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Characters ANTIGONE, daughter of Oedipus
ISMENE, her sister
CHORUS of Theban elders
CREON, king of Thebes
HAEMON, son of Creon
EURYDICE, wife of Creon
Scene: Thebes, before the royal palace.
(Antigone and Ismene enter from the palace.)
My sister, my Ismene, do you know of any suffering from our father sprung that Zeus does not achieve for us survivors? There's nothing grievous, nothing full of doom,° or shameful, or dishonored, I've not seen: your sufferings and mine. And now, what of this edict which they say the commander has proclaimed to the whole people? Have you heard anything? Or don't you know that our enemies' trouble comes upon our friends?
I've heard no word, Antigone, of our friends, not sweet nor bitter, since that single moment when we two lost two brothers who died on one day by a double blow. And since the Argive army went away this very night, I have no further news of fortune or disaster for myself.
I knew it well, and brought you from the house for just this reason, that you alone may hear.
What is it? Clearly some news has clouded you.
It has indeed. Creon will give the one of our two brothers honor in the tomb; the other none. Eteocles, with just observance treated, as law provides he has hidden under earth to have full honor with the dead below. But Polyneices' corpse who died in pain, they say he has proclaimed to the whole town that none may bury him and none bewail, but leave him, unwept, untombed, a rich sweet sight for the hungry birds' beholding and devouring. Such orders they say the worthy Creon gives to you and me—yes, yes, I say to me— and that he's coming to proclaim it clear to those who know it not. Further: he has the matter so at heart that anyone who dares attempt the act will die by public stoning in the town. So there you have it and you soon will show if you are noble, or worthless, despite your high birth.
If things have reached this stage, what can I do, poor sister, that will help to make or mend?
Think, will you share my labor and my act?
What will you risk? And where is your intent?
Will you take up that corpse along with me?
To bury him you mean, when it's forbidden?
My brother, and yours, though you may wish he were not.° I never shall be found to be his traitor.
O reckless one, when Creon spoke against it!
It's not for him to keep me from my own.
Alas. Remember, sister, how our father perished abhorred, ill-famed: himself with his own hand, through his own curse destroyed both eyes. Remember next his mother and his wife finishing life in the shame of the twisted noose. And third, two brothers on a single day, poor creatures, murdering, a common doom each with his arm accomplished on the other. And now look at the two of us alone. We'll perish terribly if we violate law and try to cross the royal vote and power. We must remember that we two are women, so not to fight with men; and that since we are subject to stronger power we must hear these orders, or any that may be worse. So I shall ask of them beneath the earth forgiveness, for in these things I am forced, and shall obey the men in power. I know that wild and futile action makes no sense.
I wouldn't urge it. And if now you wished to act, you wouldn't please me as a partner. Be what you want to; but that man shall I bury. For me, the doer, death is best. Loving, I shall lie with him, yes, with my loved one, when I have dared the crime of piety. Longer the time in which to please the dead than the time with those up here. There shall I lie forever. You may see fit to keep from honor what the gods have honored.
I shall do no dishonor. But to act against the citizens, that's beyond my means.
That's your excuse. Now I go, to heap the burial mound for him, my dearest brother.
Oh my poor sister. How I fear for you!
For me, don't worry. You clear your own fate.
At least give no one notice of this act; you keep it hidden, and I'll do the same.
Dear gods! Denounce me. I shall hate you more if silent, not proclaiming this to all.
You have a hot mind over chilly things.
I know I please those whom I most should please.
If but you can. You crave what can't be done.
And so, when strength runs out, I shall give over.
Wrong from the start, to chase what cannot be.
If that's your saying, I shall hate you first, and next the dead will hate you in all justice. But let me and my own ill counseling suffer this terror. I shall suffer nothing so great as to stop me dying with honor.
Go, since you want to. But know this: you go senseless indeed, but loved by those who love you.
(Exit Ismene into the palace. Exit Antigone to one side. Enter the Chorus from the other side.)
Sun's own radiance, fairest light ever shone on the seven gates of Thebes, then did you shine, O golden day's eye, coming over Dirce's stream, on the man who had come from Argos with all his armor running now in headlong fear as you shook his bridle free.
He was stirred by the dubious quarrel of Polyneices. So, screaming shrill, like an eagle over the land he flew, covered with white-snow wing, with many weapons, with horse-hair crested helms.
ANTISTROPHE A [singing]
He who had stood above our halls, gaping about our seven gates, with that circle of blood-thirsting spears: gone, without our blood in his jaws, before the torch took hold on our tower crown. Rattle of war at his back; hard the fight for the dragon's foe.
[chanting] The boasts of a proud tongue are for Zeus to hate. So seeing them streaming on in insolent clangor of gold, he struck with hurling fire him who rushed for the high wall's top, hoping to yell out "victory ." strophe b [singing] Swinging, striking the earth he fell fire in hand, who in mad attack, had raged against us with blasts of hate. He failed. And differently from one to another on both sides great Ares dealt his blows about, first in our war team.
The captains assigned for seven gates fought with our seven and left behind their brazen arms as an offering to Zeus who is turner of battle. All but those two wretches, sons of one man, one mother's sons, who planted their spears each against each and found the share of a common death together.
ANTISTROPHE B [singing]
Great-named Victory comes to us answering Thebe's warrior joy. Let us forget the wars just done and visit the shrines of the gods, all, with night-long dance which Bacchus will lead, he who shakes Thebe's acres.
(Creon enters from the side.)
Now here he comes, the king of the land, Creon, Menoeceus' son, newly appointed by the gods' new fate. What plan that beats about his mind has made him call this council session, sending his summons to all?
My friends, t
Excerpted from SOPHOCLES I by David Grene. Copyright © 2013 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
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Editors’ Preface to the Third Edition
Introduction to Sophocles
Introduction to the Theban Plays
Oedipus the King
Oedipus at Colonus