The Oedipus Trilogy By Sophocles Summary and Analysis: Antigone Lines 970-1034

Summary

Before Creon orders the guards to take her away to her death, Antigone reflects on her decision to bury her brother and its sad consequences.

Analysis

In the culmination of the continuing theme of loving Death, Antigone calls the chamber where she will be buried alive "my bridal-bed" (978). Faced with the deadly consequences of her action, Antigone seems overwhelmed, even regretful. Only in her last speech does she fully regain her characteristic strength, calling upon the men of Thebes to witness her suffering in the name of divine law.

At Creon's order for the guards to take her away, Antigone nearly crumbles in anguish. Before recovering her courage, she cries out: "Oh, god, the voice of death. It's come, it's here" (1025).

The moment resembles the scene at the conclusion of Verdi's opera Aida, when the heroine and her love Ramades — who are also entombed alive — hear their funeral dirge above the sealed chamber, and suddenly despair. In both stories of passionate heroines who embrace death willingly, the drama demands an instant of wild resistance, a proof that the character does in fact cherish the life she is on the verge of losing.

Antigone, the audiences sees, is not a heartless fanatic. She truly mourns the life she leaves, and, at this instant, fears the consequences of her decision.

Also in this scene, rather surprisingly, Antigone explains why she would never have defied Creon's order for the sake of a husband or her own children. The passage seems to contradict Antigone's devotion to the laws of the gods and undercuts her idealism. The tone of her argument seems uncharacteristic of Antigone, who has expressed her convictions strongly all along — even while lamenting her approaching death.

Translator Robert Fagles traces the logic Antigone uses to the Histories of Herodotus, in a story of a Persian woman who saves her brother rather than her husband or children. But he adds that Antigone's rationale would make better sense had she been able to save Polynices, rather than just bury him.

The speech, scholars agree, is troubling, and some readers have even raised the possibility that Sophocles did not write it at all. Fagles, however, includes the passage, suggesting that Antigone is speaking to Polynices here, the brother for whom she has sacrificed the possibility of husband and children.

Glossary

Persephone the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, abducted by Hades to be his wife in the lower world. The Queen of Hades.

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