The Parados in Antigone (Lines 101-163): Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson will expound on the content and purpose of the parados in ''Antigone'' by Sophocles. Learn what a parados is, what information we learn from this one in particular, and why it is important to the story.

Definition of Parados

A parade? A parody? No ... a parados. A parados is part of a Greek tragedy in which the chorus enters for the first time and sings its first song. The chorus is a group of people who sing in unison songs that provide commentary and sometimes background information about the play. The chorus uses the parados to provide important information.

If you happened to be watching a play in Greece in 400 BC, and you walked in after the parados was over, you would quite possibly be lost for the rest of the play. Without hearing what the chorus had to say in the parados, you wouldn't understand what was happening. This holds true for Antigone by Sophocles.

Family Feud

As is typical, the parados in Antigone follows directly after the prologue, which starts the play and sets up the story. Through a dialogue between Antigone and Ismene in the prologue of Antigone, we learn that their two brothers have killed one another in battle. We further learn that the new king, Creon, has given one brother a hero's funeral while leaving the other brother to rot in the open air. In the parados, the chorus fills us in on how this all came to pass.

We know that two brothers killed each other -- but how? And why? The parados tells us. Eteocles and Polyneices are the two sons of Oedipus, the former king of Thebes. Upon the king's death, Eteocles and Polyneices agreed that they would take turns ruling in their father's stead -- each ruling for one year and then trading turns with the other.

After Eteocles had his turn, however, he decided not to step down for Polyneices as they had agreed. Polyneices, understandably, was irritated. He and his father-in-law raised an army and attacked his brother in Thebes to claim his rightful spot on the throne. The attack failed (with some help from Zeus).

Though the attack against Thebes had failed, the chorus tells us in the parados that ''on either side, one man remained.'' Furthermore, we learn that these two remaining men were brothers, ''seed of one father, birth from one mother.'' (Their mother also happened to be their grandmother at the same time ... but that's another story.) Here, we learn that Eteocles and Polyneices fought ''out of hatred,'' and ''planted spears against each other, and both of them conquered, sharing a twin death.''

Passing Judgement

Another function of the parados -- and of the chorus generally -- is to pass judgement on the events of the play. We see that here as the chorus comments on the actions of Polyneices as he gathers an army and comes to attack his own brother in his own country.

''Zeus hates the noise of a bragging tongue,'' the chorus tells us. ''When he saw them come against us in a great gush, grandiose with splashing gold, he whirled fire.'' They are calling Polyneices arrogant, bragging, and grandiose. His tragic flaw is pride. Interestingly, they don't make any comment about how rude it was of Eteocles to refuse to honor his agreement with Polyneices, but maybe that's because history is written by the winners.

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