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Line 490-831 Notes from Antigone

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Antigone Line 490-831

After Creon sends the Sentry away, he questions Antigone about why she decided to disobey his decree and bury the body of Polyneices. Antigone readily admits that she is responsible for committing this act, but she insists that the orders to deny burial come from Creon himself, but the religious law of giving a burial to all dead men is from the gods themselves. Creon puts his own laws for the city as being more important than the religious law, "I did not believe/your proclamation had such power to enable/one who will someday die to override/God's ordinances, unwritten and secure./They are not of today and yesterday;/they live forever; none knows when first they were./These are the laws whose penalties I would not/incur from the gods, through fear of any man's temper" Line 496-503. Antigone insists that she will not disrespect the laws of the gods.

Topic Tracking: Death 4

Creon declares that she will be put to death for defying his decree. He asks that Ismene, her sister, also be brought there, since he suspects that she is involved in the plot to bury Polyneices. While they are waiting, Antigone criticizes Creon by declaring he oversteps his boundaries as king, for he just does anything he wants without any regard for other laws or morals, such as those of the gods. She insists that she buried Polyneices because of her love for him, even though Creon insists that her brother was an enemy to Thebes. Only Eteocles is a hero, because he died trying to protect the city from Polyneices. Antigone says that neither man is an enemy or a hero; instead, they are merely two brothers who died in combat, both of whom she loved very dearly. They both deserve proper burial.

Once again, Antigone places the importance of her family as being greater than that of the city. Creon thinks that the city is more important than anything else. Antigone tries to tell him that, as he had suspected before, there are citizens in Thebes who question Creon's authority and who agree with what Antigone has done by disobeying him. Although Creon was suspicious of the Theban citizens before, now he insists that Antigone is alone and that the people of Thebes all support his decisions. Creon dismisses everything that she has said about him because she will die soon anyway, "Go then to the world below, yourself, if you/must love [your brothers]. Love them. When I am alive no woman shall rule" Line 577-578. Creon is not only upset that she disobeyed him, but also that it is a woman who dared to disobey the wishes of a man, questioning his authority.

Topic Tracking: Woman 3
Topic Tracking: Death 5

At that moment, the Chorus announces the arrival of Ismene. Creon asks her immediately if she assisted Antigone in performing burial rites to the body of Polyneices. Although Ismene really was not involved and actually tried to stop Antigone from going off to break Creon's decree, now Ismene declares that she helped Antigone, and that she must die with her sister. Surprised, Antigone insists that she acted alone, and telling Ismene to stop lying for her sake. However, Ismene declares that she cannot live alone with everyone else in her family dead, including her only surviving sibling. In spite of Antigone's pleas, Ismene says that she helped to commit the crime of burying Polyneices and that they must thus die together saying, "What life can be mine without her?"

Topic Tracking: Death 6

Ismene then asks Creon if he will kill his own future daughter-in-law, for Antigone is engaged to marry Creon's son Haemon. Creon coldly replies that he does want his son to marry a bad choice of a woman, anyway. He asks that the two sisters be taken away and guarded until they are both executed, because "From this time forth,/these must be women, and not free to roam./For even the stout of heart shrink when they see/the approach of death close to their lives" Line 636-639. Creon is afraid that they will try to run away because they might be afraid of dying. He says that, like all women, these two are not allowed to go anywhere, "not free to roam." Creon thinks that women are not as worthy or as excellent as men are. The fact that women have disobeyed him increases his feelings of anger.

Topic Tracking: Women 4
Topic Tracking: Pride 6

After the girls are led away, the Chorus of Theban elders sings about how once a member of a family commits a crime against the gods, the punishments continue to affect many later generations in the family. They recall how Oedipus' family has been cursed for many generations, down to these children who were "the last light of hope" for Oedipus' family. The Chorus acknowledges that the king of the gods, Zeus, is all-powerful, and that his power lasts forever into the future, for he is immortal. The Chorus adds, "With wisdom has someone declared/a word of distinction:/that evil seems good to one whose mind/the god leads to ruin,/and but for the briefest moment of time/is his life outside of calamity" Line 673-678. These words refer to the disagreement about whether Polyneices' body should be buried. Antigone thinks that she has made the good decision by following the religious law of giving the dead a proper burial, while Creon thinks he has made the good decision by punishing what he sees as an enemy of the city by denying burial. Surely one of these two thinks that he is right when he is really following a path of evil as the Chorus predicts, although it is uncertain who this could be. It is suggested that Creon is the man making the mistake, because it is he violates the religious law that the Chorus is giving such importance to, because of his refusal to bury Polyneices.

The Chorus announces that Creon's son Haemon has arrived and wonders if he is planning to criticize his father for condemning his fiancee, Antigone to death. Haemon responds that he fully respects his father in whatever decision he makes, because of the "goodness of [his] leadership." Just as Creon had turned Polyneices into an enemy of the city, now he does the same thing with Antigone, explaining why he has sentenced her to death. He advises, "Do not, my son, banish your good sense/through pleasure in a woman, since you know/that the embrace grows cold/when an evil woman shares your bed and home.../No. Spit on her, throw her out like an enemy,/this girl, to marry someone in Death's house./I caught her openly in disobedience/alone out of all in this city..." Line 702-710. Because Antigone had disobeyed Creon, she has suddenly become not only his enemy, but also an enemy of the city. Creon also says that he will not look like a fool by forgiving her, because all of the Theban citizens want her to die anyway.

He continues, "The man the city sets up in authority/must be obeyed in small things and in just.../There is nothing worse/than disobedience to authority./It destroys cities, it demolishes homes.../So we must stand by the side of what is orderly; we cannot give victory to a woman./If we accept defeat, let it be from a man;/we must not let people say that a woman beat us" Line 720-734. Creon states that he does what the citizens in Thebes wish to have done, for he is their representative. This disagrees with Antigone's earlier words that Theban citizens do not agree with Creon's decision to deny burial to Polyneices. In addition, an authority must be obeyed by all people no matter what because a city will be destroyed if no one obeys the authority, and more than anything women must obey the authority of men. If a man had committed this crime of disobedience, Creon suggests that he might not put him to death. However, he refuses to let any women such as Antigone and Ismene go unpunished for disobeying a man, because he does not want the citizens to know that a woman defied him. This is an embarrassing thought for him to imagine, for "we must not let people say a woman beat us."

Topic Tracking: Women 5

Creon's son Haemon acknowledges that his father's words are very wise, and he respects his decision to put Antigone to death. However, he offers some advice to his father because he is watching out for his reputation, and he warns him that the Theban citizens are not all in support of him as he thinks. In fact, "the city mourns for this girl; they think she is dying/most wrongly and undeservedly/of all womenkind, for the most glorious acts.../A man who thinks he alone is right.../when opened up, [is] seen/to be quite empty. For a man, though he be wise,/it is no shame to learn--learn many things,/and not maintain his views too rigidly" Line 747-767. Haemon advises his father not to be so closed-minded and to think about how his citizens feel, too, because many of the people in Thebes disagree with his decisions. Haemon says that Creon should learn from his mistakes by not being so rash in the future; there is nothing undignified in changing one's opinion because he has learned something new.

Hearing these words, Creon flies into a rage, mocking his son by asking how an old man like he can possibly learn wisdom from such a young man as is his son. Then he declares boldly that the opinions of the Theban citizens do not matter, "Should the city tell me how I am to rule them?" although this is the total opposite of what he said before. Creon previously claimed to represent the needs of the people, because they all support him and he is only doing what the citizens want him to do. Haemon becomes angry as well, criticizing Creon's ability as a ruler, saying that he should be the king of a desert where there are no people to argue with him. Haemon says that Creon is closed-minded because he will not listen or even consider what he has said, and he is following religious law by defending Antigone, because she has not committed any sin against them gods. Instead, Creon is guilty of a religious sin by denying burial to a dead man's body.

Topic Tracking: Pride 7

In response, Creon simply calls his son "a woman's slave," disregarding his words, while Haemon says that if Creon was not his father then he would call him insane. Finally, showing no respect toward his son, Creon calls for Antigone to be brought out immediately so that she can be executed right there in front of Haemon, just to spite him. Haemon screams out that it is the last time that Creon will ever see him again, running away in a very emotional state of mind. Creon dismisses this behavior calmly and is unconcerned. He states again that Haemon's words have changed nothing, for Antigone and Ismene both shall die for violating his decree that made burial forbidden to Polyneices' body. Unlike Antigone, Creon has put the importance of the city as being greater than that of his own family. Instead of being a loving father towards his son, he is instead a cruel, emotionless king.

Topic Tracking: Pride 8
Topic Tracking: Women 6

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