Main Issues in Antigone Play

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The action of “Antigone” follows on from the Theban civil war, in which the two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, died fighting each other for the throne of Thebes after Eteocles had refused to give up the crown to his brother as their father Oedipus had prescribed.Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, has declared that Eteocles is to be honoured and Polynices is to be disgraced by leaving his body unburied on the battlefield (a harsh and shameful punishment at the time).

As the play begins, Antigone vows to bury her brother Polynices’ body in defiance of Creon’s edict, although her sister Ismene refuses to help her, fearing the death penalty.Creon, with the support of the Chorus of elders, repeats his edict regarding the disposal of Polynices’ body, but a fearful sentry enters to report that Antigone has in fact buried her brother’s body. Creon, furious at this wilful disobedience, questions Antigone over her actions, but she does not deny what she has done and argues unflinchingly with Creon about the morality of his edict and the morality of her deeds.

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Despite her innocence, Ismene is also summoned and interrogated and tries to confess falsely to the crime, wishing to die alongside her sister, but Antigone insists on shouldering full responsibility. Creon’s son, Haemon, who is betrothed to Antigone pledges allegiance to his father’s will but then gently tries to persuade his father to spare Antigone, The two men are soon bitterly insulting each other and eventually Haemon storms out, vowing never to see Creon again. Creon decides to spare Ismene but rules that Antigone should be buried alive in a cave as punishment for her transgressions. She is brought out of the house, bewailing her fate but still vigorously defending her actions, and is taken away to her living tomb, to expressions of great sorrow by the Chorus.Oedipus was not a man who purposely tried to sleep with his mother out of carnal lust or otherwise. He was discarded from his family as a child, and an Oracle told him that his destiny was to slay his father and wed his mother. Oedipus grew up with foster parents, and much of his energy was spent in assuring that the prophecies would not come true. He stayed away from his foster father, and not knowing that he was abandoned as a child, and celebrated the fact that he did not slay his father when he passed away.

The audience in the play knows otherwise – Oedipus’ life is tragic and one cannot escape Fate.The whole play builds up to one thing – Oedipus finding out that he has already committed the sins he so longs to rebel against. He is warned by his wife (who unknowingly is his mother) to not delve into the truth, but he ignores her and she eventually hangs herself and out of sheer hopelessness he gouges out his own eyes in torment. Other than the standard Greek self-pity, he is also most worried about the Fate of his daughters.

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Main Issues In Antigone Play. (2019, Jun 02). Retrieved from