of the Theban trilogy of plays by Sophocles
(preceded by Oedipus the King
and Oedipus at Colonus
follows the fate of the daughter of Oedipus.
The play starts with Antigone bringing her sister, Ismene, terrible news. Between the end of Oedipus at Colonus
and the start of Antigone, Polynices led an army against Eteocles for the right to inherit his father's throne. The brothers took each other's lives. This was chronicled in the play The Progeny
; sadly, only a single exchange survives of that play
. It can be read here
. Creon, now undisputed master of Thebes once more, has ordered that Polynices be left unburied as a traitor. Antigone asks her sister to help her bury their brother properly, but Ismene refuses, and Antigone does it by herself.
Unfortunately, she is caught, and Creon orders her walled up in a cave to die. Despite warnings from both the Chorus and Tiresias that leaving the dead unburied will have terrible consequences, it is not until Tiresias predicts that Creon's family will suffer and armies will march against Thebes that he relents. Unfortunately, he's too late, as the time spent burying the body prevented Creon and his helpers to reach Antigone before she hanged herself. Seeing he was too late, Haemon, her fiance and Creon's son, stabbed himself, and when THAT news reached his mother, Eurydice, she stabbed herself. The play ends with Creon leaving the stage a broken man.
Also the name of a 1944 existential play by French playwright Jean Anouilh which covers the same events as the play by Sophocles, with a much more modern bend.
The original play contains examples of:
- Alas, Poor Villain: Creon. By the end of the play he's lost his whole family.
- Anachronic Order: This was actually written before Oedipus the King.
- Anti-Villain: Creon is seen as this today.
- Anyone Can Die: By the end, Antigone, Haemon and Eurydice were dead.
- Acquitted Too Late: By the time Creon realizes he was being an asshole and Antigone should go free, she's already killed herself.
- Badass Pacifist: Antigone: she causes a lot of disruption with no physical force.
- Barred from the Afterlife: Polynices has been left unburied by the king Creon so that his soul cannot go on to the underworld, in punishment for his rebellion. His sister Antigone takes it upon herself to do so.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: A possible reason for Antigone's hanging herself rather than waiting to die in her "tomb".
- Blind Seer: Tiresias.
- Break the Haughty: As was the Greek standard.
- Buried Alive: Antigone is walled up in a crypt.
- Cain and Abel: The backstory. The Progeny has more detail but well...
- Character Title
- Death Seeker: Antigone. She views an eternal afterlife serving the gods as more desirable than a temporary life serving man. Hence why, after being imprisoned, she hangs herself.
- The Determinator: Antigone.
- Disaster Dominoes: The ending is basically Suicide Dominoes. Poor Creon.
- Downer Ending: Obviously.
- Driven to Suicide: Antigone, and later on, Haemon and Eurydice.
- Due to the Dead: The importance of this is a major plot point.
- Evil Uncle: Creon.
- Greek Chorus: Literally of course. They represent the people and elders of Thebes.
- The Hero Dies: Antigone herself at the end.
- Honor Before Reason: Antigone.
- Idiot Ball:
- All of the tragedy is a result of first Antigone and then Creon deciding that burying Polynices is more important than keeping Antigone alive.
- Creon for not knowing that, generally, flipping off the gods by not burying the dead is a bad idea.
- Kissing Cousins: Antigone and Haemon.
- Worryingly they are more closely related than ordinary first cousins, as Antigone is related to Creon through both her parents.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Creon at the end.
- Name's the Same: No, Creon's wife is not the same Eurydice whom Orpheus loved and tried to rescue from the Underworld.
- Nor is Creon the same man as the guy from Euripides' Medea—that guy was the king of Corinth, not Thebes.
- Not Blood Siblings: Antigone is not only Haemon's cousin, but also his foster sister, since Creon raised Antigone, Ismene, Polynices, and Eteocles as his children after Oedipus left Thebes.
- Prophecies Are Always Right: We don't know how the neighbouring cities feel about Thebes by the end of the play, but just about everything else happened as predicted.
- Punished for Sympathy: Antigone's brother Polynices dies an enemy of the state, and Creon commands that Polynices' body shall not be buried. Antigone gives him a proper burial anyway, so she is sentenced to be locked in a tomb.
- Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere
- Secondhand Storytelling: Per the standards of the day, all the suicides happen off-screen to be related by messengers for the audience.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Antigone and Haemon
- Tag Team Suicide
- Together in Death: Antigone and Haemon at the end.
- Tragic Hero: Both Creon and Ismene are bound by their devotion to the law; Antigone is compelled to give her brother a proper burial, while Creon's responsibility as king is to stop her.
- Trilogy Creep: Originally this was the fourth Theban play. The Progeny, alas, only survives in fragments.
- Values Dissonance: Modern audiences cannot grasp the sense of honour and why is the burial ritual so important — more important than preserving life.
- Villain Protagonist: Creon. Antigone may be the titular character, but Creon is arguably the real protagonist.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Creon.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Because Oedipus did... well... what Oedipus did, their entire family is cursed. Excluding Ismene, for some reason.
The Anouilh play contains examples of:
- Fatal Flaw: Antigone's complete unwillingness to bend even in the face of reason.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Antigone is insistent throughout the play that this is the real reason she fights so hard to die, because both she and Creon have "roles" to play.
- Greek Chorus: The Chorus in this version is unique in that it is not the "voice of the elders of the city" as it would have been (and was) in the original play, but is instead something like a meta narrator who points out the inherent flaws and hypocrisy of the characters within the play
- Tomboy: Antigone in this version of the play in contrast with her sister who is the traditional "feminine" character.