Antigone Scene 2 (Lines 383-630): Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Abigail Walker

Abigail has taught writing and literature at various universities. She has an M.A. In literature from American University and an M.F.A. in English from The University of Iowa.

Antigone is now a captive and learns the punishment Creon proposes for her attempt to bury her brother. Despite pleas on Antigone's behalf from her sister and fiance, Creon is steadfast in his resolve to prevent the burial, as we'll discover in this scene from Sophocles's ''Antigone''.

A Grieving Sister

The leader of the Chorus announces his surprise to see the sentry treating Antigone as a captive. After explaining that he had found Antigone trying to bury her brother Polyneices, the sentry adds that he has been terrified by Creon's threats to torture and kill him unless he could find the person who tried to bury Polyneices.

The sentry had found the body, still partially covered by a dusting of earth, and untouched by animals. Not long after brushing the dirt from the now reeking, spongy corpse, the sentry watched as something strange occurred: after a storm of dust passed by, Antigone suddenly appeared. Crying because Polyneices again lay unburied, Antigone anointed her brother's body with drops of wine before again covering it with earth.

An Unforgiving King

After hearing the sentry's story, Creon becomes enraged. Turning to Antigone, he demands to know the truth. She does not deny trying to bury her brother. When Creon asks if she is aware of his edict, Antigone explains she is but finds his law meaningless in comparison with the laws of the gods. Leaving her brother unburied would defy holy laws and cause her immense pain. Consequently, Antigone is prepared to die--but first she wants Creon to know she thinks he is 'a fool.'

In response, the leader of the Chorus exclaims that Antigone, like her father Oedipus, is unreasonable and arrogant. He finds her blameworthy not only for defying Creon's edict, but also for bragging about it. The leader of the Chorus now states that he also accuses Antigone's sister Ismene of conspiring to bury Polyneices. When Antigone hears that that the leader thinks her sister is also guilty and should be arrested, Antigone protests that her own death should be enough--and pleads with Creon to kill her. Caustically, she then adds:

'Ah the good fortune of kings,

Licensed to say and do whatever they please!'

Creon replies angrily, accusing Antigone of not honoring the death of her other brother Eteocles, whom Polyneices killed. Antigone objects, saying all the dead should be honored. But Creon responds that only those who are good should be honored, not those, like Polyneices, who are evil. 'It is my nature to join in love,' Antigone says, 'not hate.'

A Suspected Accomplice

Just then Ismene is brought in. Creon demands that Ismene admit to helping Antigone bury their brother. Ismene confesses that she has had a change of heart: she now realizes that it is her duty to bury her brother.

Bitterly, Antigone says that Ismene had not wanted to support her before and has no right now to 'lessen' Antigone's death by dying with her. Ismene, however, is adamant---she wishes to die. She has no wish to live without her sister.

Ismene then turns to Creon, chastising him for wanting to execute Antigone, the fiancée of Creon's son Haemon. Creon replies that he does not wish Haemon to marry an evil woman. Creon then has Antigone and Ismene led away.

Conflicting Laws

This scene from Antigone explores the conflict between the laws of government and the laws of religion. As monarch, Creon is the government of Thebes and believes he has the right to determine who is to live and who is to die, as well as who is honored and who is disgraced after death. But in disparaging the memory of Polyneices and forbidding his burial, Creon violates religious laws.

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