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Antigone

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Oedipus’ two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, each lead an army which clashes at the gate of Thebes. The two brothers kill each other. Their uncle, Creon, orders an honorable burial for Eteocles but orders that Polynices’ body be left to rot, vowing death to anyone who disobeys his command.

Antigone, Creon’s niece and sister of the two fallen combatants, tries to persuade her sister Ismene to help her bury Polynices’ body. The fearful Ismene refuses. Antigone buries the body herself, contending that the laws of the gods supersede the laws of the state.

Discovering what Antigone has done, Creon sentences her to death, even though she is betrothed to his son, Haemon, who pleads for her life. Antigone is led to a cave where she is to be entombed and left to die. Tiresias, the seer, finally persuades Creon that his edict defies the will of the gods. Creon rushes to the cave but arrives too late. Antigone has already hanged herself.

Haemon discovers Antigone’s corpse, rushes his father with a sword, spits on him, and then impales himself. Upon hearing that her son is dead, Creon’s wife commits suicide. Creon’s reign is over. He goes into exile outside the city-state.

The first written and performed play of the Oedipus trilogy, which also includes OEDIPUS THE KING (about 429 B.C.) and OEDIPUS AT COLONUS (about 407 B.C.), ANTIGONE suggests that Oedipus’ whole line is doomed to ultimate disaster.

Bibliography:

Kitto, H. D. F. Greek Tragedy: A Literary Study. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1954. Addresses types and elements of Greek tragedies, and compares Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Discusses problems with the early exit of Antigone and argues that she is more than “mere antithesis to Creon” who is “more than the stubborn fool who kills her.”

Melchinger, Siegfried. Sophocles. Translated by David A. Scrase. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1974. Provides a biography of Sophocles and explains Greek theater, chorus, staff, and actors, as well as each scene of Antigone.

Oudemans, Th. C....

(The entire section is 484 words.)