Antigone is a classical tragedy of ancient Greek dramatic art.
In order to understand it properly, it must be kept in mind that the ancient Greeks, without a doubt, believed in the existence of gods and the afterlife.
They believed that if a deceased person is not given proper funeral rites and burial according to the command of the god of the underworld, Hades, they will not be accepted into the afterlife.
The tragedy of the main protagonist, Antigone, is based on the uncompromising situation in which she finds herself after the death of her father, who was the ruler of Thebes.
At that time, her two brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, began a war for the throne in which they both died. The throne is inherited by the closest relative, Creon,
who orders that Eteocles, who was on his side, be buried with all honors, while he prohibits the burial of Polyneices and orders that his body be left to be devoured by birds and beasts.
In doing so, he condemns him to death in the afterlife.
Antigone cannot accept this, she wants to bury her brother Eteocles even at the cost of her own life, which is the punishment for anyone who disobeys Creon's order.
Thus, she becomes a victim of her sisterly love, for which she is not afraid to die.
She boldly responds to Creon, who condemns her: "FOR LOVE, NOT HATE, I WAS BORN."
The plot of this play follows the plot of Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex," in which the justification for the tragic events in "Antigone" is explained.
Namely, Oedipus unknowingly killed his father, Laius, and married his mother, Jocasta, from whose marriage four children were born: Antigone, Ismene, Eteocles, and Polynices.
The prophecy that was pronounced on Oedipus's father extends to all descendants of the Laius lineage, which is why all of Oedipus's children die a tragic death.
FULL BOOK SUMMARY
- After the death of King Oedipus, the ruler of Thebes who was married to his mother Jocasta, both of his sons wanted his throne, which led them into a war.
Eteocles sided with Thebes, while Polynices led the "Seven Against Thebes," seven Argive heroes who attacked Thebes.
In this conflict, they killed each other, leaving their uncle, Jocasta's brother Creon, as the only male relative of Oedipus' generation
- Creon, who is the newly elected king, arranges a worthy funeral for Eteocles as a hero who fought for Thebes and was on its side, while he leaves Polynices' body to be
devoured by dogs and birds as a punishment for treason.
- Antigone cannot accept that her brother's body is not buried with proper funeral rites because it was believed that this way the god of the underworld, Hades, would not accept him into the afterlife.
Thus, Polynices was condemned to death even in the afterlife. Although the punishment for disobeying Creon's order was death, driven by sisterly love, Antigone decides to bury Polynices as the gods command.
- When she buries Polynices, Antigone is caught by the guards and brought to Creon, who sentences her to death. Antigone is not afraid of death because she knows that she is sacrificing herself for her fallen brother.
For her, divine laws are above all human laws.
- Creon's son Haemon, who loves Antigone and wants to marry her, confronts his father to tell him that he is wrong and asks him to free her.
- But Creon behaves tyrannically, refusing to revoke his royal decree, getting angry at his son, and refusing to free Antigone.
He orders that she be walled up alive in a tomb and left to die. Antigone bravely walks towards the tomb.
- After that, the prophet Tiresias comes to Creon, who has helped him many times and whom he trusts.
Tiresias scolds Creon for what he has done and predicts a terrible disaster for him.
- Creon becomes frightened by the prophet's words and immediately rushes to correct his mistakes. First, he goes with his servants to bury Polynices' body in the tomb as the gods command.
- Meanwhile, Creon's son Haemon goes to the tomb to free Antigone but finds her already dead, having hanged herself. He deeply regrets and mourns for Antigone.
- When Creon arrives at the tomb, his son first tries to attack him with a sword but Creon manages to escape. Then, Haemon stabs himself with the sword and falls dead.
- When Creon's wife, Eurydice, hears from a messenger that her son is dead, she kills herself as well.
- Creon, crying for his son, returns to the palace, but there he is met with another tragic news of his wife's death.
- At that moment, Creon curses his fate and blames himself for killing his wife and son, and thus becoming nothing from being a king.
- The plot of the drama ends with a religious message from the chorus, singing that a man must not elevate himself above the gods, nor hinder or defend what the gods have ordained.