flaw is also her greatest strength: her stubborn will to do the right thing no matter what. She buries her brother despite Creon's laws against doing just that because...

Latest answer posted April 3, 2021, 11:09 am (UTC)

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Antigone

Creon is arguably the most tragic figure in Antigone, going from a powerful king to a man bereaved of everyone he ever loved due to his own arrogance. His tragic flaw is his pride, which makes him...

Latest answer posted April 3, 2021, 11:18 am (UTC)

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Antigone

Prior to the opening of Sophocles's Antigone, two brothers, Polynices and Eteocles, kill each other in battle. Creon decides that Polynices's body is to be left unburied on the battlefield; anyone...

Latest answer posted April 3, 2021, 11:36 am (UTC)

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Antigone

Prior to the opening of Sophocles's Antigone, the titular character's brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, kill each other in battle. Creon decrees that Eteocles will be buried properly and with...

Latest answer posted April 3, 2021, 12:11 pm (UTC)

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Antigone

In Sophocles's Antigone, Polynices is the oldest son born from the incestuous union of Oedipus and Jocasta. Prior to the opening of the play, events occur that set the action of the play in motion....

Latest answer posted March 31, 2021, 11:37 am (UTC)

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Antigone

The son of Creon in Sophocles's tragedy Antigone is called Haemon. His name, like many others in Greek tragedy, and particularly in the royal house of Thebes, is significant. Haemon means blood,...

Latest answer posted March 31, 2021, 11:28 am (UTC)

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Antigone

This is a very good question. In Sophocles's Antigone, the heroine is betrothed to marry her cousin Haemon, the son of Creon, who is now King of Thebes. Whether she loves Haemon or not is another...

Latest answer posted March 31, 2021, 11:48 am (UTC)

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Antigone

Antigone is arrested and sentenced to death by her uncle Creon for performing burial rites for Polynices, her brother, a traitor to Creon. Creon had decreed that Polynices's corpse was to be left...

Latest answer posted March 31, 2021, 11:57 am (UTC)

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Antigone

Prior to the events of Sophocles's Antigone, Eteocles challenges his older brother's claim to the Theban throne. In response, Polynices raises an army and attacks his native city. The two brothers...

Latest answer posted March 31, 2021, 12:26 pm (UTC)

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Antigone

Creon has decreed the rebellious Polynices a traitor. As a punishment, he is dishonoring his nephew's corpse by denying it a burial. He is going to let it rot above ground, allowing the birds to...

Latest answer posted April 1, 2021, 11:22 am (UTC)

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Antigone

In order to understand Creon's law in Sophocles' Antigone, we must first examine the events that occurred before the start of the play. Oedipus was once the ruler of Thebes. Creon takes over as...

Latest answer posted April 1, 2021, 11:39 am (UTC)

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Antigone

Creon is punished through the loss of his family for refusing to bury Polynices and for condemning Antigone to death. Antigone hangs herself before Creon is able to tell her that he has reversed...

Latest answer posted April 1, 2021, 12:04 pm (UTC)

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Antigone

In two of her last speeches before she is led away to be entombed, Antigone suggests that Creon is responsible for her death. She says, But if the guiltLies upon Creon who judged me, then, I...

Latest answer posted April 1, 2021, 12:25 pm (UTC)

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Antigone

In Sophocles's Antigone, Eurydice is a minor character who makes only a brief appearance in the play. She is the wife of Creon, the acting king of Thebes, and the mother of Haemon. In short,...

Latest answer posted April 1, 2021, 12:20 pm (UTC)

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Summary