The last part of the Oedipus plays by Sophocles, Antigone
centers around the events which have occurred after the
death of Oedipus in Colonus. Back in Thebes, Eteocles and
Polyneices, the sons of Oedipus, have killed each other
through their battle over the thrown. Eteocles, the chosen
king, had fought with his usurping brother Polyneices and
their uncle, Creon, decides to honor the body of the former
while denying the latter an honorable burial. Polyneices’
body is left to rot outside the walls of the city where
birds can pick at the flesh of the corpse. In Ancient Greek
beliefs, not having a proper burial meant that Polyneices’
spirit would be left to wander the earth and not able to
descend into Hades.
Antigone, sister of the two brothers, decides that she
needs to bury her brother’s body. Though Creon has decried
that anyone who buries Polyneices will be killed, she
cannot allow her brother to be so disrespected in death.
Antigone discusses the event with her sister, Ismene, who
advises against such a course. Antigone is engaged to her
cousin Haemon, the son of Creon, and has much to live for.
Ismene cautions her against throwing away her life after
that of the dead brother, but Antigone remains resolute.
Creon comes in with his chorus of soldiers, justifying his
decision against the burial of Polyneices.
News comes to
him that someone has buried the man and gone against
Creon’s decree. They uproot Polyneices and then Antigone is
found attempting to rebury him. Creon is left no choice but
to condemn Antigone to death for disobeying his decree.
Antigone justifies her actions by telling Creon that she is
obeying the law of her family and the law of the Gods and
would do it again.
As Antigone is taken off, Creon sends her to be walled up
in a cave to die alone. His son, Haemon, enters and tells
Creon that he will kill himself if Creon does not free his
betrothed. Nevertheless, Creon refuses to change his
decision. Tiresius then enters and tells Creon that if he
does not free Antigone, dreadful events will take place and
he will be punished by the Gods. Creon rushes off to free
Antigone, but he finds that she has already hung herself in
the cave. Haemon, in despair, commits suicide and Creon’s
wife when she hears the news also kills herself. Bereft of
all his family, Creon is left in despair alone and
fatherless because of his unnatural actions.