The Oedipus Trilogy By Sophocles Summary and Analysis: Antigone Lines 1274-1470

Summary

A messenger announces that Antigone has hanged herself and that Haemon, agonized at her death, has also killed himself. On hearing the news, Eurydice, the queen, retreats into the palace where she, too, kills herself after cursing her husband, Creon. Mourning his wife and son, Creon blames himself for all the tragedy that has occurred and prays that his life will end soon.

Analysis

The final scene ends not only Antigone, but the entire sequence of tales in the Oedipus Trilogy. After this sad end, with Creon led off in despair, there will be no more possibilities — tragic or otherwise — for the House of Oedipus.

All the tragic events of the episode — Antigone's hanging, Haemon's suicide, the death of the queen — result from Creon's initial determination to ensure the stability of the city by punishing its enemy even after death, and his stubborn insistence on his orders, even when challenged on the grounds of divine law and human decency. Creon's change of heart comes too late to save anyone, but just in time to allow the proud king a last heartbreaking confrontation with his son. In this, fate seems to condemn Creon with particular — perhaps justified — harshness.

Modern readers may wonder why the climactic scene in the tomb is not dramatized on stage. Greek theatrical tradition demanded that scenes of violence be described rather than actually seen. The emphasis of the drama was on poetry and horrifying or shocking action would distract the audience from the power of the words spoken by the actors.

The last scene of Antigone, like the final scene of Oedipus the King, offers the spectacle of a proud, confident, decisive king brought low by fate. In his first appearance in this play, Creon energetically describes his vision of the ideal king to his people, confident that he will grow into the role with experience. Faced with his failure, Creon suffers not only a loss of self-esteem, but a loss of identity itself, as he cries: "I don't even exist — I'm no one. Nothing" (1446).

Note that in contrast to the philosophical tone of the last lines of Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, the chorus in Antigone chants a cold, judgmental pronouncement on the tragedy. Rather than offering comfort or wondering in awe at the power of fate, the chorus here implies that Creon gets what he deserves, in a kind of direct divine retribution. The only solace, it seems, is the wisdom the observers can gain in watching the destruction of the proud.

Glossary

Cadmus a Phoenician prince and founder of Thebes; he kills a dragon and sows its teeth, from which many armed men rise, fighting each other, until only five are left to help him build the city.

Hecate a goddess of the moon, earth, and underground realm of the dead, later regarded as the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft.

Pluto the god ruling over the lower world.

Megareus son of Creon and Eurydice. He was killed defending Thebes during the attack of the Seven.

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