Friday, March 1, 2013

Antigone - Sophocles

Our final play for February's reading starts right after a great battle.  The sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices, found themselves on opposite sides for the battle of Thebes.  They killed each other.  Eteocles fought for Thebes and is given a heroes burial.  Polynices fought against and the king, Creon, has decreed that his body shall be eaten by dogs and birds.
Enter Antigone and Ismene.  They are the daughters of Oedipus, the sisters of the fallen men.  Antigone is outraged that her brother will be denied a decent burial.  She decides to defy the king and unsuccessfully tries to get Ismene to help her.
It is reported to Creon that someone has put some dust on the body of Polynices, basically a symbolicy burial.  Antigone is caught doing so and brought before him.  He asks her if she heard the decree and she answers that she did.  She will openly defy him because burying her brother is what the gods would have her do.  Creon is livid.
It's important to remember the relationships in play here.  Creon is Antigone's uncle.  He is the king while she is the daughter of the previous king.  She is also engaged to marry his son.  In otherwords, she is a source of power in the city and Creon doesn't take well to rivals.  Considering that he just had to fight for the city itself against one of her brothers, this may be a justified point of view.
He decides not to kill Antigone directly.  He will wall her up in a tomb with some small amount of food and water.  His son Haemon, pleads with him not to do this but he won't listen.  Both Antigone and Haemon threaten suicide but still Creon won't be moved.
Until the blind prophet Tiresias convinces him otherwise.  Then he rushes to open the tomb.  Unfortunately, Antigone has taken matters into her own hands and hung herself.  Haemon sees this and falls on his sword, killing himself.  In an echo of 'Oedipus the King', the queen also kills herself.  Creon is crushed.  He ignored the will of the gods to punish a domestic enemy.  They brought doom upon him.

I mentioned that we did a one act version of this in high school.  I played Haemon and my only real memory of the play is having Creon weep over my dead body.  (In my defense, I was more interested in girls than in Greek drama.)  It's a nice, emotional play.

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