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Filled with passionate speeches and sensitive probing of moral and philosophical issues, this powerful drama reveals the grim fate that befalls the children of Oedipus. When Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, chooses to obey the law of the gods rather than an unconscionable command from Creon, ruler of Thebes, she is condemned to death. How the gods take their revenge on Creon provides the gripping denouement to this compelling tragedy, still one of the most frequently performed of classical Greek dramas. Footnotes.

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Scene, before the Royal Palace at Thebes. Time, early morning. Enter ANTIGONE and ISMENE.

ANTIGONE. Ismene, dear in very sisterhood,
Do you perceive how Heaven upon us two
Means to fulfil, before we come to die,
Out of all ills that grow from Œdipus—
What not, indeed ? for there’s no sorrow or harm,
No circumstance of scandal or of shame
I have not seen, among your griefs, and mine.
And now again, what is this word they say
Our Captain-general proclaimed but now
To the whole city ? Did you hear and heed ?
Or are you blind, while pains of enemies
Are passing on your friends ?
ISMENE. Antigone,
To me no tidings about friends are come,
Pleasant or grievous, ever since we two
Of our two brothers were bereft, who died
Both in one day, each by the other’s hand.
And since the Argive host in this same night
Took itself hence, I have heard nothing else,
To make me happier, or more miserable.
ANTIGONE. I knew as much; and for that reason made you
Go out of doors—to tell you privately.
ISMENE. What is it ? I see you have some mystery.
ANTIGONE. What ! has not Creon to the tomb preferred
One of our brothers, and with contumely
Withheld it from the other ? Eteocles
Duly, they say, even as by law was due,
He hid beneath the earth, rendering him honour
Among the dead below ; but the dead body
Of Polynices, miserably slain,
They say it has been given out publicly
None may bewail, none bury, all must leave
Unwept, unsepulchred, a dainty prize
For fowl that watch, gloating upon their prey !
This is the matter he has had proclaimed—
Excellent Creon ! for your heed, they say,
And mine, I tell you—mine ! and he moves hither,
Meaning to announce it plainly in the ears
Of such as do not know it, and to declare
It is no matter of small moment ; he
Who does any of these things shall surely die ;
The citizens shall stone him in the streets.
So stands the case. Now you will quickly show
If you are worthy of your birth or no.
ISMENE. But O rash heart, what good, if it be thus,
Could I effect, helping or hindering ?
ANTIGONE. Look, will you join me ? will you work with me ? ISMENE. In what attempt ? What mean you ?
ANTIGONE. Help me lift
The body up—
ISMENE. What, would you bury him ?
Against the proclamation ?
ANTIGONE. My own brother
And yours I wild ! If you will not, I will ;
I shall not prove disloyal.
ISMENE. You are mad !
When Creon has forbidden it ?
ANTICONE. From mine own
He has no right to stay me.
ISMENE. Alas, O sister,
Think how our father perished ! self-convict—
Abhorred—dishonoured—blind—his eyes put out
By his own hand ! How she who was at once
His wife and mother with a knotted noose
Laid violent hands on her own life ! And how
Our two unhappy brothers in one day
Each on his own head by the other’s hand
Wrought common ruin ! We now left alone—
Do but consider how most miserably
We too shall perish, if despite of law
We traverse the behest or power of kings.
We must remember we are women born,
Unapt to cope with men ; and, being ruled
By mightier than ourselves, we have to hear
These things—and worse. For my part, I will ask
Pardon of those beneath, for what perforce
I needs must do, but yield obedience
To them that walk in power ; to exceed
Is madness, and not wisdom.
ANTIGONE. Then in future
I will not bid you help me ; nor henceforth,
Though you desire, shall you, with my good will,
Share what I do. Be what seems right to you ;
Him will I bury. Death, so met, were honour ;
And for that capital crime of piety,
Loving and loved, I will lie by his side.
Far longer is there need I satisfy
Those nether Powers, than powers on earth ; for there
For ever must I lie. You, if you will,
Hold up to scorn what is approved of Heaven !
ISMENE. I am not one to cover things with scorn ;
But I was born too feeble to contend
Against the state.
ANTIGONE. Yes, you can put that forward ;
But I will go and heap a burial mound
Over my most dear brother.
ISMENP:. My poor sister,
How beyond measure do I fear for you !
ANTIGONE. Do not spend fear on me. Shape your own course.
ISMENE. At least announce it, then, to nobody,
But keep it close, as I will.
ANTIGONE. Tell it, tell it !
You’ll cross me worse, by far, if you keep silence—
Not publish it to all.
ISMENE. Your heart beats hotly
For chilling work !
ANTIGONE. I know that those approve
Whom I most need to please.
ISMENE. If you could do it !
But you desire impossibilities.
ANTIGONE. Well, when I find I have no power to stir,
I will cease trying.
ISMENE. But things impossible
’Tis wrong to attempt at all.
ANTIGONE. If you will say it,
I shall detest you soon ; and you will justly
Incur the dead man’s hatred. Suffer me
And my unwisdom to endure the weight
Of what is threatened. I shall meet with nothing
More grievous, at the worst, than death, with honour.
ISMENE. Then go, if you will have it : and take this with you,
You go on a fool’s errand ! [Exit ANTIGONE.
Lover true
To your beloved, none the less, are you !
Enter THEBAN SENATORS, as Chorus.

I. 1.
Sunbeam bright ! Thou fairest ray
That ever dawned on Theban eyes
Over the portals seven !
O orb of aureate day,
How glorious didst thou rise
O‘er Dirca’s1 streams, shining from heaven,
Him, the man2 with shield of white
Who came from Argos in armour dight
Hurrying runagate o’er the plain,3
Jerking harder his bridle rein ;
Who by Polynices’ quarrellous broil
Stirred up in arms to invade our soil
With strident cries as an eagle flies
Swooped down on the fields before him,...

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Citation styles for AntigoneHow to cite Antigone for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Sophocles. (2012). Antigone ([edition unavailable]). Dover Publications. Retrieved from (Original work published 2012)
Chicago Citation
Sophocles. (2012) 2012. Antigone. [Edition unavailable]. Dover Publications.
Harvard Citation
Sophocles (2012) Antigone. [edition unavailable]. Dover Publications. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Sophocles. Antigone. [edition unavailable]. Dover Publications, 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.