Antigone Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 38 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Antigone.
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Antigone Summary & Study Guide Description

Antigone Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Antigone by Sophocles.

The play begins with a conversation between Antigone and her sister Ismene, daughters of the former ruler of the Greek city of Thebes and nieces to its current ruler. Antigone considers the suffering she has endured as the result of the centuries-old curse on her family, and then tells Ismene of its latest manifestation. Their brother Polyneices, killed in battle while fighting for an army attacking the family’s home city of Thebes, is to remain unburied, , according to law, with his body to be left for the animals as the result of what is regarded as the betrayal of the state. She also reveals her intention to go against the will of the law and bury him. Ismene urges her to follow the law and leave the body alone. Antigone refuses, saying her greater loyalty is to the bonds of love and family than to the state.

After Antigone and Ismene go into the palace that is their home, the Chorus of Theban Elders appears, discusses the situation, and suggests that Antigone is ultimately mistaken. Antigone’s uncle, the Theban ruler Creon, appears, reminds them of Polyneices’ betrayal and of the punishment his body is to receive and urges them to work with him to uphold the law. A Guard brings news that Polyneices’ body has been buried, and Creon sends him in search of the people who did the deed. The Guard returns with Antigone, who argues fiercely with Creon about which loyalty is greater, to the family or to the state. Creon eventually shouts Antigone down and calls for Ismene, who he says is aiding her sister. Ismene comes out and at first says she is in fact planning to join Antigone in her plan, but Antigone sharply tells her not to lie. Ismene pleads with Creon to change his mind, arguing that to execute Antigone will ultimately hurt his son, Haemon, to whom Antigone is engaged. Creon is unmoved and banishes Antigone and Ismene into the house to prepare for their executions.

Haemon then appears, and while professing his loyalty to his father (Creon), also tells him that the people of Thebes are unhappy with his decision and are urging him to pardon Antigone. Creon accuses Haemon of refusing to obey the law out of love for Antigone. Haemon tells him there are greater truths at work than the law, and goes. The Chorus suggests to Creon that Haemon might be right, but Creon continues to disagree, although he does pardon Ismene. Antigone is then brought from the palace under guard, lamenting the fact that she will die unmarried and unloved as she is led to the cave in which Creon plans to imprison her.

After she goes, the blind seer Tereisias appears, warning Creon that if he persists in punishing Antigone, he will face tragedy. After Tereisias goes, the Chorus convinces Creon to believe what he said and pardon Antigone. As he is preparing to fetch her, however, Creon hears a cry of suffering and rushes out. Shortly afterwards, a Messenger returns with news that Antigone and Haemon have both killed themselves. As Creon returns with Haemon’s body, Haemon’s mother Eurydice, who overheard the Messenger’s news, kills herself, adding to Creon’s suffering. As Creon goes into the palace to continue what’s left of his life, the Chorus speaks a brief ode on the subject of too much pride leading to suffering.

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