The play is about a strong-willed woman, Antigone, defying the laws of a proud king, Creon. Antigone is torn between her devotion to the gods, her brother Polynices, and her loyalty to the king. Creon, ruler of Thebes, issued the order to leave the traitor Polynices' body unburied.
He must be left unburied, his corpse
carrion for the birds and dogs to tear,
an obscenity for the citizens to behold! (229-31)
Antigone was not about to simply obey Creon's absurd decree. She felt that her personal responsibility was to the gods and her family rather than the king. She then asked Ismene, her sister, to assist her with the burial, but was denied any help. Ismene justified her decision by telling Antigone that they were already punished and that there was no need to make matters worse for the two of them by defying Creon's law.
Oh my sister, think- think how our own father died, hated,
his reputation in ruins, driven on
by the crimes he brought to light himself
to gouge out his eyes with his own hands-
then mother his mother and wife, both in one,
mutilating her life in the twisted noose-
and last, our two brothers dead in a single day,
both shedding there won blood, poor suffering boys,
battling out their common destiny hand-to-hand. (60-69)
I, for one, I'll beg the dead to forgive me
I'm forced, I have no choiceI must obey
the ones who stand in power. Why rush to extremes?
It's madness, madness. (78-81)... [continues]
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