Antigone Line 1164-1424
As soon as Teiresias departs, led by a young boy, the Chorus of Theban Elders reminds Creon that the old prophet has never been wrong in all of his predictions. Creon is very confused, because he knows that Teiresias is right, but he doesn't want to change his mind: "To yield is terrible," he says. The Chorus pressures him to release Antigone from the cave where she has been imprisoned. Finally, Creon listens to the advice of others and agrees to free Antigone, in order to avoid the terrible prophesy of Teiresias. Yet the events that will happen next have already been decided by Fate. Creon can do nothing to stop Fate, but he is hopeful that it is not too late to save Antigone; at the Chorus' advice he also agrees to go himself to free her rather than sending servants to do the job for him. This is a turning point for Creon, for he has not listened to anyone else's advice before, but Teiresias' grim predictions have changed his mind. Creon departs the city in order to free Antigone.
While waiting to see if Antigone is freed in time to save her life, the Chorus sings about how a god named Bacchus protects the city of Thebes from danger because it is his favorite city and it is where he was born. The Chorus also recalls how Bacchus' mother, a mortal woman, was killed after she was tragically struck by Zeus' thunderbolt. While they are praising the powers of this god, a Messenger arrives and speaks to these Theban elders. He brings very sad news and laments the fate of Creon, saying "Once Creon was a man worthy of envy--/of my envy, at least. For he saved this city/of Thebes from her enemies, and attained/the throne of the land, with all a king's power./He guided it right. His race bloomed/with good children. But when a man forfeits joy/I do not count his life as life, but only/a life trapped within a corpse" Line 1233-1240. The Messenger does not see any problems with Creon's leadership, although many citizens in Thebes were upset that he had condemned Antigone to death. The Messenger implies that Creon has no joy remaining within him. Surprised, the Chorus presses to know more, and the Messenger admits that Creon's son Haemon has committed suicide because he was angry at Creon's decision to kill his fiancee, Antigone.
In reply to this, the Chorus recalls Teiresias' prophesy that Creon will lose one of his own children, "a corpse for a corpse" because of his pride. At that moment Creon's wife Eurydice arrives, for she has overheard the Messenger's news that her son is dead. She demands to hear about the details of his death. The Messenger tells the story of how he went with Creon first to the battlefield in front of Thebes where the body of Polyneices was lying unburied and decomposing. There Creon and his servants washed him, performed the proper funeral rites, and burned the remains of his body. Then they continued on to the cave where Antigone was imprisoned as they heard a scream suddenly and, seeing that the rocks blocking the cave's entrance had been torn away and upon entering, they saw that Antigone had hung herself with rope. This daughter of Oedipus chose a quick death by suicide, rather than the slow pain of starvation alone in the cave. Haemon was there hugging the dangling body of Antigone and weeping.
Creon called out to his son with gentle words, but the son was filled with anger and tried to attack his father with a sword. Creon fled from the cave however, and Haemon simply thrust the sword through his own ribs, tearing Antigone's body down, too, as he lay there dying. The man ends his story, "There they lie,/the dead upon the dead. So he has won/the pitiful fulfillment of his marriage/within death's house. In this human world he has shown/how the wrong choice in plans is for a man/his greatest evil" Line 1316-1321. The Messenger states that the two are now married together in death, because marriage in life had been denied because of Creon. He also criticizes Haemon's decision to commit suicide, saying that he has made the "wrong choice" and that it was a mistake, but there is nothing he can do to change what has happened; both Creon's niece and his son are now both dead. Hearing this, now Eurydice runs away quickly without saying a single word.
The Messenger insists that Eurydice will be fine, because she has good judgement, just as he had said that Creon had good leadership of Thebes. He does not seem to be a good judge of character, since it is clear that Creon certainly was not doing a good job of ruling Thebes, because of his pride. Yet the Chorus is worried about what Eurydice plans to do, because she isn't telling anyone how she feels and might do something violent such as harming herself or someone else. The messenger then says that he will follow Eurydice into the palace to make sure that she is all right and to comfort her. As the Messenger goes, Creon returns to speak with the Chorus. He is now a changed man, no longer prideful, because of the death of his son. Now Creon regrets his decision to be a king instead of a father, to choose the city over his own family, quite unlike Antigone who favored her family. Now it is his own family that is falling apart, just as Antigone's family had fallen apart after the deaths of her brother Polyneices and Eteocles, her mother Iocasta and her father Oedipus. Now he understands how Antigone felt about the loss of her brother, for it is his own son that has died.
Creon cries aloud "The mistakes of a blinded man/are themselves rigid and laden with death./You look at us the killer and the killed/of the one blood./Oh the awful blindness/of those plans of mine./My son, you were so young,/so young to die. You were freed from the bonds of life/through no folly of your own--only through mine" Line 1340-1346. Finally, Creon admits that he was wrong in not listening to anyone's advice about burying Polyneices' body and about condemning Antigone to death. Antigone had warned him about his folly, as did Haemon, but it was not until Teiresias arrived and the Chorus pressured him to change his mind that he agreed to forgive Antigone and bury Polyneices. Now he calls himself a "blinded man" because he was not wise and refused to listen to the wisdom of others. He declares that he, too, is killed because he is so upset about the death of his son that there is no joy left within him. The Theban king continues to lament about his ignorance while the Chorus comforts him, saying that he has learned from his mistakes and he knows what decisions are just now.
A Second Messenger runs in to see Creon, saying that the queen Eurydice is dead because of suicide, stabbing herself with a knife in her stomach, just as Haemon her son had stabbed himself with a sword. She was too overcome with grief after hearing about the death of her son Haemon. The First Messenger was wrong to think that she would not harm herself, and the Chorus was wise to suspect what she was planning to do and to warn him about it. Creon is overcome with sadness as he goes to see the body of his wife in the palace, lamenting aloud "Poor mother and poor son." The Second Messenger says that Eurydice blamed Creon for killing both Haemon and another son named Megareus, who had died in the war between Thebes and other cities in Argos. Creon hears this and does not disagree. Instead, he blames himself for everything that has happened because of his poor judgement. He asks to be led away by his servants, just as the blind old Teiresias was led away by the young boy. Now Creon, too, needs others to show him the way.
As he departs, Creon wishes only for death to stop his suffering, since he no longer thinks about Thebes at all, "O, let it come, let it come,/that best of fates that waits on my last day./Surely best fate of all. Let it come, let it come!/That I may never see one more day's light!" Line 1401-1404. He wishes for death to save him, the "best of fates." Only death can stop the suffering he feels now because of his poor leadership that has caused not only Thebes to suffer, but it has also caused the death of his son, wife, and his niece Antigone. The Chorus comforts him again, telling him not to worry about the future because "For what is destined/for us, men mortal, there is no escape" Line 1411-1412. No matter how much Creon tried to avoid the prophesy that Teiresias had told him by quickly changing his mind and giving a burial to Polyneices, it did nothing to stop what was already fated to happen. Men have no power to stop Fate, because it is a force that comes from the gods themselves. Once again, the Chorus offers respect and reverence towards the gods.
Creon is led away by his servants, crying aloud because of his mistakes. The Chorus of Theban elders speaks one last time about the lesson that Creon has learned and the lesson that all men should always remember, "Wisdom is far the chief element in happiness/and, secondly, no irreverence towards the gods./But, great words of haughty men exact/in retribution blows as great/and in old age teach wisdom" Line 1420-1424. Creon was not wise and as a result, he has lost all happiness in his life. He was disrespectful to the gods by placing the importance of laws for his city of Thebes as being greater than the religious laws of burial that come from the gods. Because he disrespected the gods, he was punished for his ignorance and given "retribution." However, the final outcome of all of these events is that he has finally found wisdom, as the Chorus says that these punishments from the gods "in old age teach wisdom." Although Creon's suffering is so very great, the important thing is that he is a much wiser man now because of this suffering. Ignorance is the worst crime of all, especially when so many others whom he ruled were in fact wiser than he was. A man possesses wisdom when he can learn from the words of others, and Creon did not do this until it was already too late.