Antigone Scene 5 (Lines 988-1153): Summary & Analysis

Antigone Scene 5 (Lines 988-1153): Summary & Analysis
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  • 0:05 Teiresias
  • 0:42 Prophecy
  • 1:33 Pride
  • 3:15 Remorse
  • 3:42 Analysis
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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.

Creon meets with the prophet Teiresias in the fifth scene of Sophocles's ''Antigone'. Although a highly esteemed clairvoyant, Teiresias has trouble convincing Creon to accept a prophecy about Creon's treatment of Antigone and her brother's unburied corpse.

Teiresias

Creon has just sent Antigone off to a tomb where she will be walled in alive. Having devised this punishment for Antigone after she tried to bury her brother Polyneices, Creon is finally free of the woman who defied his edict preventing Polyneices's interment.

But Creon has no time to rejoice. No sooner has Antigone gone than Teiresias appears. An ancient, blind prophet, who had figured importantly in the lives of Antigone's father Oedipus and her distant ancestor Cadmus, Teiresias now informs Creon that he has important matters to relate. Creon wants Teiresias to reveal what he knows.

Prophecy

Teiresias explains that he was sitting in his special diviner's chair when he heard a terrible screeching of birds. They sounded as if they were dying after being pecked apart. Consequently, Teiresias decided to make his way to his altar to give an offering. Although he thought he had burned the offering, no fire actually began. His young assistant described to blind Teiresias what he saw: even though there was no a fire, 'the sputtering slime' of a melting leg appeared. Then a bone stripped of all flesh emerged in place of the slimy mess.

This sight was an omen. Teiresias knew immediately that the omen meant Thebes would be cursed because of how Creon punished Antigone. The animals and birds that had devoured Polyneices's rotting flesh would foul the city with their excrement. In disgust, the gods would leave Thebes.

Pride

'What glory is it to kill a man who is dead?' Teiresias asks Creon. In allowing Polyneices to rot on the ground, Creon is bringing disaster to Thebes. Creon, Teiresias advises, must control his pride.

Enraged, Creon responds by dismissing the words of a 'doddering fortune-teller' who just prophesizes to earn money. Creon goes on to say that he would not change his edict even if a bird of prey flew down and after tearing Polyneices' body to shreds, flew chunks of his stinking flesh up to the gods.

'You are sick, Creon!' Teiresias exclaims. 'You are deathly sick!' Then Teiresias rebukes Creon for saying he divines for money, adding that Creon owes his monarchy to Teiresias. Indeed, it was only because of the events that occurred after Teiresias told Oedipus the identity of his parents that Creon was able to become king.

Creon admits that while Teiresias does have certain talents, he has cheapened them by selling them. Creon insists that his edict will stand, no matter what Teiresias says. Not to be silenced, Teiresias now informs Creon of the full extent of the horrors he can expect if he leaves Polyneices unburied and keeps Antigone walled up in her tomb. Hell's evil gods will overrun Creon's house with women and men wailing from the awful sight of their children's bodies left to decompose - the dead victims of wars waged over Creon's injustices.

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