Category: Drama
Genres: Tragedy
Level 11.74 1:16 h 29.2 mb
Although Antigone is the third play in the series written by Sophocles, it was the first written. In Antigone, the sons of Oedipus kill one another after their father loses the throne. Antigone is the daughter of one of these sons and believes her father deserves a proper burial. The story is a tragedy written before 441. Read this classic tale based on the Theban legend.



Translated by
Edward Hayes Plumptre


Dramatis Personæ.

Creon (King of Thebes)

Hæmon (son of Creon)

Teiresias (a blind seer)


First Messenger

Second Messenger

Eurydice (wife of Creon)

Antigone (daughter of Œdipus)

Ismene (daughter of Œdipus)

Chorus of Theban Elders.

SCENE — Thebes, in front of the Palace. Early morning. Hills in the distance on the left; on the right the city.

Enter Antigone and Ismene.

Antig. Ismene, mine own sister, darling one!
Is there, of ills that sprang from Œdipus,
One left that Zeus will fail to bring on us,
The two who yet remain? Nought is there sad,
Nought full of sorrow, steeped in sin or shame,
But I have seen it in thy woes and mine.
And now, what new decree is this they tell,
Our captain has enjoined on all the State?
Know’st thou? Hast heard? Or are they hid from thee,
The ills that come from foes upon our friends?⁠

Ism. No tidings of our friends, Antigone,
Pleasant or painful, since that hour have come,
When we, two sisters, lost our brothers twain,
In one day dying by a twofold blow.
And since in this last night the Argive host
Has left the field, I nothing further know,
Nor brightening fortune, nor increasing gloom.

Antig. That knew I well, and therefore sent for thee
Beyond the gates, that thou mav’st hear alone.

Ism. What meanest thou? It is but all too clear⁠
Thou broodest darkly o’er some tale of woe.

Antig. And does not Creon treat our brothers twain
One with the rites of burial, one with shame?
Eteocles, so say they, he interred
Fitly, with wonted rites, as one held meet
To pass with honour to the dead below.
But for the corpse of Polyneikes, slain
So piteously, they say, he has proclaimed
To all the citizens, that none should give
His body burial, or bewail his fate,
But leave it still unwept, unsepulchred,
A prize full rich for birds that scent afar⁠
Their sweet repast. So Creon bids, they say,
Creon the good, commanding thee and me, —
Yes, me, I say, — and now is coming here,
To make it clear to those who know it not,
And counts the matter not a trivial thing;
But whoso does the things that he forbids,
For him there waits within the city’s walls
The death of stoning. Thus, then, stands thy case;
And quickly thou wilt show, if thou art born
Of noble nature, or degenerate liv’st,
Base child of honoured parents.

Ism. ⁠How could I,
Ο daring in thy mood, in this our plight,
Or breaking law or keeping, aught avail?⁠

Antig. Wilt thou with me share risk and toil? Look to it.

Ism. What risk is this? What purpose fills thy mind?

Antig. Wilt thou help this my hand to lift the dead?

Ism. Mean’st thou to bury him, when law forbids?

Antig. He is my brother; yes, and thine, though thou
Would’st fain he were not. I desert him not.

Ism. Ο daring one, when Creon bids thee not?

Antig. He has no right to keep me from mine own.

Ism. Ah me! remember, sister, how our sire
Perished, with hate o’erwhelmed and infamy,
From evils that himself did bring to light,
With his own hand himself of eyes bereaving,
And how his wife and mother, both in one,
With twisted cordage, cast away her life;
And thirdly, how our brothers in one day
In suicidal conflict wrought the doom,
Each of the other. And we twain are left;
And think, how much more wretchedly than all
We twain shall perish, if, against the law,
We brave our sovereign’s edict and his power.
This first we need remember, we were born
Women; as such, not made to strive with men.
And next, that they who reign surpass in strength,
And we must bow to this, and worse than this.
I then, entreating those that dwell below,
To judge me leniently, as forced to yield,
Will hearken to our rulers. Over-zeal
That still will meddle, little wisdom shows.

Antig. I will not ask thee, nor though thou should’st wish
To do it, should’st thou join with my consent.
Do what thou wilt, I go to bury him;
And good it were, in doing this, to die.
​Loved I shall be with him whom I have loved,
Guilty of holiest crime. More time is mine
In which to share the favour of the dead,
Than that of those who live; for I shall rest
For ever there. But thou, if thus thou please,
Count as dishonoured what the Gods approve.

Ism. I do them no dishonor, but I find
Myself too weak to war against the State.

Antig. Make what excuse thou wilt, I go to rear⁠
A grave above the brother whom I love.

Ism. Ah, wretched me! how much I fear for thee!

Antig. Fear not for me. Thine own fate raise to safety.

Ism. At any rate, disclose this deed to none;
Keep it close hidden: I will hide it too.

Antig. Speak out! I bid thee. Silent, thou wilt be
More hateful to me, if thou fail to tell
My deed to all men.

Ism. ⁠Fiery is thy mood,
Although thy deeds the very blood might chill.

Antig. I know I please the souls I ought to please.

Ism. Yes, if thou canst; thou seek’st the impossible.⁠

Antig. When strength shall fail me, then I ‘ll cease to strive.

Ism. We should not hunt the impossible at all.

Antig. If thou speak thus, my hatred wilt thou gain,
And rightly wilt be hated of the dead.
Leave me and my ill counsel to endure
This dreadful doom. I shall not suffer aught
So evil as a death dishonourable.

Ism. Go, then, if so thou wilt. Of this be sure,
Wild as thou art, thy friends must love thee still.


Enter Chorus of Theban Elders.

Stroph. I.

Chor. Ο light of yon bright sun,
Fairest of all that ever shone on Thebes,
⁠Thebes with her seven high gates,
⁠Thou didst appear that day,
⁠Eye of the golden dawn,
⁠O’er Dirké’s streams advancing,
⁠Driving with quickened curb,
⁠In haste of headlong flight,
The warrior who, in panoply of proof,
From Argos came, with shield of glittering white;
⁠Whom Polyneikes brought,
⁠Roused by the strife of tongues
⁠Against our fatherland,
⁠As eagle shrieking shrill,
⁠He hovered o’er our land,
⁠With snow-white wing bedecked,
⁠Begirt with myriad arms,
⁠And flowing horsehair crests.

Antistroph. I.

⁠He stood above our towers,
Encircling, with his spears all blood-bestained,
⁠The portals of our gates;
⁠He went, before he filled⁠
⁠His jaws with blood of men,
⁠Ere the pine-fed Hephæstos
⁠Had seized our crown of towers.
​⁠So loud the battle din
That Ares loves was raised around his rear,
A conflict hard e’en for his dragon foe.
⁠For breath of haughty speech
⁠Zeus hateth evermore;
⁠And seeing them advance,
⁠With mighty rushing stream,
⁠And clang of golden arms,
⁠With brandished fire he hurls
⁠One who rushed eagerly
⁠From topmost battlement
⁠To shout out, “Victory!”

Stroph. II.

⁠Crashing to earth he fell,
⁠Down-smitten, with his torch,
⁠Who came, with madman’s haste,
⁠Drunken, with frenzied soul,
⁠And swept o’er us with blasts,
⁠The whirlwind blasts of hate.
⁠Thus on one side they fare,
And Ares great, like war-horse in his strength,
⁠Smiting now here, now there,
⁠Brought each his several fate.
For seven chief warriors at the seven gates met,
⁠Equals with equals matched,
⁠To Zeus, the Lord of War,
⁠Left tribute, arms of bronze;
⁠All but the hateful ones,
​Who, from one father and one mother sprung,
⁠Stood wielding, hand to hand,
⁠Their two victorious spears,
And had their, doom of death as common lot.

Antistroph. II.

⁠But now, since Victory,
⁠Of mightiest name, hath come
⁠To Thebes, of chariots proud,
⁠Joying and giving joy,
⁠After these wars just past,
⁠Learn ye forgetfulness,
And all night long, with dance and voice of hymns,
⁠Let us go round in state
⁠To all the shrines of Gods,
While Bacchos, making Thebes resound with dance,
⁠Begins the strain of joy;
⁠But, lo! our country’s king,
⁠Creon, Menœkeus’ son,
⁠New ruler, by new change,
⁠And providence of God,
Comes to us, steering on some new device;
⁠For, lo! he hath convened,
⁠By herald’s loud command,
This council of the elders of our land.

Enter Creon.

Creon. My friends, for what concerns our commonwealth,
The Gods who vexed it with the billowing storms
Have righted it again; and I have sent,
By special summons, calling you to come
Apart from all the others. This, in part,
As knowing ye did all along uphold
The might of Laios’ throne, in part again,
​Because when Œdipus our country ruled,
And, when he perished, then towards his sons
Ye still were faithful in your steadfast mind.
And since they fell, as by a double death,
Both on the selfsame day with murderous blow,
Smiting and being smitten, now I hold
Their thrones and all their power of sovereignty
By nearness of my kindred to the dead.
And hard it is to learn what each man is,
In heart and mind and judgment, till he gain
Experience in princedom and in laws.
For me, whoe’er is called to guide a State,
And does not catch at counsels wise and good,
But holds his peace through any fear of man,
I deem him basest of all men that are,
And so have deemed long since; and whosoe’er
As worthier than his country counts his friend,
I utterly despise him. I myself,
Zeus be my witness, who beholdeth all,
Would not keep silence, seeing danger come,
Instead of safety, to my subjects true.
Nor could I take as friend my country’s foe;
For this I know, that there our safety lies,
And sailing while the good ship holds her course,
We gather friends around us. By these rules
And such as these do I maintain the State.
And now I come, with edicts, close allied
To these in spirit, for my citizens,
Concerning those two sons of Œdipus.
Eteocles, who died in deeds of might
Illustrious, fighting for our fatherland,
To honour him with sepulture, all rites
Duly performed that to the noblest dead
Of right belong. Not so his brother; him
​I speak of, Polyneikes, who, returned
From exile, sought with fire to desolate⁠
His father’s city and the shrines of Gods,
Yea, sought to glut his rage with blood of men,
And lead them captives to the bondslave’s doom;
Him I decree that none shall dare entomb,
That none shall utter wail or loud lament,
But leave his corpse unburied, by the dogs
And vultures mangled, foul to look upon.
Such is my purpose. Ne’er, if I can help,
Shall the vile have more honour than the just;
But whoso shows himself my country’s friend,
Living or dead, from me shall honour gain.⁠

Chor. This is thy pleasure, Ο Menœkeus’ son,
For him who hated, him who loved our State;
And thou hast power to make what laws thou wilt,
Both for the dead and all of us who live.

Creon. Be ye then guardians of the things I speak.

Chor. Commit this task to one of younger years.

Creon. Nay, watchmen are appointed for the corpse.

Chor. What other task then dost thou lay on us?

Creon. Not to consent with those that disobey.

Chor. None are so foolish as to seek for death.⁠

Creon. Yet that shall be the doom; but love of gain
Hath oft with false hopes lured men to their death.

Enter Guard.

Guard. I will not say, Ο king, that I have come
Panting with speed, and plying nimble feet,
For I had many halting-points of thought,
Backwards and forwards turning, round and round:
For now my mind would give me sage advice;
“Poor wretch, why go where thou must bear the blame?
Or wilt thou tarry, fool? Shall Creon know
​These things from others? How wilt thou ‘scape grief?
”Revolving thus, I came in haste, yet slow,
And thus a short way finds itself prolonged;
But, last of all, to come to thee prevailed.
And though I tell of nought, yet I will speak;
For this one hope I cling to, might and main,
That I shall suffer nought but destiny.

Creon. What is it then that causes such dismay?

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