Lines 701–1090 Summary and Analysis
Haemon, having learned of his father’s order to have Antigone killed, comes to speak to Creon. Haemon’s first move is to yield deference to Creon’s kingly rights, as well as the right of a father to approve or disapprove of a marriage. Creon is pleased by this, making a lengthy speech about the necessity that sons subordinate themselves to their fathers—much as, he believes, subjects must subordinate themselves before kings. In his speech, Creon ascribes masculinity to law, order, and respect, and compares femininity to anarchy. This gendering of abstract concepts continues throughout much of this section of the play.
Haemon, however, begins to argue against his father’s decision to kill Antigone, choosing his words carefully. Haemon informs Creon that there have been murmurs among the people of Thebes that indicate widespread sympathy for Antigone. She was, after all, only performing her divinely ordained duty for a family member. Haemon asks Creon to reconsider his command to have Antigone executed, suggesting that going against the public’s will on this matter is foolish.
Creon reacts angrily, interpreting the plea as an act of insubordination. Creon says that he will in no way take advice on how to rule from his young son or from the people of Thebes, asserting that the power to rule is his alone and that the city and its inhabitants are similar to his possessions. Haemon counters a number of times by suggesting that Creon will lose his power if he loses public respect. With this, Creon returns to his practice of gendering the two sides of the argument, defining political order as masculine and insubordination (even, and perhaps especially, out of deference to the gods) as feminine. He accuses Haemon of taking “the woman’s side” (line 828).
Over the course of an increasingly heated dialogue, Haemon asserts that his advice is intended with respect for the king’s interests. The will of the gods and the will of the people, argues Haemon, are valuable things for a king to consider when meting out justice. Neither the gods nor the public consider Antigone a criminal for her act of burial.
Haemon’s arguments, however, only cause Creon’s rage to increase. The king insists that Haemon and Antigone will never be married—that Antigone is a criminal and a tool of anarchy, unfit to wed his son and deserving of a death sentence. Creon further accuses Haemon of being a “woman’s accomplice” (line 837) and even threatens to have Antigone killed before Haemon’s eyes. Haemon, in response, threatens that Antigone’s execution would cause two deaths (line 843)—both hers and his own—and leaves the king in a sorrowful rage.
The leader of the chorus indicates to Creon that Haemon may do something violent in response, but Creon dismisses this. Instead, Creon decides that Antigone will no longer be killed by public stoning; she will instead be killed by being buried alive in a tomb, with minimal rations, until she dies by either starvation or suicide. This punishment, Creon suggests, would act as a lesson against Antigone’s undue respect.
The chorus then sings a hymn to the powers who govern love: Eros and Aphrodite. In the hymn, they praise and lament the awesome power that love has over human lives, including its ability to cause pleasure as easily as pain and to drive people mad. The hymn also asserts that these powers are unassailable and describes a father and a son at war with one another, with love being the only victor (lines 889–90).
At this point, Antigone is brought out by the guards and led to her tomb. The chorus, representing the people of Thebes, exclaims sympathy for Antigone’s unjust punishment. She is now a tragic heroine, and the chorus asserts that she is blameless for ensuring the burial of her family member.
The chorus and Antigone sing responses to one another. Antigone sings of her lifelong grief, the curses of the gods having taken nearly her entire family. She also bemoans the fact...
(The entire section is 1,667 words.)