Summary and Analysis: <i>Antigone</i>
Tiresias warns Creon that the gods disapprove of the desecration of Polynices' corpse and will punish him with the death of his own son, Haemon. Creon dismisses Tiresias in anger, accusing him, like the sentry, of taking bribes, but declares his determination to bury Polynices and free Antigone.
Before Antigone was taken away to die, she cried out: "What law of the mighty gods have I transgressed?" (1013). Faced with death for upholding divine law, Antigone might have expected a miraculous rescue, proof of the gods' protection. Instead, she leaves the city feeling utterly abandoned by the gods.
In this scene, the blind prophet Tiresias makes clear that the gods are not indifferent to Antigone, although her name is never mentioned. While the gods do not intercede for Antigone directly, Tiresias' ritual augury reveals that her cause — the burial of her brother — is just. The gods, offended by Creon's refusal to bury Polynices, threaten the life of his own son. Given this prophetic warning, the pious response would be to bury Polynices immediately, and — although this is never mentioned — free the woman who upheld the law of the gods. The moral victory, muted as it is, goes to Antigone.
As in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, Tiresias' prophetic truth meets with anger and rejection. Like Oedipus, Creon refuses to believe Tiresias' warning because it contradicts his own sense of responsibility and moral scruples. Like Oedipus, Creon also accuses Tiresias of lying and of using his prophetic power for personal advantage. But unlike Oedipus, Creon proves himself open to persuasion, as he suddenly yields to the prophet's advice and rushes off — too late — to bury Polynices and free Antigone.
Note the paradox of Tiresias' explanation of the gods' fateful justice — a corpse for a corpse — and his summary of Creon's crime: keeping a dead body above ground and placing a living body beneath it. This outrage against the natural order of things springs from Creon's pride and offends the majesty of the gods deeply.
augury a divination from omens. Here it refers to the ritual sacrifice of an animal and the examination of its organs for an indication of the future.
Sardis capital of ancient Lydia. Here, a place known for precious metals.