Antigone Summary and Analysis of Lines 1091-1350

The Chorus is terrified by Teiresias' prophecies, for they claim he has never been wrong before. Creon is shaken too, for the first time - and says he knows giving in would be terrible, but standing firm in the wake of such prognostication would invite disaster. He asks the Chorus for advice, and they tell him to let the girl go, and to build a tomb for Polyneices. They tell him that he must do it himself, as well. Creon takes his attendants and goes to follow their instructions. As they go, the Chorus sings the praises of Bacchus, and asks him to look over their city of Thebes and hear their hymns of praise. They need someone to assuage the plague over the Labdacus family and the Theban people, and they ask Bacchus to allow the people of the city to finally enjoy ecstasy. A Messenger arrives, revealing to the Chorus that great misfortune has befallen Creon. Haemon is dead by his own hand. Eurydice, wife of Creon, comes down to see the Messenger. She has heard that great horror has befallen her house, but she wants to hear the whole story from the Messenger.

Creon and his men gave Polyneices proper burial rites, as the Chorus had urged. After burying the body they went to free Antigone, but before going down into her tomb, they heard the sounds of Haemon, sobbing. Upon opening the tomb, they found that Antigone had hanged herself. Haemon was holding her body around the waist. Creon urged his son to come out of the cave, but Haemon instead looked at his father with poison and hatred and drew his sword against him. Failing to wound his father, Haemon turned the sword on himself.

When the Messenger completes his story, the Chorus notices that Eurydice is gone. The Messenger goes after her at the Chorus' urging to make sure nothing untoward has happened. Creon returns carrying Haemon's body, devastated by guilt, knowing that he has brought this plague upon his family. Immediately, a second Messenger emerges to inform Creon that Eurydice has killed herself. As she committed suicide, she cursed her husband. Weeping and bewailing his fate, Creon asks the servants to lead him away. No longer stubborn or proud, he knows that he has brought about the deaths of his wife and son. He stood by his conception of justice, but in doing so he defied the gods' laws and lost his son and wife. The Chorus comes forward to warn that pride brings retribution, and to declare that the greatest form of wisdom is an abdication of pride.


Creon's most telling line in Antigone comes after Teiresias' exit, when he admits that it is so painful to "pull back" or give in to Antigone, since it "goes against my heart," but he cannot fight against "necessity," and thus goes to free her from the tomb. In other words, he still differentiates between what he believes is right and what must be done - in this gap, then, we see his tragic flaw. Indeed, if Creon suddenly threw himself on the mercy of the Gods, and begged forgiveness for the errors of his ways, the ending would be in doubt - for he would be redeemed in his judgment and the lesson would be learned. But instead he refuses all self-examination, and sees Teiresias' prophecy as something that simply must be "dealt with," as if it has nothing to do with the absolute truth. In fact, even when Teiresias is claiming the supremacy of divine law, Creon is still denying its power - implying that it's not right and doesn't deserve respect, but that still he will follow through with it because he doesn't want to die. Clearly, he will have to suffer in order to fully admit that he is incapable of seeing or setting the parameters for true law.

Haemon's death, according to the Messenger, occurred in a flash of rage - one that nearly consumed Creon as well. When Creon and his men opened Antigone's tomb, they found Haemon clutching the dead girl's waist. Haemon's first instinct was to stab his father - an expression of primal rage over both the murder of his lover and his father's fall from the pedestal upon which Haemon had placed him. Remember that upon Haemon's entrance all he asked was that his father guide him in the right direction, but now he sees that he's been led astray - and his first instinct is to destroy that which he once loved. But missing his father with his sword is symbolic of the larger problem - that Creon still has learned nothing, and that wounding him or killing him would simply give him more ammunition to support his disdain of the passion of women and of youth. In killing himself, Haemon sets himself free from the legacy of a cursed father and from a life without love.

Eurydice seems to play absolutely no role in the rest of the drama, but suddenly appears at the end to take her own life, merely adding to the body count. At first this may seem like overkill, but this moment is rather a precise fulfillment of the terms of Teiresias' prophecy. Indeed, Haemon's life is exchanged for Polyneices' - a death characterized by shame and vengefulness. Eurydice, meanwhile, will atone for Antigone's death - she dies much like Antigone, cursing Creon to the end, abdicating any sense of his self-ascribed power.

Creon asks for death, as his misery and guilt are too much to bear, but the gods do not oblige. Finally Creon is contrite - he knows that he killed Haemon and Antigone and shamed Polyneices, and that he can no longer be king or live among humans. In a final, cruelly ironic twist, he asks for the same fate as those he killed - a death of suffering - but the Chorus makes it clear that his destiny is to live out his days in the deepest regret and shame, as a symbol that no mortal can escape his divine fate. The Chorus ends with a distillation of the theme that it is wisdom - not power, money, love or good deeds - that is the key to a blessed life. With wisdom comes reverence from the gods, a disdain of arrogance, and the freedom from suffering that comes from believing in the omnipotence of man.

Ultimately, however, we're left with the question of whether Antigone is a true martyr - an innocent victim - or whether she also bears responsibility for her own death. Critics of the time made a number of charges against Antigone - all seemingly tied to her transgressions as a woman. She "leaves her home in the dark before dawn to conspire with her sister, and such activity in the dark is forbidden to women. She takes on burial, which is men's work. She does not accept male authority, and she threatens the order of the city by violating an order of the king" (Woodruff xvii). Perhaps most damning of all, she seems to make a conscious choice to give up the life of a woman (marriage, children, etc.) to stand by her principles - something that must have truly infuriated the men of the time. But Antigone's argument for the power of unwritten, divine law is particularly cogent and seems to deny any attempts to impose a tragic flaw upon her. Her reasoning, simply put, is that it doesn't matter what man conceives of as right and wrong for himself, and it certainly doesn't matter if these things are written in stone. Rather, it is more important to follow divine truth - the rights and wrongs of the heart - to ensure that man will live in accordance with the will of the gods. As a result, there is no precise law - only a guide what should be done in a given circumstance - and though she will be punished for her supposed transgression by losing her life, and regrets such a cruel fate, Antigone cannot take back what she has done because it is the only thing she could have done as a child of the gods.