Antigone Line 832-1163
Ismene as well as Antigone, even though it is obvious that Ismene was not involved at all in trying to bury the body of Polyneices. She only said that she helped because she wishes to die with her sister. Creon then changes his mind suddenly, saying that now only Antigone will die by being locked into a cave with only a little food, so that she will eventually starve to death. In this way, the city will "avoid pollution" that a public execution within the city's walls would bring. By having Antigone die outside of Thebes, Creon hopes to avoid any sort of harm that might come to the city if she were to die there. The Chorus responds with great words of sadness, saying that they are feeling "unlawful" because, contrary to Creon's wishes, they weep for Antigone as she arrives to hear her death sentence.
Antigone is not afraid and remains strong in spite of her fate and addresses them: "You see me, you people of my country/as I set out on my last road of all,/looking for the last time on this light of this sun.../though I have known nothing of marriage songs/nor chant that brings the bride to bed./My husband is to be the Lord of Death" Line 870-877. The Chorus speaks to her that she has chosen to die because she chose to give burial rites to Polyneices even though she knew that the penalty was death. Antigone compares herself to a fallen goddess who, too, was unjustly punished, but the Chorus reminds her that she is not a goddess but is only a mortal woman. Antigone becomes angry at the Chorus and screams aloud, "My city! Rich citizens of my city.../I make my way to a prison sealed like a tomb./Pity me. Neither among the living not the dead/do I have a home in common--/neither with the living nor the dead" Line 900-907. Antigone sees herself as an exile as her father Oedipus had been before he died after many years of wandering, and also as her brother Polyneices had been before he had died. She feels that, condemned to death, she is not living any longer because she knows she is sentenced to die, nor is she dead yet. Antigone is lost, without a home, because she chose to bury her brother. The Chorus repeats that she knew the consequences of her actions, thus there is no reason for anyone to have pity. She chose death.
Antigone continues to complain and lament while Creon is not affected at all by her pleading, saying that it will not change anything. Antigone looks forward to seeing the other dead members of her family such as her mother Iocasta, her father Oedipus, and her brothers Eteocles and Polyneices. Now she will join them in death, although she appeals to the gods for guidance and help in her situation, "What law of God have I broken?/Why should I still look to the gods in my misery?/Whom should I summon as an ally? For indeed/because of piety I was called impious./If this proceeding is good in the gods' eyes/I shall know my sin, once I have suffered./But if Creon and his people are the wrongdoers/let their suffering be no worse than the injustice/ they are [giving] out to me" Line 978-986. She wishes a curse upon Creon if she is innocent in the eyes of the gods. When she dies and the gods judge her, she will know if she died as an innocent woman or as a criminal. Antigone thinks that she is innocent, asking the gods what crime she has committed against them by merely burying a man. Creon is tired of hearing her words and tells the guards to hurry up and get her out of the city to be locked into her cave. There, she will starve to death. Antigone leaves at last, still crying aloud that she is innocent.
The Chorus sings again about things that happened in history to other humans, how others suffered terribly in the past, just as Antigone does now. They recall the story of Danae, who was a woman living her life in suffering because she had to hide with her son to avoid being killed. Also there is the story of a king who mocked the god Bacchus and was punished by having his own mother driven to madness and ripping his body into pieces, and also Phineus was a man whose wife blinded his two sons. The Chorus points out that history is filled with stories of suffering; Antigone's situation is not anything new. These two women of the past, both Danae and Phineus were punished because of Fate, a powerful force that determines what events will happen in the future. If Fate predicts that something will happen, then there is no way to stop it from occurring. Many times before, the Chorus suggested that perhaps Antigone suffers because of her father Oedipus' sins; because of his crimes, perhaps the daughter is fated to suffer as well. She is also the person who made the decision to defy Creon, and so Antigone is arrogant to Creon by not respecting his authority as king.
The Chorus is interrupted because the blind prophet Teiresias suddenly appears, guided by a young boy. He declares that he has important news for Creon, warning him that he is "on the razor edge of danger." Curious, Creon wonders what the prophet is talking about. Teiresias tells of how he was burning a bird, trying to tell prophesies by looking at the position of the cooked bird's entrails, as is the custom in Argos, yet the bird would not burn at all. Instead, the fat stayed uncooked and blood and fluids from the bird actually caused the fire to be extinguished. Teiresias warns that the gods are unhappy with Creon's refusal to bury Polyneices, because the flesh from this man's body is being devoured by the same dogs and birds that are sacrificed to the gods. The gods are angry because these animals are all polluted. It is the "city's sickness," he calls it. Teiresias advises Creon to bury Polyneices instead of letting his body rot away outside of Thebes, "Yield to the dead man; do not stab him--/now he is gone--what bravery is this,/to inflict another death upon the dead?/I mean you well and speak well for your good./It is never sweeter to learn from a good counselor/than when he counsels to your benefit" Line 1086-1091. Just as Haemon had offered wise advise to Creon, thinking of his best interests by warning him that Theban citizens were upset about refusing burial, now Teiresias does the same to him by warning about the gods' displeasure.
Yet as he had done to Haemon, now Creon grows very angry at Teiresias and remains arrogant, refusing to change his mind at all. Polyneices shall remain unburied, he declares boldly, even if birds of Zeus were snatching pieces of flesh away for Zeus himself. He insists that the gods cannot possibly be polluted by anything humans can do, and he insists that this old man, Teiresias, has come to him just to make some money. Earlier, he would not listen to Haemon because he was too young to give advice, but now when a very distinguished and famous man even older than he offers wise advice, Creon still refuses to listen and even insults Zeus. Teiresias responds by saying that Creon's "mind is sick," but Creon continues merely to dismiss the prophet as telling lies just to earn some money by supposedly "saving" the city from punishment from the gods. Creon is very arrogant and still refuses to listen to anyone. He doesn't take Teiresias' warning seriously at all.
Insulted to see Creon's ignorance, Teiresias speaks a very sad prophesy for the future of Thebes and for Creon, "you [will] give in exchange/one of your own loins bred, a corpse for a corpse,/for you have thrust one that belongs above/below the earth, and bitterly dishonored/a living soul by lodging her in the grave;/while one that belonged to the underworld/gods you have kept on this earth without due share/of rites of burial" Line 1135-1141. He warns that Creon will lose one of his own children because Creon has unjustly killed Antigone, a girl who was thrust into a tomb to be starved to death, while he left a man who should have been entombed out into the open air to decompose without any honor. Continuing, Teiresias prophesizes more for the future of Thebes because of Creon's leadership, blaming him for another war in the future, "All the cities will stir in hatred/against you, because their sons in mangled shreds/received their burial rites from dogs, from wild beasts/or when some bird of the air brought a vile stink/to each city that contained the hearths of the dead" Line 1152-1156.
These words reveal that not only is Polyneices' body now unburied, but Creon has also not given burial to any of the other five chieftains from the seven armies who died fighting against Eteocles in battle. These other leaders were trying to help the elder Polyneices regain the kingship of Thebes. For this crime not only will the gods be angry, but also the nearby cities from which these dead men had come from will also be very upset, rising up against Thebes. Angry and insulted, Teiresias is led away by his boy, declaring that Creon should get angry at younger men than him. Apparently, the prophet is upset that Creon has been disrespectful to an elder and would not listen to his wisdom; however, this was the same thing that Creon told his own son Haemon before, that he is older and wiser than his son. Now, however, when a man older and wiser than him offers advice, Creon does not listen to that advice, either. Creon is a stubborn, prideful man who makes excuses to justify what he wants for himself, rather than acting for the good of the city he rules. Teiresias warns that he will be punished because of this.