Antigone Vocabulary

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Sophocles' 'Antigone' is a dramatic play that looks at the aftermath of war and how a society puts itself back together again. In this lesson, we will look the definitions of ''Antigone'' vocabulary words in context of the play.


The tragedy Antigone was written by Sophocles around 440 B.C. The play opens with Oedipus's sons Eteocles and Polyneices dying in war after fighting to be king of Thebes. It is decided that King Eteocles will receive a proper burial, but that Polyneices won't because of his alliances.

Polyneices's sister Antigone refuses to accept this decision and buries her brother anyways. Antigone is discovered burying her brother and is sentenced to death by Creon. Haemon, her fiancé, attempts to persuade him to spare her. Eventually, Tiresias, a seer, convinces Creon that Polyneices should be buried, but the decision comes too late for Antigone, who hangs herself. Her death results in the suicide of Haemon and his mother.

The tragedy is an examination of the perils of war and uses vocabulary words that are commonly used in the English language today. In this lesson, we will look at the definitions of tumult, prevail, abhor, brazen, and succor, popular words used in Antigone, as well as place them in context within the play to develop a stronger understanding of each word.



Tumult is a noun that is defined as a 'disorderly agitation' or 'a state of great mental or emotional confusion.' In the play, we see tumult appear in the following lines when the messenger delivers news to the king:

'Well, let us to the house and solve our doubts,

Whether the tumult of her heart conceals

Some fell design.'

The quote comes after the queen hears about her son Haemon's death. Her heart is in a violent state of emotional confusion at the news of her son's death, which ultimately leads to her decision to take her own life. In this particular instance, the word 'fell' is used as an adjective meaning 'very fierce or cruel.' The tumult caused by the pain of her son's death leads to her death, which leads to more suffering for King Creon.


Prevail is a verb defined as, 'to gain ascendancy through strength or superiority.' In Antigone 'prevail' adheres to that definition. For example, the guard speaking to Creon says,

'But in the end the forward voice prevailed,

To face thee. I will speak though I say nothing.

For plucking courage from despair methought,

'Let the worst hap, thou canst but meet thy fate.'

In this passage, the guard is reluctant in telling the king about Antigone's decision to bury her brother despite his mandate to leave his body on the battleground. The guard doesn't want to give the king news because he worries about the consequences of his actions, and is at first silent. However, his 'forward voice' was able to rise above his timidness and reveal the news to the king. He prevailed over his silence by speaking up.


The verb abhor is defined as to 'dislike something very much.' The modern definition is similar to the usage within the play, as you can see in the conversation between Antigone and her sister, Ismene:

'Bethink thee, sister, of our father's fate,

Abhorred, dishonored, self-convinced of sin,

Blinded, himself his executioner.'

Ismene doesn't want their fates to be the same as their father's fate. Oedipus killed his father and married his mother, which brought him great dishonor. She reminds Antigone that they bear the burden of his actions, which are abhorred by society. Not only that, but the sisters greatly dislike that their lives are partially influenced by his fate.

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