The Oedipus Trilogy By Sophocles Summary and Analysis: Antigone Lines 701-878

Summary

Creon's son, Haemon, reasons with his father to change his mind and free Antigone in order to avoid offending those citizens who side with her. Creon rejects his son's advice fiercely and threatens to kill Antigone right in front of him. Haemon leaves, declaring that Creon will never see him again. Alone, Creon tells the chorus that he will let Ismene go, but he intends to wall Antigone up alive, to die of starvation.

Analysis

Haemon's dialogue with his father makes clear Creon's inflexibility and arrogance in this difficult situation. Respectfully, Haemon approaches Creon and offers him information that should have an effect on any rational ruler's decision. The people of Thebes, Haemon reports, have taken Antigone as their heroine and will not tolerate her execution.

Note especially here that Haemon does not plead for Antigone's life on the basis of his love for her or his desire to marry her. Haemon's argument could come from any close advisor, and reason demands that Creon listen and weigh it carefully.

Creon, however, cannot take advice from his son, and the formal conversation breaks down into bickering and accusations. Note that Creon's main charge is that his son has become Antigone's ally — a "woman's accomplice" (837) and "woman's slave" (848) — rather than the supporter of his father, right or wrong. Haemon, like Antigone, appeals to the higher law of the gods, but Creon sees Anarchy — which he personifies as a woman — as the greatest crime of all. Unaware of his own pride and arrogance, Creon thrashes out wildly at all who dare question his authority.

However much he condemns his son, Creon's decision about the method of Antigone's execution indicates that Haemon's argument has had some effect. Conscious that he cannot count on the support of the city — which is essential if Antigone is to be publicly stoned to death — he determines to carry out the sentence in isolation, in a manner that will not involve the people of Thebes at all.

Furthermore, the execution suits Creon because he imagines it will diminish Antigone's strong passion and sense of purpose. In her sealed tomb, Creon gloats, Antigone can worship her only god, Death, and come, too late, to a clear understanding of her wrongs. Ironically, Creon will come to the same understanding about himself, in the conclusion of the drama. For now, however, even Death, in Creon's view, must serve his royal will.

Note that the chorus worries about Haemon's sudden departure, hinting that he may be angry enough to commit some violence. The reference foreshadows the scene in the tomb, when Haemon will attack his father before killing himself.

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