Antigone by Sophocles


This play is a Greek tragedy written in the fifth century BC. Sophocles is one of three Greek playwrights whose works survive.The Antigone is the story of Antigone (shocking!), the daughter of Oedipus the guy who killed his father and married his momma). Creon is the leader of Thebes now that Oedipus is gone. The play starts just after Thebes has repelled an attack by seven other Greek city-states (hence, the seven against Thebes). Polyneices is one of Antigone’s brothers; Eteocles is Antigone’s other brother. Both died in the battle. Eteocles defended Thebes, and Creon wants to give him a ticker-tape parade and a hero’s funeral. Polyneices fought against Thebes, and Creon wants to leave his body in a field and let dogs eat the corpse. Creon declares that anyone who buries Polyneices will be put to death. Antigone, being the loyal sister she is, insists on burying Polyneices. And here, my friends, the conflict begins. The Antigone deals with issues of Gods’ law versus Man’s law, individual rights versus the rights of the state. The play finally decides that the law of the Gods supercedes the law of Man, and that the rights of the state don’t always take precedence over the rights of individuals.

A note: Greek plays aren’t divided into acts and scenes the same way our plays are. You might find the play broken down into episodes and stasima (choral songs, or odes). Generally, Greek plays have three to six episodes. You can think of the episodes as acts and you know when an episode is over because the chorus begins a stasima. Some translations will divide the play into scenes and acts; others will use Greek terms. What matters is that the Greeks didn’t write their plays in scenes and acts. Our translation (Fitts and Fitzgerald, in case you’re interested) uses these divisions: prologue (which provides information about what happened before the play starts), parados (the entrance of the chorus), scenes and odes.


Antigone: daughter (and sister) of Oedipus, girlfriend of Haemon, niece of Creon, sister of Ismene and both Eteocles and Polyneices. She buries Polyneices and is put to death.

Ismene: sister of Antigone, she doesn’t want to bury Polyneices because she’s afraid of Creon.

Creon: King of Thebes, uncle and brother-in-law of Oedipus. He wishes he were dead.

Haemon: Creon’s son, Antigone’s boyfriend. He dies.

Tiresias: blind prophet of Thebes, he knows what’s up, but Creon won’t listen to him.

Eurydice: Queen of Thebes. She dies.

Chorus: the old men of Thebes

Messenger, Guards, Servants, Soldiers


The play starts the morning after the Seven Against Thebes were defeated. Polyneices and Eteocles both died in the battle. Creon has declared that no one is to bury Polyneices. Antigone has decided to bury Polyneices and tries to get Ismene to help her. Ismene refuses. Several people warn Antigone not to defy Creon, but she doesn’t listen and gets caught. Creon sentences her to die. Haemon pleads with Creon not to kill Antigone. Creon won’t listen. Haemon kills himself. Eurydice finds out that her son, Haemon, is dead. Eurydice kills herself. The play ends with Creon miserable, his wife and son dead, Antigone dead, the city of Thebes turned against him, and Tiresias laughing at him. All of it is his own fault, and he wishes he had listened to the Gods. In between, the chorus talks about the nature of man, some soldiers are bitched out, Antigone tells off everyone andwallows in self-pity. As fitting a Greek tragedy, most of the characters die or are destroyed by the end.




The chorus and the choregoi (chorus leader, kind of like the head cheerleader) sing about how Polyneices led the Seven Against Thebes and how Thebes "like a mighty dragon" kicked the crap out of the attackers.

Scene One

Ode One

The Chorus sings a song about how great Man is.

Scene Two

Ode Two

The Chorus sings about how bad it is to be human and piss off the Gods.

Scene Three

Ode Three

The Chorus sings a song about love.

Ode Four

The Chorus sings a song about Destiny and some Greeks who were screwed by Destiny.

Scene Five

Paen (the last ode)

The Chorus sings a song about Dionysus.

Exodos (the last scene plus the exit of the Chorus)