Sophocles, Antigone

As with my notes on Anouilh this is based on my reading of Sophocles at a particular time. 

1. lines 2-4 — Antigone and Ismene are doomed by Oedipus’s failure

2. lines 1-21: The charge against Creon and the challenge to Ismene

lines 22-32: The debate between Ismene and Antigone continues to

3. P. 3 lines 1-2

4. P. 3 lines 2-19: Ismene lays out the problem as she sees it and notes that women are in an inferior position.

5. P. 3 lines 19-29: Antigone dismisses Ismene and declares her determination

6. P. 4 Ismene councils Antigone to keep the burial quiet, but Antigone insists on broadcasting it. QUESTION: Does Antigone have the moral option of not announcing her ploans? QUESTION: Do you think she really will give up ever even if it seems impossible?

7. P. 5-7: QUESTION. What is the purpose of the section sung by the Thebans Senators as the chorus?

8. P. 7-9: QUESTION: What is the purpose of Creon’s first long speech?

9. P. 9 bottom: The Senators confirm Creon’s supremacy in civil law

10. P.10-13: Creon’s conversation with the sentinel. QUESTION: Why does Sophocles create the sentinel as he does? QUESTION: What rationale does Creon appear to offer for his edict?

11. P.13-15: QUESTION: What is the chorus’s role at this juncture in the play? What is their state of mind?

12. P. 15-17. The sentinel tells Creon his observations of Antigone carrying out the burial rites.

13. P. 17 — Antigone’s last speech on the page (which continues to the upper half of 18) lays out the crux of the matter — eternal divine law against Creon’s law.

14. P.18-19: Creon argues with Antigone including not only the issue of his law but her exultation in the violation and the way she would reverse the proper roles of man and woman.

15. P. 19: Antigone (mid-page) charges the senators with failing to say what they think because of fear.

16. P. 20: Creon and Antigone exchange views about whether a traitor deserves the rites. QUESTION: Could Creon be right that the patron gods of Thebes would be offended that Polyneices attacked “their” city and would agree with Creon’s edict? Or is Creon just rationalizing what he thinks?

17. P. 21: Antigone refuses to allow Ismene to claim any part in the deed: “A friend in words is not a friend for me.” QUESTION: Is Antigone’s hard line with Ismene morally correct? Should she count Ismene’s words unsaid?

18. P. 22: After charging Ismene as complicit with her sister, Creon reaffirms the impropriety of their “gadding” about. QUESTION: To what extent do you think Creon’s rage is focused on Antigone’s inappropriate walking around unescorted?

19. P. 23-24: The Chorus returns.

20. P. 25-28: The conversation between Haemon and Creon in which the former tries to use reason to dissuade the latter, including references to the unpopularity of Creon’s decision. QUESTION: Haemon seems to suggest that Creon may be wrong in his decision in part because the people oppose him. If Sophocles was writing in Athens in the 440s what might be the point he was trying to make?

21. P. 29: QUESTION: How does Creon propose to kill Antigone, and what is his rationalization for this method?

22. P. 29-33: Antigone and the Chorus discuss her plight. QUESTION: Is the chorus made up of the same people as at the beginning of the play?? QUESTION: What is the purpose of this extended dialogue?

23. P. 33-35. Creon orders that Antigone be led away and on a long monologue she provides a more nuanced view of her reasons for insisting on burying Polyneices. “But sire and mother buried in the grave/ A brother is a branch that grows no more.” QUESTION: What particular aspect of divine law is Antigone pointing to? Why would she not act this way in the case of a spouse or a child?

24. P. 35-37. The chorus describes other instances of wrongful “burial” or “entombment.” QUESTION: Why do they do this?

25. P. 37-41. Blind Teiresias enters to reveal to Creon the fact that he is wrong. On page 40 he particularly lays out the fact that Creon has joined Life with Death and will pay the price. He includes in his peroration the fact that all people know that what Creon is doing is wrong. QUESTION: What is the significance of having the Seer be blind?

26. P. 42-43. The Chorus returns.

27. P. 44-47. The Messenger tells Eurydice all that has happened including Antigone’s suicide, Haemon’s attempt on his father and then his own suicide. QUESTION. What do you make of the willingness of those involved to commit suicide?
28. P. 47-52. In this final exchange Creon takes upon himself the guilt for all that has befallen, wishing for an early escape from his life of pain. The Chorus concludes the play with a perhaps unusual message. QUESTION: What is it that the choir seems to suggest in this final statement? Is man a complete victim?