(c. 496-406 B.C.)
translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald
Antigone, daughter of Oedipus
Ismene, daughter of Oedipus
Eurydice, wife of Creon
Creon, King of Thebes
Haimon, son of Creon
Teiresias, A blind seer Sentry
Scene: Before the palace of Creon, King of Thebes. A central double door, and two lateral doors. A platform extends the length of the façade, and from this platform three steps lead down into the orchestra, or dancing place. Or, simply, in front of the palace at Thebes. Time: Dawn of the day after the repulse of the Argive army from the assault on Thebes. Prologue
[Antigone and Ismene enter.]
Isemene, dear sister, You would think that we had already suffered enough for the curse on our father, Oedipus.I cannot imagine any grief that you and I have not gone through. And now—have they told you of the new decree of our uncle, King Creon? ISMENE
I have heard nothing: I know that two sisters lost two brothers, a double death In a single hour; and I know that the Argive army fled in the night; but beyond this, nothing. ANTIGONE
I thought so. And that is why I wanted you to come out here with me. This is something we must do. ISMENE
Why do you speak so strangely?
Listen, Ismene: Creon buried our brother, Eteocles, with military honors, gave him a soldier's funeral, and it was right that he should--but Polyneices, who fought as bravely and died as miserably—they say that Creon has sworn no one shall bury him, no one mourn for him, but his body must lie in the fields, a sweet treasure for carrion birds to find as they search for food. That is what they say, and our good Creon is coming here to announce it publicly; and the penalty--stoning to death in the public square! There it is, and now you can prove what you are: a true sister, or a traitor to your family. ISMENE
Antigone, you are mad! What could I possibly do?
You must decide whether you will help me or not.
I do not understand you. Help you in what?
Ismene, I am going to bury him.
Bury him! You have just said the new law forbids it.
He is my brother. And he is your brother, too.
But think of the danger! Think what Creon will do!
Creon is not strong enough to stand in my way.
Ah sister! Oedipus died, everyone hating him for what his own search brought to light, his eyes ripped out by his own hand, and Jocasta died, his mother and wife at once, our mother: she twisted the cords that strangled her life; and our two brothers died, each killed by the other's sword. And we are left. But, oh, Antigone, think how much more terrible than this our own death would be if we should go against Creon and do what he has forbidden! We are only women. We cannot fight with men, Antigone! The law is strong, we must give in to the law in this thing. I beg the Dead to forgive me, but I am helpless: I must yield to those in authority, and I think it is dangerous business to be always meddling. ANTIGONE
If that is what you think, then I should not want you, even if you asked to come. You have made your choice; you can be what you want to be. But I will bury him, and if I must die, I say that this crime is holy. I shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he to me. It is the dead, not the living, who make the greatest demands: we die forever. . . ISMENE
I have no strength to break laws that were made for the public good. ANTIGONE
That must be your excuse, I suppose. But as for me, I will bury the brother I love. ISMENE
Antigone, I am so afraid for you!
You need not be: you have yourself to consider, after all.
But no one must hear of this, you must tell no one! I will keep it a secret, I promise! ANTIGONE
O tell it! Tell everyone!
So fiery! You should be cold with...