Episode II

Enter the Sentry, bringing ANTIGONE guarded by two more soldiers.

 

SENTRY:

            We’ve got her.  Here’s the woman that did the deed.  We found her in the act of burying him.  Where’s the king?

 

CHORUS:

            He is just coming out of the palace now.

 

Enter Creon.

 

CREON.

            What’s this?  What am I just in time to see?

 

SENTRY:

            My lord, an oath’s[1] a very dangerous thing.  Second thoughts may prove us liars.[2]  Not long since I swore I wouldn’t trust myself again to face your threats; you gave me a drubbing the first time.  But there’s no pleasure like an unexpected pleasure, not by a long way.[3]  And so I’ve come again, through against my solemn oath.  And I’ve brought this lady, who’s been caught in the act of setting the grave in order.  And no casting lots for it this time – the prize is mine and no one else’s.  So take her; judge and convict her.  I’m free, I hope, and quit of this horrible business.

 

CREON:

            How did you find her?  Where have you brought her from?

 

SENTRY:

            She was burying the man with her own hands, and that’s the truth.

 

CREON:

            Are you in your senses?  Do you know what you are saying?[4]

 

SENTRY:

            I saw her myself, burying the body of the man whom you said not to bury.  Don’t I speak plain?[5]

 

CREON:

            How did she come to be seen and taken in the act?      

 

SENTRY:

            It was this way.  After I got back to the place, with all your threats and curses ringing in my ears, we swept off all the earth that covered the body, and left it a sodden naked corpse again; then sat up on the hill, on the windward side, keeping clear of the stench of him, as far as we could; all of us keeping each other up to the mark, with pretty sharp speaking, not to be caught napping this time.  So this went on some hours, till the flaming sun was high in the top of the sky, and the heat was blazing.  Suddenly a storm of dust, like a plague from heaven swept over the ground, stripping the trees stark bare, filing the sky; you had to shut your eyes to stand against it.[6]  When at last it stopped, there was the girl, screaming like an angry bird[7], when it finds its nest left empty and little ones gone.  Just like that she screamed, seeing the body naked, crying and cursing the ones that had done it.

            Then she picks up the dry earth in her hands, and pouring out a fine bronze urn she’s brought she makes her offering three times[8] to the dead.  Soon as we saw it, down we came and caught her.  She wasn’t at all frightened.  And so we charged her with what she’d done before, and this.  She admitted it, I’m glad to say – though sorry too, in a way.  It’s good to save your own skin, but a pity to have to see another get into trouble, whom you’ve no grudge against.[9]  However, I can’t say I’ve ever valued anyone else’s life more than my own, and that’s the honest truth.[10]

 

CREON (to Antigone):

            Well, what do you say – you, hiding your head there: do you admit, or do you deny the deed?

 

ANTIGONE:

            I do admit it.  I do not deny it.

 

CREON (to Sentry):

            You – you may go.  You are discharged from blame.

Exit SENTRY.

            Now tell me, in as few words as you can, did you know the order forbidding such an act?

 

ANTIGONE:

            I knew it, naturally.  It was plain enough. 

 

 

CREON:

            And yet you dared to contravene it?

 

ANTIGONE:

            Yes.  That order did not come from God.  Justice, that dwells with the gods below, knows no such law.  I did not think your edicts strong enough to overrule the unwritten unalterable laws of God and heaven, you being only a man.[11]  They are not of yesterday or today, but everlasting, though where they came from, none can tell.  Guilty of their transgression before God I cannot be, for any man on earth.[12]  I knew that I should have to die, of course, with or without your order.[13]  If it bee soon, so much the better.  Living in daily torment as I do, who would not be glad to die?

            This punishment will not be any pain.  Only if I had let my mother’s son lie there unburied, then I could not have bourne it.[14]  This I can bear.  Does that seem foolish to you? Or is it you that are foolish to judge me so?[15] 

 

CHORUS:

            She shows her father’s stubborn spirit: foolish not to give way when everything’s against her.[16]

 

CREON:

            Ah, but you’ll see.  The over-obstinate spirit is soonest broken; as the strongest iron will snap if over-tempered in the fire to brittleness.[17]  A little halter is enough to break the wildest horse.  Proud thoughts do not sit well upon subordinates.  This girl’s proud spirit was first evidence when she broke the law; and now, to add insult to her injury, she goats over her deed.[18]  But, as I live, she shall not flout my orders with impunity.  My sister’s child – ay, were she even nearer, nearest and dearest, she should not escape full punishment[19] - she, and her sister too, her partner, doubtless, in this burying.[20]

            Let her be fetched!  She was in the house just now; I saw her, hardly in her right mind either.  Often the thoughts of those who plan dark deed betray themselves before the deed is done.  The criminal who being caught still tires to make fair excuse, is damned indeed.[21]

 

ANTIGONE:

            Now you have caught, will you do more than kill me?

CREON:

            No, nothing more; that is all I could wish.

           

ANTIGONE:

            Why then delay?  There is nothing that you can say that I should wish to hear, as nothing I say can weigh with you.[22]  I have given my brother burial.  What greater honor could I wish?  All these would say that what I did was honourable, but fear locks up their lips.[23]  To speak and act just as he likes is a king’s prerogative.[24]

 

CREON:

            You are wrong.  None of my subjects thinks as you do.

 

ANTIGONE:

            Yes, sir, they do; but dare not tell you so.[25]

 

CREON:

            And you are not only alone, but unashamed.

 

ANTIGONE:

            There is no shame in honouring my brother.[26]

 

CREON:

            Was not his enemy, who died with him, your brother?

 

ANTIGONE:

            Yes, both were brothers, both of the same parents.

 

CREON:

            You honour one, and so insult the other.[27]

 

ANTIGONE:

            He that is dead will not accuse me of that.

 

CREON:

            He will, if you honour him no more than the traitor.

 

 

 

 

 

ANTIGONE:

            It was not a slave, but his brother, that died with him.[28]

 

CREON:

            Attacking his country, while the other defended it.

 

ANTIGONE:

            Even so, we have a duty to the dead.[29]

 

CREON:

            Not to give equal honour to good and bad.[30]

 

ANTIGONE:

            Who knows?  In the country of the dead that may be the law.[31]

 

CREON:

            An enemy can’t be a friend, even when dead.[32]

 

ANTIGONE:

            My was is to share my love, not share my hate.[33]

 

CREON:

            Go then, and share your love among the dead.  We’ll have no woman’s law here, while I live.[34]

 

Enter ISMENE from the Palace.

 

CHORUS:

            Here comes Ismene, weeping in sisterly sorrow; a darkened brow, flushed face, and the fair cheek marred with flooding rain.

 

CREON:

            You crawling viper!  Lurking in my house to suck my blood!  Two traitors unbeknown plotting against my throne.  Do you admit to a share in this burying, or deny all knowledge?

 

 

\

ISMENE:

            I did it – yes – if she will let me say so.  I am as much to blame as she is.[35]

 

ANTIGONE:

            No.  That is not just.  You would not lend a hand and I refused your help in what I did.[36]

 

ISMENE:

            But I am not ashamed to stand beside you now in your hour of trial, Antigone.

 

ANTIGONE:

            Whose was the deed, Death and the dead are witness.  I love no friend whose love is only words.[37]

 

ISMENE:

            O sister, sister, let me share your death, share in the tribute of honour to him that is dead.

 

ANTIGONE:

            You shall not die with me.  You shall not claim that which you would not touch.  One death is enough.[38]

 

ISMENE:

            How can I bear to live, if you must die?[39]

 

ANTIGONE:

            Ask Creon.  Is not he the one you care for?

 

ISMENE:

            You do yourself no good to taunt me so.

 

ANTIGONE:

            Indeed no: even my jests are bitter pains.

 

ISMENE:

            But how, O tell me how can I help you?

 

ANTIGONE:

            Help yourself.  I shall not stand in your way.

 

ISMENE:

            For pity, Antigone – can I not die with you?

 

ANTIGONE:

            You chose; life was your choice, when mine was death.

 

ISMENE:

            Although I warned you that it would be so.

 

ANTIGONE:

            Your way seemed right to some, to others mine.[40]

 

ISMENE:

            But now both in the wrong, and both condemned.

 

ANTIGONE:

            No, no.  You live.  My heart was long since dead, so it was right for me to help the dead.[41]

 

CREON:

            I do believe the creatures both  are mad; only lately crazed, the other from her birth.

 

ISMENE:

            Is it not likely, sir?  The strongest mind cannot but break under misfortune’s blows.[42]

 

CREON:

            Yours did, when you threw in your lot with hers.

 

ISMENE:

            How could I wish to live without my sister?

 

CREON:

            You have no sister.  Count her dead already.

 

ISMENE:

            You could not take her – kill your own sons’ bride?[43]

 

CREON:

            Oh, there are other fields for him to plough.[44]

 

ISMENE:

            No truer troth was ever made than theirs.[45]

 

CREON:

            No son of mine shall wed so vile a creature.

 

ANTIGONE:

            O Haemon, can your father spite you so? 

 

CREON:

            You and your paramour, I hate you both.

 

CHORUS:

            Sir, would you take her from your own son’s arms?

 

CREON:

            Not I, but death shall take her.

 

CHORUS:

            Be it so.  Her death, it seems, is certain.

 

CREON:

            Certain it is.  No more delay.  Take them, and keep them within – the proper place for women.  None so brave as not to look for some way to escape when they see life stand face to face with death.

 

The women are taken away.

 


 

[1] Oath -A solemn, formal declaration or promise to fulfill a pledge, often calling on God, a god, or a sacred object as witness. The words or formula of such a declaration or promise. Something declared or promised. An irreverent or blasphemous use of the name of God or something held sacred. An imprecation; a curse.

[2] Did the Sentry just call Creon a “liar?”

[3] Pleasure – so the Sentry returns only to prove himself not a liar and to shove the truth into Creon’s face.

[4] Creon is in disbelief because Antigone as a royal would have known the punishment and would not have gone against the wishes of the king – Creon.  She pushes his hand by doing burying her brother – will he or won’t he go through with the death sentence?

[5] Here the Sentry talks back to Creon again, out of frustration or anger and Creon lets him get away with it.

[6] Is this help from the gods to give Antigone cover to bury her brother?  Is it nature supporting her in her act of defiance?  Does Nature and the Gods know that it is right to bury the dead?

[7] Again the bird image – birds are omen bringers in Greek Myth.

[8] The sacred three.

[9] Good sentiments – slight remorse, but . . .

[10] Quote – the sentry is no idiot, he understands the wrath to come from Creon and if he had not caught Antigone he would be the one punished.

[11] God’s laws overrule Man’s laws.

[12] Antigone cannot go against God’s law because her soul is more important than her body.

[13] Death is inevitable and she might as well use her life in service of the gods than in service of man.

[14] It is the job of the oldest woman in the family to take care of the funeral and mourning rituals.  So it is her duty to her brother but also to her family that she bury Polynices.

[15] Quote: Who is the fool here?  Creon or Antigone or both?

[16] Pigheaded like father and Uncle.

[17] This quote can apply to both Antigone and Creon – parallel characters.  This sentiment will be repeated by Haemon later.

[18] Human made law.

[19] No one is above the law.

[20] Punishment even for royalty – but Ismene is not guilty.

[21] Quote – guilty still refuse to admit guilt.

[22] She understands that they are both stubborn.

[23] She refers to the chorus and the state fear that Creon professes as the new king.

[24] A King’s word is law.  Also a commentary on Power and the use of it – with power comes responsibility to country, citizens, the good of the populace and to the gods.

[25] Creon rules by fear

[26] Quote

[27] Quote

[28] Interesting idea of family: civil war, even though the brothers were enemies they would still want the other to be treated with respect.  The idea of a brother that is picked on my his brother but when threatened outside of the family is fiercely protected by his former antagonist.

[29] Quote:  the dead still must be buried because they cannot do it themselves, the gods decreed it.

[30] Good point on Creon’s part, but what is good and what is bad?

[31] Good response: what are humans to decide the laws of the gods?

[32] Is this true?

[33] This quote defines who Antigone is as a person, she sees past this petty life and sees higher purpose.

[34] Creon is a sexist and pigheaded in his rule.

[35] Why does Ismene take the blame as well?

[36] As sisters, are they responsible for each other’s actions?  Is there shared guilt?  Why is Ismene trying to take blame as well?

[37] She cannot love those who do not act but only say they will.

[38] Is Antigone being self-rightous?

[39] Is that the answer?  Ismene is afraid of being alone?

[40] Quote

[41] Antigone has lost love of life and sacrifices herself for the dead.

[42] Ismene is not stupid, psychologically both Antigone and Ismene have lost their family and may be mentally unstable.

[43] Here is the point of Ismene in the play – she tells us that Haemon, Creon’s son, is also Antigone’s fiancé.  Many royal families, to consolidate power, would intermarry their children so this is not very far fetched although if you look at the family tree Haemon and Antigone are 1st cousins and 2nd cousins at the same time.

[44] Crude reference to sexual intercourse.

[45] Haemon and Antigone love each other as well.