‘Antigone’, by Sophocles, is a famous tragedy play which revolves around a sister’s quest to get a decent burial for her dead brother’s body, much against the wishes of the king. This post talks about some important quotes, along with their analysis.
Did You Know?
Sophocles was also called the ‘Attic Bee’, owing to the sweetness of his compositions.
Antigone is a famous play by Sophocles, and a part of the three Theban plays. The main protagonist is Antigone, daughter of the King Oedipus. Eteocles and Polyneices, sons of King Oedipus, are willed to share the throne, but war breaks out between them when one of them refuses to step down. Both are killed, and King Creon takes over. However, he refuses a burial to Polyneices, considering him as a traitor, and also proclaims that anyone who attempts to bury him will be rewarded with death. The plot follows Antigone’s quest to bury her dead brother Polyneices, much to the dismay of King Creon. She is engaged to Creon’s son, and soon set to be married to him. But the king, aghast by her violation of law, decides to get her executed. He leaves her to die in a tomb; however, she commits suicide. His son, filled with grief, kills himself, and Creon’s wife follows suit. That is when the king realizes his folly, but it is too late by then.
The play’s moral is simple. Excessive pride, and defying the rights of others, will always be met by a punishment.
Important Characters in the Play
Main Protagonists: Antigone, King Creon
Other Characters ―
Ismene: Antigone’s sister
Teiresias: The prophet
Haemon: King Creon’s son
Quotes from Sophocles’ Antigone, translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald
I am not afraid of the danger; if it means death,
It will not be the worst of deaths ―death without honor.
Antigone pays no heed to Ismene’s requests, and bluntly tells her that she does not care about death overpowering her. She will not budge, and sticks to her motive. Antigone is of the view that the king can get her killed, but she is not going to step down on her thought. She is willing to bear responsibility for her actions, even if she is penalized by death. She is headstrong, and is fiery enough to even face death for something which she believes in.
We are only women,
We cannot fight with men, Antigone!
Ismene is bent upon making her sister realize that she is making committing folly by meddling with the law. She reminds her of their limitations of being born as a woman, and they can do nothing to supersede the king’s edict.
Your death is the doing of your own conscious hand.
Antigone states that the reason for her sufferings is the blot and disgrace which her father (and brother) Oedipus had brought to her by marrying his own mother. She says her ill-fate was decided when she was born to him, out of such a blasphemous relationship. The chorus replies that man is responsible for his own actions, and he decides his own fate. Choosing to defy the king’s order, she chose death, and she alone is responsible for it.
Not many days,
And your house will be full of men and women weeping,
And curses will be hurled at you from far
Cities grieving for sons unburied, left to rot
Before the walls of Thebes.
Teiresias, the prophet, warns King Creon that, if he does not take immediate action, he will repent his decisions and his family will suffer. There is no law or force greater than the will of God, and by denying the dead the right to a decent burial, curses will follow. His ‘house’, means his family will suffer endlessly as a result of his unwise decisions.
There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;
No wisdom but in submission to the gods.
Big words are always punished,
And proud men in old age learn to be wise.
The message is given by the chorus. He who does not act wisely, and thinks himself to be as powerful as god, will suffer. Greed and ego will be punished, yet, sadly, men realize this very late.
The inflexible heart breaks first, the toughest iron
Cracks first, and the wildest horses bend their necks
At the pull of the smallest curb.
Creon is of the opinion that, no one can go against the law proclaimed by the king, and even if Antigone protests, she will budge once she fears death. He is marveled at her audacity of breaking a law, and being proud of it despite being a woman.
The man who thinks that,
The man who maintains that only he has the power
To reason correctly, the gift to speak, to soul–
A man like that, when you know him, turns out empty.
Haemon advises his father to be more flexible, and not be a tyrant. He tells him that, a man who thinks that he knows everything and is always correct, is the one who fails miserably. It is important to think through different perspectives too.
O my son,
These are no trifles! Think: all men make mistakes,
But a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong,
And repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.
The prophet warns the king to rectify his mistake. He says that his pride will cause him a big loss, hence, it is better if he agrees to bury Polyneices with honor, which any dead person deserves.