The Theban Plays by Sophocles – Part 3 – “Antigone”
The Theban Plays by Sophocles – Part 3 – “Antigone”
[At the Royal Palace]
Antigone – Ismene, what’s the latest in father’s curse? I haven’t really had much trouble. But there’s been an edict issued.
Ismene – Nothing since our 2 brothers killed each other and the Argive army left.
Antigone – Eteocles is to be buried with full honors while Polyneices is to be left out to rot, not to be mourned or buried. They’ve got guard to watch the body.
Ismene – Well, what should we do?
Antigone – Will you help me bury him?
Ismene – But it’s forbidden.
Antigone – Creon has no right to stop me.
Ismene – Father suffered and we suffer as a result of our family curse. Mother died and our 2 brothers died in a civil war. We’re all that’s left of the family. We’re women and don’t have any power, especially with Creon in power. I wish to ask the gods forgiveness for not performing the duty.
Antigone – I won’t force you to but I’m going to do it anyway. This is the only way to honor him. We owe more to the dead than to the living.
Ismene – I’m not dishonoring him I just can’t break the law.
Antigone – I’ll do it alone then.
Ismene – Do it silently. I won’t tell anyone either.
Antigone – Silence is worse. Heaven’s laws are greater than earth’s
Ismene – I can’t do it. I haven’t got the nerve.
Antigone – Well, I hate that you feel this way but stay out of my way. [Both leave]
[Chorus of Elders enter]
Chorus – The battle between the two armies went at it hammers and tongs. Eteocles was chosen by the people to rule and Polyneices was exiled but tried to win the city back by attacking it.
Creon [enters] – After all the horrors that have been inflicted on Thebes, there’s finally a peace. Eteocles is to be buried and Polyneices is to be left out to rot – unburied in shame.
Chorus – We understand and obey.
Creon – See that everybody else does the same. [Guard enters]
Guard – Sir, I regret to inform you… I don’t want to but… It wasn’t me… But it did happen…
Creon – Out with it!!
Guard – When we turned our heads from the body, someone tried to bury the body.
Chorus – Maybe the gods did it.
Creon – Quiet! The gods would never bury a traitor. You guards were bribed. If you don’t find who did it, I’ll hold you personally responsible for this. [Guard leaves]
Chorus – Some men rise up to dominate others but he’ll always be dominated by death. [Guard enters with Antigone] What’s this? Antigone, a prisoner? [Creon enters]
Creon – What’s all this?
Guard – Sir, the guards and I dug up the body and a dust storm blinded us. Once it ended, we saw this one here burying the body. She gave us a full confession.
Creon – Do you agree with this version of events?
Antigone – Yes.
Creon – [to guard] You’re clear of the charge. You may leave. [to Antigone] Did you know about my edict?
Antigone – I couldn’t help it. Everyone knew. It was everywhere.
Creon – Why did you break it?
Antigone – That wasn’t Zeus’s edict. Your edict was earthly, not heavenly. I’m not willing to cross the gods. You’ve got no right to override heavenly mandates to bury the dead. I’m not afraid of you.
Chorus – She’s a passionate one and doesn’t know how to bend. Just like her father.
Creon – I should have known that you’d do it. There’s no room for pride with you. If I let this stand, I’m no longer the leader. Go get Ismene to verify this story.
Antigone – What can you do apart from convicting and killing me?
Creon – That’s all I plan to do.
Antigone – What are you waiting for? I’ve agreed to everything that I’ve been accused of. Nothing is holier than to bury my brother. Everyone agrees with me but is too afraid to say so.
Creon – The chorus agree with me.
Antigone – They agree with me but you scare them.
Creon – Aren’t you ashamed?
Antigone – There’s nothing to be ashamed of it. It was a righteous act.
Creon – He was a traitor!
Antigone – Traitor or not, he was my brother and I have an obligation to him and to the gods to bury him. That’s more important than your edict.
Creon – The wicked aren’t worthy of honor. He killed this city’s champion, his brother, and he deserves this.
Antigone – Nevertheless, he deserves a proper burial
Creon – Clearly, Hades knows the difference between good and evil. You’ll find out soon yourself.
[Ismene enters accompanied by guards]
Creon – You! You’re even worse – a snake in the grass. I had 2 backstabbers under my roof. Care to confess anything?
Ismene – Yes, I share the guilt.
Antigone – No way, you tried to talk me out of it.
Ismene – I won’t leave you high and dry.
Antigone – The dead and Hades know that’s not true.
Ismene – Please, let me stand by you in this shitty time.
Antigone – No way, this is all my thing.
Ismene – Why are you being this way? Let me help you.
Antigone – Save yourself. You chose to live. I chose to die. Be happy. My life is spent serving the dead.
Creon – Both of you two are awful.
Ismene – Will you kill the betrothed to your son?
Creon – He’ll find other field to plough.
Ismene – He’ll never love another.
Creon – I don’t want my son to marry an evil woman.
Antigone – Haemon doesn’t deserve such a father. [Antigone and Ismene are led away]
Chorus – Consider yourself lucky if you’ve never known evil. We’ve been swimming in it for generations with no end in sight. [Haemon enters]
Creon – I guess you’re angry with me for condemning Antigone…
Haemon – I follow your example for guidance.
Creon – Your heart should follow the law. Men hope for obedient children to help them to fight their enemies. Please… this is my way. Any woman guilty of treason isn’t a good choice for a wife. This disobedience is the ruin of cities and ours is already on a rocky path.
Chorus – That’s a good point.
Haemon – The gods have given us reason and we ought to use it. I don’t wish to condemn to death anyone who offends you. You’re putting her to death for following the gods’ will. I’m not berating you but I think you’re wrong. Don’t be so rigid and slacken once in a while and be willing to change.
Chorus – He seems to have good words for a youth.
Creon – I won’t be lectured by a whippersnapper.
Haemon – My age can’t be overcome by wise words, it seems
Creon – Is it right to honor the unruly?
Haemon – I don’t want to respect evil-doers.
Creon – But that’s what she’s done.
Haemon – Nobody agrees with you.
Creon – Are they telling me how to rule? It’s mine to rule. You seem to be more on her side than mine.
Haemon – I want justice. You seem to be against it.
Creon – These are my prerogatives as a ruler.
Haemon – But you’re trampling on the gods’ wishes.
Creon – You’ll never marry that girl.
Haemon – If she dies, another will die.
Creon – Are you threatening me? You’ll regret it. I’ll bring her in here and kill her right in front of you.
Haemon – You’ll never see me again. Do what you will. [Leaves]
Chorus – That was intense. He went off in a huff.
Creon – Whatever he does, it won’t save those 2 girls.
Chorus – Are you going to kill both?
Creon – Well, not Ismene.
Chorus – But Antigone?
Creon – We’ll put her in a cave with a little food and wall her up. That way we don’t be responsible. The gods can step in if they want [leaves]
Chorus – Love seems to be at work, fighting for eternal laws. Creon is fighting the will of Aphrodite to have Haemon and Antigone marry. [Antigone enters]
Antigone – Citizens, this is my last day. I had so many plans in life. I won’t be married. I won’t have children. I’m going off to Hades instead.
Chorus – Sickness doesn’t take you, nor does violence… It’s your own fate that kills you.
Antigone – I’ve heard of those walking off to their doom but I don’t fear doom.
Chorus – She was in a much more exalted position than you. We are mortals, not gods.
Antigone – Can’t you wait until I’m dead to mock me?
Chorus – You went against the throne. You’ve fallen into the same fate as your father.
Antigone – We of the Labdacus family are doomed… my father, mother, brothers and now me.
Chorus – We praise you for your honor of your brother but you’ve committed a capital crime and that’s your ruin.
Antigone – I don’t regret it and no one feels sorry for me.
Creon [enters] – You… Get her out of here. I’m completely clean in all this. You’ve committed the crime and you must pay.
Antigone – I’ll see my father, mother and brothers. So much, I’ll never get to do in life… and for what? Because your law was made up on a whim and nobody supports you. Nothing is better than to defy an awful tyrant.
Chorus – This girl’s soul is burning with a great passion.
Creon – She knew the rules and did it anyway.
Antigone – Here I go off to die because I honor my doomed family and stood up to arbitrary, evil laws [leaves].
Chorus – Danae was also walled up, her behind a brass wall. But Antigone will not give birth to a great man, Theseus. [Teiresias enters]
Teiresias – Creon, I’ve come here to talk to you. The gods aren’t happy with what you’ve done. I’ve tried to assuage them… No use.
Creon – What are you saying, exactly?
Teiresias – Good counsel is the most valuable thing – you’re ill-tempered.
Creon – Careful now, you’re speaking to your king, you know.
Teiresias – You won’t like what I’ve got to say.
Creon – Out with it!
Teiresias – You’re not long for this world. Your actions will lead from one corpse to another. You’ve pissed off the gods and you’ll cause more death in your house. [leaves]
Chorus – You know, he’s never been wrong…
Creon – I know but I can’t change due to my pride. I’ll be seen as weak.
Chorus – You ought to listen. Go free her before it’s too late.
Creon – Give in? Well, only because the gods want it. [leaves]
Chorus – Bacchus, this is a cause for celebration. Thebes finally has something to celebrate! Finally, happy news.
Messenger – I bring some sad news. Although Creon’s been a good king…
Chorus – Tell us!
Messenger – Haemon has killed himself.
Chorus – The prophet was right.
[Eurydice, Creon’s wife enters]
Eurydice – What’s the news?
Messenger – The dogs ate Polyneices’s body. Creon panicked and went to Antigone’s cave. She was found hanged. Haemon saw this and killed himself. [Eurydice leaves]
Chorus – She’s freaked out about this…
Messenger – I can’t say that I blame her. She wants to be alone, I guess.
Chorus – But she left so quietly. That’s never good.
Messenger – You’re right. I’ll check up on her.
[Creon enters with Haemon on a bier]
Chorus – Here he comes. No need to say it but it’s his fault.
Creon – Fucking hell!! My own words and actions did this. This is awful.
Chorus – We warned you. Haemon warned you. Teiresias warned you.
Creon – I know and I have to live with this.
Messenger – Sir, I’ve got more bad news. The queen is dead.
Creon – Fucking hell! Is there no end to this misery? My son? My wife? There’s nothing left.
Messenger – She stabbed herself in the heart. After Haemon and your other son Megaleus dying in the civil war, it was all too much for her.
Creon – Fuck!! This is all my fault. I hope for death because nothing can ever be good to me again. Please, take me away.
Chorus – Wisdom is the biggest part of the happiest, as well as reverence toward the gods. Proud words come back to bite you in the ass and teach these who receive it to be wise.
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