Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The heroine, Antigone, opens the play attempting to defy the tyrant Creon's orders that her brother Polynices lie unburied. Polynices had attacked the city in the Seven Against Thebes campaign and was killed, along with his brother Eteocles who was defending the city. Antigone is caught by a sentry and is brought before Creon, with her sister Ismene, who refused to help bury Polyenices for fear of her own life.
Creon believes his order is for the good of the city but many people disagree with him, including the members of the chorus and his son Haemon. Haemon attempts to defend Antigone, whom he wishes to marry, from the death sentence given to her by Creon, but he is unsuccessful and Antigone is left to die in a cave. The blind prophet Tiresias then tells Creon that his actions are not beneficial to the city at all, and in fact are causing a miasma (pollution) and will eventually lead to his downfall. Creon is torn but comes to the conclusion that Polynices must be buried and Antigone must not be killed, but it is too late: Antigone has already hanged herself in her cave, just as her mother Jocasta hanged herself (in Oedipus the King), and Haemon, on his way to rescue her, tries to kill his father and then kills himself when he finds that he is too late. Haemon's mother Eurydice also kills herself in grief over her son and to get revenge on her husband. She even curses Creon just before she takes her own life.
The play is also notable as one of the only plays in which the inside of the palace setting is shown. Usually in Greek tragedy all action took place outside of the house or palace depicted on the skene (the backdrop of the stage); deaths took place "inside," unseen by the audience. In this play, however, the skene was opened to show Creon finding the body of Eurydice.
The character of the sentry is also unusual, as he speaks like a lower-class person, in more natural language, rather than the stylized poetry of the other characters. He has been compared to similar characters in the works of Shakespeare.
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