This is an old one from the archives (2013 – undergrad at Bridgewater State). Not my favorite, but I got through it. 

Antigone and the winds of reverence

            Passionate, desperate and almost enlightened, the speech Antigone gives prior to her sentence being fulfilled is the climax of the play and foreshadows Creon’s inevitable decline. Antigone’s speech highlights important aspects of the play and demonstrates some of Sophocles main points in the story.

With roughly two thirds of the play done by this point, Antigone’s speech shows a disconnect between Creon and the community which gives the momentum for the last portion of the play.

I guess this is an artist adaption of what someone believedAntigone may have looked like. Photo from Shmoop.

I guess this is an artist adaption of what someone believed
Antigone may have looked like. Photo from Shmoop.

There are several key points Antigone has in her speech. The first phrase, “For this alone I held you first in honor.” (Antigone, 1005), has some ambiguity to it that is intriguing. The lines prior to this she speaks of her individual family members. She speaks of her impending doom and consistently switches between the first and second tense. The question this phrase brings, and the others before it, is who is “you”? Is it her actual family members? Is it Creon? The Leader? The Chorus? The physical city of Athens? The gods? The meaning of this passage relies on who the reader, or in case of the preformed play, the viewer, determines is “you.”

The next notable line, “And now he leads me off, a captive in his hands,” (Antigone, 1009) suggests Antigone’s actual point of view, which, in turn, is the moral for the story. Her predestined time on this earth has been cut short by Creon – not the gods. The point is it is not the god’s will to kill people for disobeying a king. It is the king’s will. She is captive in Creon’s hands for properly displaying her faith.

The next line worth noting is one of the more aesthetically pleasing lines of the play. “I descend alive to the caverns of the dead” (Antigone, 1012) is the beginning of Antigone’s oratory climax. The end of a five-line sentence, everything she utters after this is shorter, decisive points. The clear visual the line provides connotes distinctive images in the mind of the audience and works effectively.

Another point that is important to the progression of her speech is the contrast in the lines between 1016 and 1021. In line 1016 there is the irony Antigone points out to the people, commenting that her reverence for the gods was branded as irreverence for the king. This line is important because it exposes the rest of the contrast in the paragraph. Antigone says, “Very Well: if this is the pleasure of the gods…these masters of injustice!” (Antigone, 1017-1021). There are key words in this segment. These words, while they lay flat on the page, would jump into the audience during a performance. Realizing her fate when none of her comrades came to her call, Antigone says “Very well: if this is the pleasure of the gods, once I suffer I will know that I was wrong.” (Antigone, 1017-1018). These words would be spoken very specifically – which impacts the significance of speech in the play. The very well, would be introspective, resigned almost. The strong words, and by strong I mean enunciated, would be the “if this,” which would drive the rest of the sentence and Antigone’s assertions on the men.

While the content between Antigone and Creon in the following lines cannot be ignored, it would be imprudent if the words spoken by the leader were not mentioned. In 1022 and 1023 the leader says “Still the same rough winds, the wild passion, running through the girl.” (Antigone, 1022-1023). The leader could appear many ways to the audience. He could come off introspective, representing a change in how members of the male population view either the actions of women in society, or he could be commenting on the adversity Creon is facing by using the phrase “rough winds.”

All of this, the guided timeline Antigone takes us through, peaks in a four line conversation between Creon and Antigone:

Creon: (to the guards) Take her away./ You’re wasting time – you’ll pay for it too./

Antigone: Oh god, the voice of death. It’s come, it’s here./

Creon: True. Not a word of hope – your doom is sealed./ (Antigone, 1023-1025)

This passage is critical because Antigone finally refers to Creon as the god of death. She has made all the references in the past exposed lines, but this is the first instance in which she draws the connection to Creon misrepresenting the gods’ will and killing Antigone because of his own hubris. The passage, and Antigone’s exit paragraph, is the height of the play because irreversible action is taken upon the heroine at her exit.

The last important thing to note in the paragraph is the sealing – excuse the pun – of Creon’s fate. The last third of the play (The falling action and denouement, as it can be refereed to) is Creon dealing with Tiresias and coming to grips with the death of his son by realizing he should not have killed Antigone. The last word Creon says, and Antigone’s last line, foreshadows the grim psycho-pseudo Romeo and Juliet-esque ending. As it was pointed out earlier, Creon says to Antigone that her fate was sealed. Sophocles word choice of “sealed” is crucial. At its lowest it has three meanings. Because not only is Antigone’s fate sealed, it becomes sealed by her being sealed in a tomb alive. And the last meaning, in conjunction with Antigone’s last line, has Creon sealing his family’s fate at the end of the story.

Works cited

  • Sophocles, “Antigone.” The Three Theban Plays. Trans. Robert Fagles. Penguin, 1984. 59-128. Print.

Passage:

Lines 995-1034

Antigone: Never, I tell you./ if I had been the mother of children/ or if my husband died, exposed and rotting -/ I’d never have taken this ordeal upon myself,/ never defied our people’s will. What law,/ you ask, do I satisfy with what I say?/ A husband dead, there might have been another./ A child by another too, if I had lost the first./ But mother and father both lost in the halls of Death,/ no brother could ever spring to light again./ For this law alone I held you first in honor./ For this Creon, the king, judges me a criminal/ guilty of dreadful outrage, my dear brother!/ And now he leads me off, a captive in his hands,/ with no part in the bridal-song, the bridal-bed, denied all joy of marriage, raising children-/ deserted so by loved ones, struck by fate,/ I descend alive to the caverns of the dead./

What law of the mighty gods have I transgressed?/ Why look to the heavens anymore, tormented as I am? Whom to call, what comrades now? Just think,/ my reverence only brands me for irreverence!/ Very well: if this is the pleasure of the gods, once I suffer I will know that I was wrong./ But if these men are wrong, let them suffer/ nothing worse than they mere out to me- these masters of injustice!

Leader: Still the same rough winds, the wild passion,/ raging through the girl.

Creon: (to the guards) Take her away./ You’re wasting time – you’ll pay for it too.

Antigone: Oh god, the voice of death. It’s come, it’s here.

Creon: True. Not a word of hope – your doom is sealed.

Antigone: Land of Thebes, city of all my fathers-/ O you gods, the first gods of the race!/ They drag me away, now, no more delay./ Look on me, you noble sons of Thebes-/ the last of a great line of kings,/ I alone, see what I suffer now/ at the hands of what breed of men-/ all for reverence, my reverence for the gods!

Acheson guidelines:

Did I like the work?

To use this question as the lead question in an explication process is harmful and could possibly skewer the analysis of a passage. If I decide, prior to doing the brunt work of the explication, whether or not I like the work, I am predisposing myself to what things could possibly mean.

For sake of this however, I did enjoy the work – much more than Oedipus, in fact. I had read some version of Oedipus various times over my collegiate career but I had never read Antigone. While I felt the play was predictable, I found Antigone’s character had a duality not seen in many works during that time period. She was progressive and restricted.

Words that stood out to me:

There were not as many words that stood out to me as there were phrases. The first phrase, “For this alone I held you first in honor.” (Antigone, 1005), has some ambiguity to it that is intriguing. The lines prior to this she speaks of her individual family members. She speaks of her impending doom and consistently switches between the first and second tense. The question this phrase brings, and the others before it, is who is “you”? Is it her actual family members? Is it Creon? The Leader? The Chorus? The physical city of Athens? The gods? The meaning of this passage relies on who the reader, or in case of the preformed play, the viewer, determines is “you.”

The next notable line, “And now he leads me off, a captive in his hands,” suggests Antigone’s actual point of view, which, in turn, is the moral for the story. Her predestined time on this earth has been cut short by Creon – not the gods. The point is it is not the god’s will to kill people for disobeying a king. It is the king’s will. She is captive in Creon’s hands for properly displaying her faith.

The next line is one of the more aesthetically pleasing lines of the play. “I descend alive to the caverns of the dead” is the beginning of Antigone’s oratory climax. The end of a five-line sentence, everything she utters after this are shorter, decisive points.

One more note, because I fear this is taking away from the points I will have in the essay. The last words Creon speaks to Antigone are “True. Not a word of hope – your doom is sealed.” In this line “sealed” has a double meaning. Her punishment is to be locked in a cave of which they will seal off and she cannot escape that fate. It’s appropriate wordplay by Sophocles.

What feelings does this give me?

I think this point can also be misleading. Acheson focuses too much on applying personal feelings when she should be focusing the student to question what feelings the story resonates and why they resonate them. What was the author’s intent for writing the work in that specific fashion.

The feelings Antigone resonates within me are feelings of despair, of desperation. This speech is Antigone’s last gasp. It is her personal requital before the eyes of society, the gods, fate.

Do I identify with any of the people represented?

This is another bad note. Like her feelings suggestion I think this is a way too personal approach to prepare for a collegiate essay.

For sake of the assignment the closest person I could identify with would be Antigone. I think most people at some point in time have been persecuted for doing something they believed to be morally just – with varying severities.

Is there anything about how it’s written that makes it stand out?

From the entrance of Creon prior to the chorus speaking at 959, Antigone dominates the conversation. She has eight speaking parts compared to three for Creon and one a piece for the Leader and the Chorus. Antigone’s speech moves in a fashion that mirrors plot structure. She lays the exposition of the incident, what the inciting incident was, gradually rises, climaxes, falls, and ends with the appropriate denouement that foreshadows the ending of the play.

What is the work about?

Antigone is about the difference between the will of the people and the will of the gods and how the people can misuse the will of the gods for their personal use. It is about self-actualization and being able to adjust to a scenario for the good of those around you.

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Welcome to the empty recesses of my mind! I'm a recent college graduate realizing a Creative Writing degree was a bad idea. Give me a pity like. Or you could check out the about sections (on the front page and about this author page) on my blog to learn a little more about me. Whatever. https://thebohemianrockstarpresents.wordpress.com/

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