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Antigone's manifest action is fairly straightforward, but uncommonly strong conflicts and ideas are embedded in the action and embodied by the characters. King Creon's niece Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, disobeys a direct royal order against performing a burial of her brother, dishonored in the horrific late siege of Thebes. When she is found out she defies Creon, who condemns her to a slow death in a sealed cave. Challenged in turn by his son Haemon, who was betrothed to Antigone, and the irksome soothsayer Tieresias, who reminds Creon that he, too, is mortal, Creon relents--too late. Antigone has hanged herself, Haemon has killed himself, and Creon's wife Eurydice, crushed by Haemon's loss, has dispatched herself too. Creon's opponents are gone, and he is in fact what he has spent most of the play insisting he must be: sole head of state. He is also remorseful, guilty, solitary.

Antigone is laden with symbols and images that refer to fundamentals of human experience. At one level, Antigone can be seen as the symbol of individual conscience, representative of obligations to social authority and family feeling. She privileges conscience from the opening lines of the play: "I intend to give [Polyneices] burial. . . . He is our brother. I will do my duty, / Yours too, perhaps. I never will be false" (Ant. 43-46). Her duty, by Creon's decree, merits a sentence of stoning. Antigone's action becomes a personified critique of injustice that masquerades as legitimate state authority.

The injustice, like the state, is personified in Creon. He characterizes Polyneices as a traitor who wanted "to consume / The city of his fathers with his fire" (Ant. 174-5). The more we see of Creon, however, and the more love he declares for Thebes, the more problematized he and his state become. He explodes at a hint of defiance. The Chorus, standing for the elders of Thebes and happy enough to obey him because of his military victory, timidly wonders w...

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Antigone. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:32, August 15, 2022, from