Ancient Thebes survived a civil war, but at a terrible cost. The sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polyneices, fought each other for the throne, but ultimately killed each other. Their uncle, Creon, has declared himself king, and ordered that the body of Polyneices--whom he sees as a traitor to Thebes--be left unburied outside the city walls. This punishment will ensure his spirit will never be at rest in the afterlife. And anyone who defies Creon’s orders will be put to death.
Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, is outraged at the cruelty of Creon’s decree, and believes it is an insult not only to Polyneices, but to the gods as well. She resolves to bury her brother, even if it means her own death. Refusing help from anyone, Antigone stands alone against injustice and buries her brother. After she is caught, Creon is faced with a moral dilemma: Does he follow through on his decree and put his own niece to death? Or does he relent and undermine his own authority as king?
Sophocles’ Antigone dramatizes the moral struggles and civil disobedience following war. Originally performed in Ancient Athens, during a time of rising national pride, Antigone exposes the dangers of an absolute ruler clouded by his own hubris, and praises the devotion of one woman to justice for her family.
Antigone guide sections