Sophocles' ANTIGONE pages 685-741
The conflict in Antigone -- individual conscience at odds with established authority -- is eternally relevant. When we know that those in power are morally wrong, do we break their laws, or do we collaborate with them by obeying? This was a crucial question for some Europeans during World War II.
Antigone is a longer work, but it is divided into six (6) relatively short sections. It will be important to make early identification of some of the story's many themes, such as the Defiance of Authority.
The story is the final chapter in the Oedipus saga. It would help if you discovered some of the background.
Literary Terms: Conflict (Internal/External), Characterization, Tone, Flashback, Setting, Metaphor (Implied/ Extended), Inferences, Plot, Point of View, Theme, Imagery, Foil Character, Style, Irony (Verbal/ Situational/ Dramatic), Alliteration, Cause + Effect, Repetition
Words to Own: repulse, sated, swagger; comprehensive, senile, sententiously, lithe; insolence, waver, transcends; deference, malicious, somberly, piety; vigil, transgress, wrath; calamity, recoils, defile.
Questions to further Understanding: (in chronological order)
1. Make a Pro/ Con chart regarding the theme Defiance of Authority.
2. What might qualify a judge to be "right"?
3. Why is a "wrong" judgment a "dreadful" thing?
4. In looking at the cast of characters, how might the detail of the prophet's blindness be of importance (692)?
5. How are Antigone and Ismene contrasted in the first lines of the play (693)?
6. How is the contrast in the sisters' characters revealed in the way each one speaks (693)?
7. What did the Greeks believe about the person's soul after they died?
8. In presenting alternatives to Ismene, what loaded words does Antigone use (693)?
9. What does the statement in line 35 reveal about Antigone (694)?
10. Express, in one sentence, Ismene's argument against aiding Antigone (694).
11. Which of Antigone's parting comments seems to be meant to produce the greatest emotional effect (695)?
12. How does the Parados differ in tone and content from the Prologue (697)?
1. What were the storms that threatened to destroy the Ship of State (700)?
2. Why is it important for the audience to hear Creon distance himself from Polyneices (700)?
3. How does the end of Creon's speech differ from its beginning (701)?
4. How does the Choragos feel about Creon's command (701)?
5. How do you come to that conclusion in #4?
6. What does the comment in lines 64-65 reveal about Creon (701)?
7. How does the arrival of the Sentry affect this scene (701)?
8. Trace the order of events in the Sentry's account.
9. How does Creon really feel about the elders (703)? Explain.
10. What qualities in Creon would Sophocles' audience have found most godlike (704)?
11. What might the audience have considered to be Creon's "human defects" (704)?
12. Does Creon remind you of any characters in other plays or movies ? If so, whom?
1. State the main idea of the first three verses (705).
2. On the basis of this final verse, why do you think the Chorus supports Creon (705)?
1. What might you read into the reference to "the princess Antigone" (707)?
2. What does Creon's reaction in lines 17-20, suggest about his relationship with Antigone (707)?
3. Is there an advantage in seeing the scene through the eyes of the Sentry? Explain.
4. Why has Antigone violated Creon's decree (708)?
5. How do you feel about Creon's accusation of Ismene (709)?
6. Do you think that Antigone is reading the Theban elders' motives for obedience correctly (710)? Explain.
7. What is Creon's main point in this argument, lines 106-118? What is Antigone's main point (710)?
8. What two images are contrasted in the different characterizations given for the opinion of Ismene (710-11)?
9. Based on what you have seen of Ismene's character so far, what do you think is her motive for desiring death?
10. In what sense can Antigone's rejection of Ismene be seen as a matter of pride (711)?
11. How is Ismene a foil character to Antigone?
1. Contrast the language of Ode 2 to the language of the preceding dialogue in Scene 2. How do they differ?
2. Describe the curse that afflicts the royal family.
3. How would you summarize lines 11-12?
1. Do you think that Creon will regret ignoring diviners (716)?
2. What attitude does Haimon seem to have toward his father (716)?
3. What is ironic about Creon's advice regarding Antigone (716)?
4. What kind of leader would many people identify with Creon's statement in lines 35-36 (717)?
5. What dos Creon seem to fear the most?
6. State Haimon's main argument in your own words?
7. What is Haimon's tone during his speech, lines 51-92 (717-8)?
8. Why do you think the Choragos avoids taking sides in this argument (718)?
9. What character flaw in Creon does his question, lines 95-6, reveal (718)?
10. How does Haimon's and Creon's views of kingship clash (719)?
11. What emotion is expressed in lines 116-7?
12. How might Haimon's warning, line 119, be interpreted?
13. How has Haimon's attitude toward Creon -- his father and his king -- changed since the start of the scene?
14. Lines 135-6...what do we know that the Choragos and Creon do not (720)?
15. Based on what you have read, would you say Creon is a good ruler or a poor ruler?
1. What does the Chorus appear to believe about love, based on the encounter with Haimon (721)?
1. Antigone seems somewhat regretful at this moment. Is this the best word to describe her feelings (723)?
2. How does Antigone different from the way she seemed earlier in the play?
3. Do you think that the "family curse" is worth mentioning again? Why or why not (724)?
4. Do you think that Creon really feels his hands are clean in this matter, or is he just posturing?
5. What do you think Creon's punishment will be? Why (725)?
1. What is the subject of this ode (726)?
1. What irony is present in Teiresias's statement, line 24 (728)?
2. According to Tieresias, what has provoked the gods' anger (729)?
3. How has Creon been guilty of the sin of pride? Explain.
4. What is Creon's tone in lines 57-8 (730)?
5. How does he mimic Teiresias's speaking style?
6. To what is Teiresias alluding in line 64? Explain.
7. What does Teiresias seem to be predicting in 70-84?
8. What are Teiresias's arrows? How does this warning tie to Creon's words earlier in the scene (lines 43-44)?
9. Why do you think the Choragos changes to a more direct and forceful speaking style (731)?
10. Why do you think Creon decides to save Antigone?
1. What might some of the reasons be for placing the Paean at this point in the play (731)?
2. What dramatic irony do you sense in this Paean (732, Strophe 2)?
1. In what sense does the statement, lines 4-6, relate to one of the main ideas in Antigone (733)?
2. Whose death do you think the messenger is hinting at?
3. What conclusion can be drawn from the Messenger's statement about why Haimon killed himself?
4. Why do you think Eurydice claims, "I can bear it" (734)?
5. Would the play be different if Haimon had already killed himself by the time Creon reached the vault?
6. What do the Choragos and the Messenger expect Eurydice to do (735)?
7. How has Creon changed?
8. How would you restate the exclamation, line 98?
9. What words does Creon repeat (736)?
10. What does the repetition suggest about his state of mind?
11. Do you think that Creon is justified in taking all the blame upon himself? Explain.
12. Do you think the ancient Greeks saw anything positive about Fate (737)?
13. Why do you think the Choragos now addresses the audience directly?
14. How would you paraphrase the main idea of these four lines, 139-142?
A Note about the Author
Sophocles (496?- 406 B.C.) is generally considered the greatest of the ancient Greek playwrights. Few writers of any period have had a greater impact on drama, and few have been better loved in their own lifetimes.
Few plays are more admired than the "Theban" plays -- three tragedies about King Oedipus and his family. The plays were written over a forty-year period, and he actually began with the third part of the story, Antigone. Twelve years later, he backtracked and wrote the first part of the story, Oedipus the King. It wasn't until the last years of his life that he wrote the middle section, Oedipus at Colonus.
Perhaps the ninety-year-old playwright hoped that people would soon say of him what one of his characters says after Oedipus dies and is mysteriously carried off by the gods:
"...he is taken without lamentation, Illness or suffering; indeed his end
Was wonderful if (a) mortal ever was."