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Enter Antigone and Ismene from the Palace Essays

ANTIGONE and Ismene from the palace. ANTIGONE: Ismene, my dear sister through common blood, do you know of any evil from Oedipus Zeus will not perform on us who still live? For I have seen nothing—nothing painful, nothing mad or shameful or dishonorable—(5) that is not among your or my sorrows. And now what do they say? The general has just put an edict over the whole city. Have you heard it? Or have you avoided learning how our friends suffer the fate of foes? (10) ISMENE: No word of friends, Antigone, either sweet or painful, has come to me since we two sisters were robbed of our two brothers, oth dying the same day by doubled hand. But since the army of the Argives departed last night, I’ve seen nothing else,(15) either to cause me to rejoice or to weep. ANTIGONE: I knew it! For this reason I brought you outside the gates, that you alone might hear. ISMENE: What? You seem to ponder something deeply. ANTIGONE: Indeed! For of our two brothers, Creon(20) gives honorable burial to one, but dishonors the other. They say that he hid Eteocles beneath the earth with well-deserved pomp and circumstance, as one honored among the dead below;(25) but the corpse of Polynices, who died so sadly, they say it has been declared o the citizens that no one may bury or mourn him, but must see him unlamented, unburied, a sweet find for birds to feast upon. (30) Such things they say our good Creon decreed for you and me—for me, I say! And he is coming here to announce it clearly to anyone who hasn’t heard, for he considers it no small matter,(35) but for the one who does any of it, the penalty is death by public stoning. There you have it, and soon you will show how nobly you honor your noble birth. ISMENE: But what more, my poor girl, in times like these,(40) could I do that would not tangle the knot further? ANTIGONE: Will you share in the labor and the deed?
ISMENE: What is the venture? Where have your thoughts gone? ANTIGONE: Will you lift the corpse with this very hand? ISMENE: You want to bury him, although it’s forbidden in the city! (45) ANTIGONE: I’ll bury my brother—your brother, too, though you refuse! I’ll not be found a traitor. ISMENE: Madwoman, even when Creon forbids it? ANTIGONE: He has no right to keep me from my own. ISMENE: No, no! Think, my sister, how our father(50) died hated and infamous from offenses self-detected, smiting both his eyes with his very own hands. His wife and mother— both words at once! —took her life with twisted noose; hen, third, our two brothers in just one day(55) slew each other, poor wretches, achieving a common doom at one another’s hands. And now the two of us, left all alone— think how very horribly we will die if we go against the king’s decree and strength(60) outside the law. Rather, consider that we were born women, proving we should not fight with men, and that we are ruled by more powerful people and must obey them, even in more painful things. Therefore I ask forgiveness from those below,(65) as I am forced to in these matters, and yield to those who walk with authority. For to do excessive things is nonsense.
ANTIGONE: I would not order you; and if you change your mind now, I would not have you do it with me. (70) Be whatever you want, and I will bury him. It seems fair to me to die doing it. I will lie dear to him, with one dear to me, a holy outlaw, since I must please those below a longer time than people here,(75) for I shall lie there forever. You, though, dishonor the gods’ commands, if you wish. ISMENE: I do not dishonor them, but to do this against the state—I have no strength for it. ANTIGONE: Use that excuse, if you like, but I indeed(80) will go and heap a tomb for my dearest brother. ISMENE:
Alas, how I fear for you, daring girl! ANTIGONE: Don’t worry for me; straighten out your own life. ISMENE: Then, at least, proclaim this deed to no one; but keep it secret, and I shall do the same. (85) ANTIGONE: Oh, denounce it! I will hate you the more if you don’t tell these things to everyone. ISMENE: You have a hot heart for chilling matters. ANTIGONE: But I know I’ll please those I should please most. ISMENE: If you can—you want the impossible. (90) ANTIGONE: Well, then, I shall stop whenever my strength fails. ISMENE: You should not start an impossible quest. ANTIGONE: If you say this, you will be hateful to me, nd the dead will hate you always–justly. But let me and my foolish plans suffer(95) this terrible thing, for I shall succumb to nothing so awful as a shameful death. ISMENE: Then go, if this seems best to you, but know that your friends truly love you, however foolish. Exit ANTIGONE off stage, ISMENE into the palace, after which the CHORUS marches onto the stage. CHORUS: Str. 1 Ray of the sun,(100) fairest light of all those shining on seven-gated Thebes, at last you appeared, O eyes of golden day, coming over the streams of Dirce,(105) you sent away the white-shielded warrior from Argos, running from here, ith your piercing bridle. He set forth against our land because of the contentious claims of Polynices,(110) like a sharply crying eagle flying into our land, covered with a wing white as snow, descending with many shields and crested with horse-hair. (115) Ant. 1 He perched on the roof, gaping wide with bloody spears around our seven gates, but then he went away, before his jaws were filled with our blood(120) or Hephaestus’ torches could take our crown of towers. Such a clash of Ares swelled behind him, a hard conquest for the dragon’s rival. For Zeus hates excessively(125) the boasts of a great tongue, and looking on them oming in rapid flow, over-confident in clanging gold, he threw down the one rushing with brandished fire to the top of his goal,(130) seeking already to proclaim his victory. Str. 2 He fell in an arc to the hard ground, torch in hand, the one who with raging onslaught furiously was breathing with the rush of the most hateful winds. (135) But, those things went otherwise, and great Ares sent them to various fates, smiting them, our chariot’s strongest horse. Seven captains at our seven gates,(140) marshaled against equal foes, left to Zeus the router bronze weapons, except those two wretches, who were orn of the same father and the same mother, standing against each other with doubly slaying spears,(145) they both took an equal share of their common death. Ant. 2 But since great-named Victory came, rejoicing in answer with Thebes of many chariots, let us enjoy oblivion of the recent wars(150) and let us go to all the temples of the gods to dance through the night, and may Bacchus, who has made Thebes shake, be our leader. Enter CREON from the palace. But here is the king of this land,(155) Creon, son of Menoeceus, our new leader in this new situation given by the gods. What plan does he hold that he proposed this gathered ouncil of old men,(160) summoning us by proclamation? CREON: Gentlemen, the gods have set right again our city’s affairs, after shaking them in a storm, and I have summoned you here out of all the citizens, knowing well(165) how you always revered the power of Laius’ throne; then, both when Oedipus saved the city and when he fell, you stood in consistent support of their children. And so, since in the same day they both fell(170) by twofold fate, each striking and spreading fratricidal pollution, now I hold sole power and the throne, because I am the closest relative of the fallen. It is impossible to know the soul,(175) he mind, and character of any man, until he has proven himself in the law. For if someone rules an entire city and does not take hold of the best counsels, but holds his tongue out of fear, I think him(180) to be the worst of men, now and always; and the man who considers more important than his fatherland his friend, I think him worthless. For—and may all-seeing Zeus be my witness—I would never be silent(185) if I saw madness creeping among the citizens in place of salvation, nor would I consider an enemy of my country a friend to myself, recognizing this: that my country is(190) safety itself, and only when she is upright an our sailing find friends. With laws like these I will make our city grow. Therefore, I have made a decree to the citizens concerning the sons of Oedipus:(195) Eteocles, who fell fighting for this city, who earned every prize of valor, will be buried and receive all honors that go to the best of the dead below. His erstwhile kinsman, however, I mean(200) Polynices, who returned from exile with hopes of burning his native land and ancestral gods from top to bottom, wishing to feast on kindred blood and lead the rest into slavery, it has been(205) decreed that in this city he shall be neither buried nor mourned by anyone, ut everyone must leave him unburied, a feast for birds and dogs, an outrage to see. This is my judgment, and never from me(210) will the base take equal honor to the good; but whoever is friendly to this city will in life and death be equally honored by me. CHORUS: You are at your pleasure to decide this, son of Menoeceus, concerning the city’s(215) friend and foe. You may use any habit both with the dead and with all of us who live. CREON: Then I would have you keep watch over my words. CHORUS: Give this task to a younger man to do. CREON: No, the corpse’s guards are already posted. (220) CHORUS:
What would you have us do beyond this? CREON: Do not join with those disobeying it. CHORUS: No man is so foolish as to lust for death. CREON: And truly that is this deed’s reward, but often profit has destroyed men through their hopes. (225) Enter GUARD from offstage. GUARD: My lord, I will not say that I come breathless from rushing or quickly moving my feet, for often my thoughts stopped me in my place, and I’d wheel around on the road back where I came. My heart kept talking to me, telling me,(230) “Poor fool, why are you going where you’re sure to be punished? ” “Idiot, you stopping again? If Creon hears it from someone else, hen you’ll really pay for it! ” Twisting like this I made my way, the opposite of haste,(235) and thus a short road became a long one. But, at last, the vote for coming won the day. Even if I have nothing to say, I’ll tell you anyway, for I came seized by one hope, to suffer nothing but my fated doom. (240) CREON: Why is it you have this lack of spirit? GUARD: I wish to tell you first my side of it, for I neither did the deed nor saw him who did, nor do I deserve any harm. CREON: You’re really trying to talk around the problem. (245) Clearly you have something new to report. GUARD: Terrible things make a man hesitate. CREON:
Then why don’t you speak and go away free? GUARD: And I’m saying it! Just now someone has buried the corpse and gone off, sprinkling dust(250) over its flesh and performing the due rites. CREON: What did you say? What man has dared to do this? GUARD: I don’t know, for there was no stroke of a mattock or heap from a shovel, just hard earth and dry land, unbroken, no trace(255) of wheels, but the workman worked without sign. When the day watch first showed it to us, we all thought it a most distressing marvel. For, although he was hidden from sight, he wasn’t entombed per se, but there was(260) a little dust on him, as from one fleeing curse. Yet there weren’t any signs of beasts or a dog coming near him, nor did the body seem mangled. Evil words broke out among us, guard accusing guard, and it would have come(265) to blows in the end, for there was no one to stop us. Every single man stood on trial, but none could be convicted, everyone claimed he knew nothing. We were ready even for trial by ordeal,(270) to walk through fire, to swear to the gods that we had neither done the deed nor been privy to the planning or the doing. At last, when our investigation came to nothing, one man spoke up, who caused us(275) all to nod our heads to the ground in fear, or we had no alternative to what he said or a safe course for ourselves if we obeyed. His idea was that this deed must be brought to you and not concealed. (280) This idea prevailed, and the lot chose unhappy me to take this good office. So here I am, unwilling—I know well— among the unwilling, for no one cherishes the messenger of evil words. (285) CHORUS: My lord, my mind has long been counseling that perhaps this was the work of the gods. CREON: Stop, before you say something to really anger me and show yourself both old and foolish! You speak insufferably when you claim(290) the gods have some concern for this carcass.
Would they honor him as a benefactor and bury him, who came to set fire to their temples girt with columns, to scatter their donations, earth, and laws? Or do you(295) revere gods who honor evil men? It isn’t so. Rather, even before, men in the city resisted this decree and mumbled against me secretly, shaking their heads and refusing to bear(300) the yoke as they should, to gratify me. These guards here have been bribed—I can see that clearly—by such men to do this, for no institution has so harmed humanity as the creation of money. It’s destroyed(305) even cities, it has expelled men from their homes; it teaches the minds of honest en to deviate and take up foul things. It has shown men how to be villainous and to know every sort of godlessness. (310) However many did this for money have brought punishment upon themselves, but, since Zeus truly has my reverence still, know this well, and I will say an oath before you: unless you find the culprit of this tomb(315) and bring him before these eyes of mine, Death alone will not protect you: you’ll all be hanged alive to demonstrate your insolent crime, so the rest of your lives you may steal, knowing once and for all(320) what sort of reward it brings, and learn that we must not love all profit equally.
For you should know that more men suffer from shameful gains than are saved by them. GUARD: May I say something, or should I just turn and go? (325) CREON: You have annoyed me just by saying that! GUARD: Does it sting in the ears or in your soul? CREON: Why do you care where my pain is located? GUARD: The doer troubles your mind, I your ears. CREON: Oh, it is clear you were born a babbler. (330) GUARD: Regardless, I would never do the deed. CREON: You have, and you have sold your soul for cash. GUARD: Alas! It’s terrible when the one who judges judges wrong. CREON: Quibble now about judgments; but if you(335) on’t show me who did this, you will affirm that foul profits reap terrible rewards. Exit CREON into the palace. GUARD: Well, I hope we do find him! But whether he’s taken or not—for chance controls that— there’s no way you’ll see me coming back here. (340) Even now beyond my hope and thought I’ve been saved and owe the gods some gratitude. Exit GUARD offstage. CHORUS:17 Str. 1 This world has many wonders, but nothing is more wondrous than humanity. It crosses even the grey sea(345) with a stormy south wind, passing under churning waves in open water; and the oldest of the gods, immortal, inexhaustible Earth, it wears away. (350)
With ploughs it winds back and forth, year after year, turning up the soil with the offspring of horses. Ant. 1 He captures and takes the blithe tribe of birds(355) and the races of beasts and the salty brood of the sea in the coils of woven nets, a very skillful man. He rules with devices the mountain haunts(360) of the wild animal and tames the shaggy-necked horse with a yoke on its back and the tireless mountain bull. Str. 2 He taught himself language and wind-like(365) thought and city-ruling urges, how to flee the slings of frost under winter’s clear sky and the arrows of stormy rain, ever-resourceful. Against no possibility(370) s he at a loss. For death alone he finds no aid, but he has devised escape from impossible diseases. Ant. 2 With clever creativity beyond expectation,(375) he moves now to evil, now to good. The one who observes the laws of the land and justice, our compact with the gods, is honored in the city, but there is no city for one who participates in what is wrong(380) for the sake of daring. Let him not share my hearth, nor let me share his ideas who has done these things. The GUARD returns onstage, leading ANTIGONE. What strange omen now confuses(385) my sight? How can I deny that I know this young girl is Antigone?
O poor child of your poor father, Oedipus, what is this? Have they somehow caught you breaking the king’s laws, found you(390) doing something foolish? GUARD: Here she is who did the deed, she’s the one we found burying him—but where is Creon? Enter CREON from the palace. CHORUS: Here he comes from the house, and just in time! CREON: What is it? What chance makes my coming timely? (395) GUARD: My lord, a mortal should never swear that something cannot happen, for hindsight makes liars of our plans. Just now I swore I’d never come back here, because of those threats you shot at me, but the greatest pleasure(400) s the joy you didn’t even hope for. I came here, despite my oaths to the contrary, bringing this girl, who was captured performing the rites of burial. This time no lot was shaken; no, this one was my good luck,(405) no other’s. Now then, my lord, you take her, as you wish, and question and sentence her. I’ve justly freed myself from these troubles. CREON: But to bring her? Where did you find her? How? GUARD: She was burying the man; you know it all. (410) CREON: Do you really mean what you’re saying? GUARD: I saw her burying the very corpse you forbade. Am I speaking clearly enough? CREON: And how was she seen and caught in the act?
GUARD: This is how it happened: When we came back,(415) threatened by those terrible things you said, we brushed off all the dust that was covering the body, left the clammy thing well and truly bare. Then, we lay under shelter of the highest hills, fleeing the foul stench;(420) each man tossing reproaches back and forth, if any man’s attention strayed from this task, It was that time when the bright circle of the sun stands in the middle of the sky and the heat burns; suddenly a cyclone(425) lifted up from the earth a storm of dirt, a distress of heaven, it fills the plain, tormenting and ripping apart the trees.
The whole sky was filled. We just closed our eyes and rode out the divine storm. After a while,(430) it ended, the girl was seen, who was wailing bitterly like the shrill voice of a bird who sees her empty nest, stripped of its nurslings. Thus she screamed, when she saw the uncovered body: She groaned loudly and called down evil(435) curses on whoever had done the work. Immediately she gathered dry dust in her hands and from a jug of fine bronze lifted up she crowned the corpse with three-fold libations. We saw it and rushed forward,(440) caught her quickly, completely unperplexed. We questioned her both about the previous ncident and the current; she stood in denial of nothing, something for me both sweet and painful, all at once. Nothing(445) is sweeter than escaping trouble for yourself, but it’s painful to conduct friends into it. But, for me, everything takes second place to my own safety. CREON: You there, staring down at the ground, speak up:(450) do you affirm or deny doing these things? ANTIGONE: I assert that I did it; I do not deny it. CREON: You, then, may take yourself where you will, Exit GUARD. rescued from a heavy charge. But, you, tell me briefly, not at length: did you know(455) it had been announced not to do this? ANTIGONE:
I did. Why would I not know? It was clear. CREON: And yet you dared to overstep these laws? ANTIGONE: Because it wasn’t Zeus who pronounced these things to me, nor did Justice, companion(460) of the gods below, establish such laws for humanity. I would never think your pronouncements had such strength that, being mortal, they could override the unwritten, ever-lasting prescriptions of the gods,(465) for those aren’t something recently made, but live forever, and no one knows when they first appeared. I did not intend to pay the penalty to the gods for violating these laws in fear of some man’s opinion,(470) for I know I will die.
How could I not, Even if you had not proclaimed it? But if I die before my time, I say this is an advantage. Anyone who lives a life of sorrow as I do, how could(475) they not count it a blessing to die? Therefore, there is no pain for me in meeting this fate, whereas if I were to endure that one born from my mother die unburied, that would cause me pain. As it is, I feel(480) nothing. If, however, I seem to you to have acted foolishly, then perhaps I owe my foolishness to a fool. CHORUS: She’s clearly the fierce(485) daughter of a fierce father; she doesn’t know to bend with the wind. CREON: But know that hard minds fall the hardest, and hat iron, so powerful of itself, baked to exceeding hardness, you might see crack and break into pieces. I know that(490) spirited horses are broken with a small bit, for no one is allowed to think big thoughts, if he is another man’s slave. She showed herself capable of insolence then, going beyond the laws put before her. (495) Her second insolence, after she had done it, was to exult in her deed and laugh that she had done it. Now I am no man, but she is a man, if power lies with her with impunity. No, even if she(500) were closer than my sister’s child, closer than any who share my family’s chapel, he and her sister will not escape the worst fate, for that girl as well I charge as equal in plotting this burial. Her, too,(505) bring her here, for I’ve just seen her inside in fury, not like someone in full control of her senses. The heart of one who weaves wickedness in darkness is usually convicted beforehand. I, for my part,(510) hate anyone caught in the act who tries to beautify his crimes thereupon. ANTIGONE: Do you want something more than killing me? CREON: Nothing more; I have that, and I have it all. ANTIGONE: Then why wait? Nothing you say gives me the(515) slightest pleasure—I pray nothing you say ver will—and by nature I offend you. And yet, could my fame be more gloriously established than by placing my brother in a tomb? I think all these people would(520) agree, if fear did not hold their tongues. Tyranny is lucky in many ways, above all in doing and saying what it will. CREON: You alone of all Cadmus’ race think this. ANTIGONE: These think it, too, but hold their tongues for you. (525) CREON: Aren’t you ashamed to think differently from them? ANTIGONE: There’s no shame in revering one from the same womb. CREON: And no brother died for the other side? ANTIGONE: A brother by the same mother and father. CREON:
Why then this honor insulting to him? (530) ANTIGONE: The dead man would not agree with you. CREON: If you honor him equally with the wicked. ANTIGONE: This was not his slave who died, but his brother! CREON: Ravaging this land, while he stood in her defense! ANTIGONE: Nevertheless, Hades requires these rites. (535) CREON: The good don’t want to share honors with the bad. ANTIGONE: Who knows what is considered righteous below? CREON: An enemy is not a friend, even when dead. ANTIGONE: I cannot share their hate, only their love. CREON: Then go below, and if you must be loved,(540) love them! No woman will rule while I live.
Enter ISMENE from the palace. CHORUS: But here is Ismene before the doors, tears running down her cheeks out of love for her sister. A shadow over her flushed brow disfigures her face,(545) staining her lovely cheek. CREON: You—like a creeping viper you hid in my house, poisoning me. I did not know I was nurturing two blights to rebel against my throne. Come, tell me—will you also claim(550) a share of this funeral? Do you deny it? ISMENE: I did the deed, if she consents, and I will take and bear the charge. ANTIGONE: But Justice will not allow this to you, since neither did you want nor did I share it. (555) ISMENE:
But, in your time of trouble, I am not ashamed to sail those stormy seas beside you. ANTIGONE: Death and the dead will witness who did the deed; I love no friends who are only friends in words. ISMENE: No, sister, do not dishonor me, but let(560) me die with you and honor him who died. ANTIGONE: You may not die with me, nor call yours that which you did not touch. My death is enough. ISMENE: Could I desire life when you have left me? ANTIGONE: Ask Creon, since you are his protector. (565) ISMENE: Why do you grieve me if it does not help yourself? ANTIGONE: If I mock you, I do so with pain. ISMENE: But now—what can I do to help you now?
ANTIGONE: Save yourself. I do not grudge you your escape. ISMENE: Poor girl, am I to have no share in your fate? (570) ANTIGONE: Because you choose to live, and I to die. ISMENE: But not with my arguments left unspoken. ANTIGONE: You seem clever to some, I to others. ISMENE: Then the error is equal for us both. ANTIGONE: Cheer up. You live, but my soul has been(575) dead a long time, that I might serve the dead. CREON: I declare that both these children are fools, one just become so, one her whole life. ISMENE: Indeed, my lord, what sense we had does not stand by us in troubles, but goes away. (580) CREON:
For you, at least, choosing bad deeds with bad people. ISMENE: What would life be for me alone, without her? CREON: Do not speak of her; she is already gone. ISMENE: You would kill the bride of your own son? CREON: There are other fields just as fertile. (585) ISMENE: Not with such harmony as he has with her. CREON: I do not want bad wives for my sons. ISMENE: Dearest Haemon, how your father injures you! CREON: You annoy me…and this marriage of yours. ISMENE: Will you really rob your son of this girl? (590) CREON: Death himself will stop this wedding for me. ISMENE: It is determined, it seems, that she shall die. CREON: For you and me both!
Waste no more time, but bring them inside now, maids. From now on, they must be women and not wander free, for even brave men flee, when they see Death so close. (595) Exit ANTIGONE and ISMENE with Servants into the house. CHORUS:20 Str. 1 Truly blessed are those who have not tasted evil, for to them whose house is shaken by the gods, no species of madness is left out, creeping over the majority of the family— like the swell of the salt sea when(600) the sea’s darkness runs upon angry Thracian winds, it churns up murky sand from the deep and the storm-swept promontories, beaten by the opposing waves, roar with lamentation.
Ant. 1 I see that the old woes of the house of(605) the Labdacids add to the woes of the dead, nor does the new generation deliver its race, but one of the gods throws them down. They have no release, for now light has fallen on the last root of the house of Oedipus. Bloody ashes of the lower gods(610) now mow her down in turn, along with the folly of argument and fury of wits. Str. 2 O Zeus, what human transgression could limit your power? All-catching Sleep never takes it,(615) nor the unwearied months of the gods, but as never-decaying master, you hold the brilliant radiance of Olympus. The law will prevail, n time that is, time to come,(620) as in all time past. Nothing comes assuredly to every mortal life—nothing but the rush to ruin. Ant. 2 For indeed wide-ranging hope is a blessing to many men,(625) but to many also a trick of light-minded desires. It comes to one who knows nothing until he burns his foot walking in hot fire. Hence the old saying still shows its wisdom:(630) Sometimes the bad seems good to one whose wits God leads to madness. He will last a short time without ruin. But here is Haemon, the last and youngest(635) of your children! Does he come in grief for the fate of his intended bride, the maiden Antigone, n mourning for the bed he was cheated out of? CREON: We will soon know better than predictions. (640) Son, can it be that you have heard my final vote and come to fight your father for your bride? Or am I your friend whatever I do? HAEMON: Father, I am yours, and as you have me, you guide the best course for me to follow. (645) No marriage will ever be more important to me than justly carrying out your precepts. CREON: And that, child, is how you ought to keep your affections: Stand by your father’s ideas in all things. This is why a man prays to(650) have obedient children in his house: that they may take vengeance on their father’s nemy in bad times and honor his friends as he himself does. But, whoever sires useless children—what could you say except(655) he has created problems for himself and much laughter for his enemies? My boy, never give up your wits for a woman because of the pleasure, knowing that this darling becomes cold in your arms,(660) your wife a wicked concubine in your house. And what wound could be worse than a bad friend? Therefore, spit her out like an enemy and let her find a husband in Hell. Since I caught her, alone of all entire(665) people, in open rebellion, I will not make myself a liar to the city, but kill her.
So, let her call on the Zeus of kinship, for if I nurture defiance in my relatives, I’d surely have to(670) for those outside my clan. Whoever is a good man at home is shown to be just in the city, too, but whoever goes outside the laws or violates them, or thinks to give commands to his superiors,(675) this man will not meet praise from me. Rather, whomever the city chooses must be obeyed in all things—small, just, and the opposite. And this man, I would wager, rules fairly and would want to be ruled well, and when marshaled(680) under a cloud of spears, he would stand, a good and just fighter in the front ranks.
No evil is worse than disobedience. This one thing destroys cities, turns homes upside down, it leads to the rout of allied armies;(685) while those who live uprightly are saved by obedience. Therefore, rulers must be supported, and we must not yield to women. It would be better, if it had to be, to fall at a man’s hands and not to be called(690) worse than a woman. CHORUS: To us, at least, if we are not deceived by age, you seem to speak what you say wisely. HAEMON: Father, the gods endow human beings with intelligence, which is the greatest(695) of all possessions. I could never— I don’t know how I could say you don’t peak correctly, but sometimes another man’s opinion is also right. You, however, cannot watch everything that people(700) say or do or blame, for the common men out of fear of your face won’t say such words as you would not rejoice to hear; but I can hear these things in darkness, how the city weeps for this girl, says she’s the least worthy(705) of all women to die so badly for such noble deeds. “She didn’t let her brother, who had fallen in combat, lie unburied, to be devoured by some ravenous dog or bird. They ought to give her an award! ”(710) So the report spreads in darkness. When you do well, father, I have no more honored ossession than that, for what prize is greater for children than a father’s fame when he’s prospering? Or a son’s for his father? (715) Don’t be so stubborn that you say you and you alone are right. Whoever thinks that he’s the only one who can think or use his tongue or soul, no one else—these men, when you open them up, are seen to be hollow. (720) But, for a man to learn, even a wise man, is nothing shameful, nor to learn to bend and give way. You see how, in the winter storms, the trees yield that save even their twigs, but those who oppose it are destroyed root and branch. (725) Just so the captain who never slackens is sail once he’s stretched it gets his boat turned and sails the rest with benches upside down. Rather, yield your anger and let yourself change. Even though I’m young, a good idea might(730) come from me: It would be best by far that man be born full of all the knowledge there is, but, if it usually happens not to turn out that way, to learn from those who speak well is a good substitute. (735) CHORUS: My lord, if someone speaks in season, you should learn, and you also, for both sides have spoken well. CREON: At our age, taught reason by a man so young? HAEMON: Taught nothing that is not just! If I am young,
I do not need more time to study what’s right. (740) CREON: So, what’s right includes revering anarchists? HAEMON: I’d never tell someone to revere the wicked! CREON: Then she has not been taken by this disease? HAEMON: Her fellow-citizens in Thebes deny it. CREON: The city will tell me how I ought to rule it? (745) HAEMON: Do you hear how rash and young you sound? CREON: Should I rule this land for myself or for others? HAEMON: This city does not belong to one man! CREON: Isn’t the city thought to be her ruler’s? HAEMON: You’d be a good monarch for a desert. (750) CREON: It seems he’s an ally of the woman. HAEMON:
If you are a woman! I care only for you! CREON: Worst of all men, at odds with your own father! HAEMON: Not when I see you at odds with justice. CREON: Am I wrong to protect my own empire? (755) HAEMON: You don’t protect it when you trample the honors of the gods! CREON: Disgusting character! To play the second to a woman! HAEMON: I would rather yield to her than to evil. (760) CREON: In any case, this whole speech is for her. HAEMON: And for you and me and the gods below! CREON: You cannot marry her while alive. HAEMON: Then she will die and, dying, destroy another. CREON: Do you dare to threaten me so boldly? (765) HAEMON:
What threat is it to speak my resolve to you? CREON: You will regret teaching what you do not know. HAEMON: Were you not my father, I would call you a fool. CREON: You’re the slave of a woman, don’t chatter at me. HAEMON: Will you make arguments, but hear no answer? (770) CREON: Really? Then know, by Olympus, that you shall not revile me with insults and rejoice! Bring the hated thing, so that she may die at once, close by the eyes of her bridegroom. HAEMON: No, not in my sight—never think this can(775) happen! She’ll not die beside me, and you will never lay your eyes upon my face again, so rage with any of your friends who can bear it.
Exit HAEMON offstage. CHORUS: My lord, the man has gone quick with anger; his mind, at that age, bears pain violently. (780) CREON: Let him go and think superhuman thoughts, but he will not save these girls from their doom. CHORUS: Do you intend to kill both of them? CREON: You’re right—not the one who didn’t touch him. CHORUS: How do you intend to kill the other? (785) CREON: I shall take her to a place completely devoid of human life and hide her, living, in a rocky cavern. I’ll put in with her as much food as will ward off a curse, so that our city will escape all pollution. (790) There she can pray to Hades, the only god he worships, and perhaps she will find a way not to die—or learn, though too late for her, that it is excessive work to love the dead. CHORUS: Str. 1 Love, unconquered in battle,(795) Love, who attacks wealth, who sleeps on a young girl’s soft cheek and wanders beyond the sea and in the wilderness: There is no escape from you for immortals or men who live but for a day;(800) he who has you is mad. Ant 1 You guide even just men’s minds towards injustice, to their destruction. You have even shaken up this kin strife, through her glances, clear desire of the bride(805) is victorious, Love the coadjutor in the great laws of old, for
Aphrodite, the irresistible goddess, is laughing. Enter ANTIGONE from the palace, led by GUARDS. But now I myself am also carried beyond the laws when I see this. (810) I can no longer hold back the streams of tears, when I see Antigone heading for the bridal chamber where all must sleep. ANTIGONE:25 Str. 2 See me, O citizens of my ancestral land, treading the final path,(815) gazing on the final light of the sun, never again! But Death, the groom of all, leads me alive to the promontory of Acheron; I have no share(820) of marriage hymns, nor will any hymn hymn me for my wedding anyhow, but I shall be the bride of Death. CHORUS:
Therefore, you will go famous and honored into those depths of the dead. (825) Not stricken by wasting disease nor taking the wages of the sword, but, alone of mortals, you will go, the ruler of yourself, down to Hades. ANTIGONE: Ant. 2 I have heard that most sorrowfully did(830) our Phrygian guest die, the daughter of Tantalus, on the Sipylan cliff, how, like a vine of ivy, the petrifying process overwhelmed her, and the rain never leaves her, languishing there, so men say,(835) nor does the snow ever leave her, and beneath her tearful lids she wets the ridges with her tears; now my destiny sends me to a rest most like hers. CHORUS:
But she was a goddess and born of gods,(840) while we are mortals, of mortal race! Still, it will be to your great fame, as you die to share the lot of the god-like while you live and, later, when you die. ANTIGONE: Str. 3 Oh! I am mocked! (845) By our fathers’ gods, why do you outrage me, not yet departed, but still in the light? O city, O rich gentlemen of the city, hail, springs of Dirce(850) and grove of many-charioted Thebes, I’ll yet have you as my witness, how I have no friends to mourn me, by what laws I go to the heaped-up prison of my unheard of tomb. (855) Oh, my poor lot, who have no home among mortals or corpses, either the living or the dead! CHORUS: You went forward far too boldly and crashed into the lofty(860) pedestal of Justice, my child. You are paying for your father’s crime. ANTIGONE: Ant. 3 You have touched the most painful of my cares, the thrice-repeated doom of my father(865) and this whole fate of ours, the famous Labdacids. Oh, the sins of my mother’s bed and my ill-fated mother’s self-creating intercourse with my father! (870) From such as these I was born miserable! I am going to live with them, accursed, unwed. Oh, my brother, you struck an unlucky marriage,(875) and dying you killed me, though I still lived. CHORUS:
Reverence is a mark of character, but power, for a man who has it, does not tolerate offenses against itself. Your self-guiding anger destroyed you. (880) ANTIGONE: Epode Unwept, friendless, with no marriage hymn, unfortunate, I am taken down the prepared road. It is no longer right for unhappy me to see this holy eye of light,(885) but no friend groans over my unwept fate. CREON: Don’t you know that songs and lament before death would never stop, if they did any good? Take her away at once, and shut her in(890) her walled-up tomb, as I have said. Then leave her there alone, where she must either die or be entombed alive in such a house, or we have no guilt in this maiden’s case… Regardless, she’ll lose her home in the world above. (895) ANTIGONE: O tomb, O bridal bower, o underground home everlasting, whither I journey to my own people, whose great number— so many destroyed—Persephone has received among the dead. To these I go down—(900) the last of them all and worst by far, before my allowance of life is spent. Nevertheless, as I go, I nurture the hope that I will come dear to my father, dear to you, mother, and dear to you, my own(905) dear brother. When you died, with my own hands I washed and adorned your bodies, and I poured libations at your tombs.
But now, Polynices, after burying your body, I reap rewards like these. Still, I honored you well(910) in the eyes of the wise. No, if somehow children whose mother I was or my husband had died, I would not have undertaken this labor in defiance of the citizens. Shall I tell you the code I follow? (915) I could get another husband when mine died, and a child from another man, if I lost one from him, but since my mother and father both lie in Hell, there is no field where I could grow another brother. (920) With this as my law, I honor you above all others; to Creon I seemed to have made a mistake and to have done something errible, my brother. Now he holds me thus in his hand and leads me, without a(925) wedding, no bridal hymn, I have no share of marriage or raising children, but, as I am, bereft of friends and unlucky, I am going alive into depths of the dead. Which of the gods’ laws have I transgressed? (930) Why should I still look to the gods in my unhappiness? What ally can I call? In my case, by being pious, I have won for myself the rewards of impiety. But, if these men have sinned, may they not suffer(935) more evils than they unjustly inflict on me. CHORUS: The same violent winds still rage in her soul. CREON: Therefore her guards will uffer for their slowness. (940) ANTIGONE: Alas, this word brings closer my death. CREON: I’d be a liar to hearten you, to say it’s not certain. ANTIGONE: O ancestral town of Thebes(945) and primeval gods, I am led away indeed, no longer merely waiting. CHORUS: Str. 1 Danae also dared to exchange the light of day for walls of bronze;(950) hidden away in a tomb-like bedroom she was guarded. Yet, her race was honorable, O child, my child, and she was the storehouse(955) of the golden-flowing seed of Zeus. The power of fate is something terrible. It cannot be escaped—not with wealth or by war, not with a tower or a sea-lashed black ship.
Ant. 1 The son of Dryas, quick to anger,(960) the king of Edonia, was yoked by stinging angers, confined by the will of Dionysus in a rocky prison. Thus the flowering, terrible fury of his frenzy dripped away. He learned(965) to know the god in stinging tongues, whom he had provoked in his madness. for he was stopping the races of women and the Bacchic fire, he irritated the muses who love flutes. (970) Str. 2 Beside the sea’s twin rocks, the Symplegades, the promontories of the Bosporus, lies the Thracian Salmydessus, where the city’s neighbor Ares watched the accursed wound dealt(975) the two sons of Phineus by his fierce wife, ho blinded their avenging eyes, smitten by her bloody hands and the point of her needle. (980) Ant. 2 Wasting away unhappily, they mourned their unhappy fate and their bastard birth from their mother, but her seed stretched back to the ancient house of Erechtheus;(985) in faraway caves, her father nourished her in his hurricanes, Boreas, swift as horses over the plains, child of the gods. Yet against her, too, the long-loved Fates pressed hard, my child. (990) Enter TIRESIAS from offstage. TIRESIAS: Lords of Thebes, with two watching from one, we have come treading our common road, for the road for the blind is from the guide.
CREON: What news do you have, old tiresias? TIRESIAS: I shall teach you, and you—trust the seer. (995) CREON: It is not my custom to disagree with you. TIRESIAS: And thus you have captained this city correctly. CREON: I will testify that you have helped me. TIRESIAS: Think now that you have walked onto a razor’s edge. CREON: What is it? How I shudder at your words! (1000) TIRESIAS: You will know when you hear the omens of my craft; for sitting on my ancient chair of bird-watching, where in the past all the birds have gathered for me, I heard a strange new sound— birds, screaming with evil, barbaric frenzy;(1005) nd I knew that they were tearing at one another with bloody talons, for the rush of wings was clear. In fear, I went at once to test the burnt sacrifices on the blazing altars, but no fire was burning(1010) on the victims. Rather, upon the embers, a dripping ooze trickled from the thigh pieces; it smoked and sputtered, and the bile was scattered in the air, and the bones lay bare of the fat that had covered them. Thus the omens failed,(1015) there were no signs, as I learned from this boy, for he is my guide, as I am to others. The city is sick because of your counsel, for our altars and all our hearths are defiled y birds and dogs with carrion from the corpse(1020) of the unlucky son of Oedipus. For this reason the gods will not accept our sacrifices, prayers, and burnt thigh-bones, nor do the birds shriek forth clear-signaling cries, gorged with a slain man’s blood and fat. Therefore,(1025) think on these things, my child; for every human being makes mistakes, but when he has made a mistake, that man is no longer foolish and unhappy who remedies the evil into which he has fallen(1030) and is not stubborn. Obstinacy brings the charge of stupidity. Yield to the dead, don’t kick a fallen man! What prowess does t take to kill one already dead? My counsel is good, and so is my advice. (1035) To learn from good advice is sweetest, if the advisor speaks to your advantage. CREON: Go ahead, old man; all of you can shoot your arrows at me like archers at targets. I am not even left untouched by the seers! (1040) By your kind I was bought and sold and carried home a long time ago. Make your profit, purchase electrum from Sardis, if you wish, and gold from India; but you will not place him in a tomb, not even if Zeus’s(1045) own eagles want to snatch up the carrion and take it to the very throne of Heaven! I will not allow him to be buried ut of fear of this pollution, for I know well that no human is strong enough(1050) to pollute the gods. But, the cleverest of mortals, old tiresias, fall with shameful crash, when they decorate shameful words for the sake of profit. TIRESIAS: Foo. (1055) Does any man know, does any consider… CREON: What thing? What great aphorism will you speak? TIRESIAS: …how much prudence is the greatest of possessions? CREON: (sarcastically) As much as stupidity is the worst hurt? TIRESIAS: You certainly seem full of this disease. (1060) CREON: I don’t want to return the seer’s insult. TIRESIAS: Yet you do when you say I prophesy lies.
CREON: The race of seers have always loved money. TIRESIAS: And tyrants have always loved cheated profits. CREON: Do you realize you speak these lies to your king? (1065) TIRESIAS: I do, for your city is safe because of me. CREON: You’re a clever seer, but love injustice. TIRESIAS: You will make me say the secret of my knowledge. CREON: Do you think I say this for your profit? TIRESIAS: Do I seem to do this as far as you’re concerned? (1070) CREON: Know that you’ll not barter with my mind. TIRESIAS: And you—know well that before the sun has run a few laps more, you will give one from your loins, a corpse for corpses, in exchange or those you have sent from above the earth(1075) to below it, the living soul you have lodged dishonorably in a tomb, and the unhappy, unburied, unholy corpse you hold back from the gods below. You have no share in this, nor do the gods below,(1080) but this violence comes from you. For these things, however, the destroying avengers of Hell and the Furies of the gods are lying wait for you, that you may be taken in these same evils. Consider also(1085) if I say these things as a hired accuser, for a short time will reveal the wailing of men and women in your house. All the cities are stirred by hatred, whose angled children took their only burial(1090) from dogs and beasts—or some winged bird, bearing an unholy stench into his native city. Since you hurt me, like an archer I have left these words like unswerving arrows of the heart against your spirit, whose sting you will not escape. (1095) Take me home, boy, so that this man may vent his anger against younger men and learn to keep his tongue quieter and fill his mind with more elevated thoughts than he has now. Exit TIRESIAS and Attendant offstage. CHORUS: My lord, this man has gone after prophesying(1100) terrible things, and we know that since I took his white hair in place of black, he has never spoken falsely to this city. CREON: I know, and I, too, am shaking in my heart,(1105) for to yield is a terrible thing, but it is just as terrible to give up my anger. CHORUS: You must take good advice, child of Menoeceus. CREON: What should I do? Tell me, and I will obey. CHORUS: Go and release the maiden from her rocky home and make a tomb for the unburied man. (1110) CREON: You advise this? You think I should yield? CHORUS: As soon as possible, my lord, for swift-footed Divine Vengeance cuts down bad ideas. CREON: Alas, it is hard, but I give up what my heart ished to do. One should not fight necessity. (1115) CHORUS: Go now and do it, do not leave it to others. CREON: I’ll go just as I am! Come, come, servants, those here and those away—grab axes and rush to that point over there. I myself, since my judgment has turned and seen better ways,(1120) I bound her and I will go and release her, for I fear that it is best to keep the established laws as long as one lives. CHORUS: Str. 1 Many-named one, glory of the Cadmeian bride,(1125) offspring of loud-thundering Zeus, you who protect famous Italy, who are lord of welcoming Eleusis in the shelter of Demeter, O Bacchus,(1130) nhabitant of Thebes, mother-city of the Bacchants, by the flowing stream of Ismenus, where the dragon’s teeth were sown. Ant. 1 The flashing smoke(1135) has seen you over the double-crested rock, where Corycian nymphs go as your Bacchants by Castalia’s stream. (1140) The ivy-covered slopes of Nysa’s mountains and the green edge, rich in grapes, send you, visiting the streets of Thebes, while mortal tongues cry “Evoe! ”(1145) Str. 2 You honor this city above all others with your thunder-smitten mother, but now, as the city and all her people are held by the violence of disease,(1150) come with cleansing fast over he cliff of Parnassus or the lamenting crossing. Ant. 2 Hail, dancing-master of the stars, breathing fire, overseer of the voices of the night,(1155) child of Zeus, appear, lord, together with your attendant Nymphs, who in their madness dance through the night with you, Iacchus, giver of gifts. Enter the MESSENGER from offstage. MESSENGER: Dwellers of the house of Cadmus and Amphion,(1160) there is no sort of human existence I would ever praise or reproach as static. Chance sets us up and chance knocks us down, good luck and bad luck, always, and there is no seer who can tell a man what is destined for him. (1165)
Creon was always enviable, I thought, who saved this land of Cadmus from her foes; and after taking sole rule of the country, he ruled, flourishing with a good crop of sons. And now he has lost it all, for when joy(1170) betrays a man, I count him not as living, but consider him an animated corpse. Fill your home with riches, if you wish, and live with a tyrant’s bearing, but if you lose the joy of these things, I would not buy(1175) them from a man for the shadow of smoke in exchange for real pleasure. CHORUS: What new grief of our kings do you bring us? MESSENGER: They are dead, but the living are worthy of death. CHORUS:
And who slew them? Who has fallen? Tell us! (1180) MESSENGER: Haemon is lost. His blood was spilled by a familiar hand. CHORUS: By his father’s or his own hand? MESSENGER: Himself, angry with his father for the murder. CHORUS: O seer, how correct your prophecy turned out! (1185) MESSENGER: With things like this, consider the rest besides. Enter EURYDICE from the palace. CHORUS: And now I see poor Eurydice here, Creon’s wife. She comes from the house in mourning for her son, or perhaps by chance. EURYDICE: Citizens, I heard your words, as I was(1190) coming to the doors, so that I could go and pray before the goddess Athena.

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