The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity)


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When she poured dust over her brother's body, Antigone completed the burial rituals and thus fulfilled her duty to him. Having been properly buried, Polynices' soul could proceed to the underworld whether or not the dust was removed from his body.

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However, Antigone went back after his body was uncovered and performed the ritual again, an act that seems to be completely unmotivated by anything other than a plot necessity so that she could be caught in the act of disobedience, leaving no doubt of her guilt. More than one commentator has suggested that it was the gods, not Antigone, who performed the first burial, citing both the guard's description of the scene and the chorus's observation. Gilbert Norwood explains Antigone's performance of the second burial in terms of her stubbornness. His argument says that had Antigone not been so obsessed with the idea of keeping her brother covered, none of the deaths of the play would have happened.

This argument states that if nothing had happened, nothing would have happened, and doesn't take much of a stand in explaining why Antigone returned for the second burial when the first would have fulfilled her religious obligation, regardless of how stubborn she was. This leaves that she acted only in passionate defiance of Creon and respect to her brother's earthly vessel. Tycho von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff justifies the need for the second burial by comparing Sophocles' Antigone to a theoretical version where Antigone is apprehended during the first burial.

In this situation, news of the illegal burial and Antigone's arrest would arrive at the same time and there would be no period of time in which Antigone's defiance and victory could be appreciated.

Rose maintains that the solution to the problem of the second burial is solved by close examination of Antigone as a tragic character. Being a tragic character, she is completely obsessed by one idea, and for her this is giving her brother his due respect in death and demonstrating her love for him and for what is right.

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When she sees her brother's body uncovered, therefore, she is overcome by emotion and acts impulsively to cover him again, with no regards to the necessity of the action or its consequences for her safety. Bonnie Honig uses the problem of the second burial as the basis for her claim that Ismene performs the first burial, and that her pseudo-confession before Creon is actually an honest admission of guilt. A well established theme in Antigone is the right of the individual to reject society's infringement on her freedom to perform a personal obligation. The contrasting views of Creon and Antigone with regard to laws higher than those of state inform their different conclusions about civil disobedience.

Creon demands obedience to the law above all else, right or wrong. He says that "there is nothing worse than disobedience to authority" An.

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Antigone responds with the idea that state law is not absolute, and that it can be broken in civil disobedience in extreme cases, such as honoring the gods, whose rule and authority outweigh Creon's. In Antigone , Sophocles asks the question, which law is greater: the gods' or man's. Sophocles votes for the law of the gods. He does this in order to save Athens from the moral destruction which seems imminent.

Sophocles wants to warn his countrymen about hubris, or arrogance, because he believes this will be their downfall. In Antigone, the hubris of Creon is on display. Creon's decree to leave Polynices unburied in itself makes a bold statement about what it means to be a citizen, and what constitutes abdication of citizenship. It was the firmly kept custom of the Greeks that each city was responsible for the burial of its citizens.

Herodotus discussed how members of each city would collect their own dead after a large battle to bury them. Since he is a citizen of Thebes, it would have been natural for the Thebans to bury him. Creon is telling his people that Polynices has distanced himself from them, and that they are prohibited from treating him as a fellow-citizen and burying him as is the custom for citizens.

In prohibiting the people of Thebes from burying Polynices, Creon is essentially placing him on the level of the other attackers—the foreign Argives. For Creon, the fact that Polynices has attacked the city effectively revokes his citizenship and makes him a foreigner. As defined by this decree, citizenship is based on loyalty.

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It is revoked when Polynices commits what in Creon's eyes amounts to treason. When pitted against Antigone's view, this understanding of citizenship creates a new axis of conflict. Antigone does not deny that Polynices has betrayed the state, she simply acts as if this betrayal does not rob him of the connection that he would have otherwise had with the city.

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Creon, on the other hand, believes that citizenship is a contract; it is not absolute or inalienable, and can be lost in certain circumstances. These two opposing views — that citizenship is absolute and undeniable and alternatively that citizenship is based on certain behavior — are known respectively as citizenship 'by nature' and citizenship 'by law.

Antigone's determination to bury Polynices arises from a desire to bring honor to her family, and to honor the higher law of the gods. She repeatedly declares that she must act to please "those that are dead" An.


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In the opening scene, she makes an emotional appeal to her sister Ismene saying that they must protect their brother out of sisterly love, even if he did betray their state. Antigone believes that there are rights that are inalienable because they come from the highest authority, or authority itself, that is the divine law. While he rejects Antigone's actions based on family honor, Creon appears to value family himself.

When talking to Haemon, Creon demands of him not only obedience as a citizen, but also as a son. Creon says "everything else shall be second to your father's decision" "An. His emphasis on being Haemon's father rather than his king may seem odd, especially in light of the fact that Creon elsewhere advocates obedience to the state above all else. It is not clear how he would personally handle these two values in conflict, but it is a moot point in the play, for, as absolute ruler of Thebes, Creon is the state, and the state is Creon.

It is clear how he feels about these two values in conflict when encountered in another person, Antigone: loyalty to the state comes before family fealty, and he sentences her to death. In Antigone as well as the other Theban Plays, there are very few references to the gods.

Hades is the god who is most commonly referred to, but he is referred to more as a personification of Death. Zeus is referenced a total of 13 times by name in the entire play, and Apollo is referenced only as a personification of prophecy. This lack of mention portrays the tragic events that occur as the result of human error, and not divine intervention. The gods are portrayed as chthonic , as near the beginning there is a reference to "Justice who dwells with the gods beneath the earth. This contrasts with the other Athenian tragedians, who reference Olympus often.

Antigone's love for family is shown when she buries her brother, Polynices. Yorgos Tzavellas adapted the play into a film which he also directed. It featured Irene Papas as Antigone. A Canadian film adaption transposed the story into one of a modern day immigrant family in Montreal. It was adapted and directed by Sophie Deraspe , with additional inspiration from the Death of Fredy Villanueva. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

This article is about the play by Sophocles. For the main character in the play, see Antigone. Antigone in front of the dead Polynices by Nikiforos Lytras Translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin. Translated by E. The Penguin Group. London: Historical Publishing Company.


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Translated by Charles B. The Life and Work of Sophocles. London: Sheed and Ward. Fagles, Robert, trans. Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays. Knox, Bernard. Penguin Classics. Churtin Sophocles' Antigone. Amberley Publishing, No refernce to an additional printing, near fine hardcover shows touch of shelf wear and light age toning to pages, in a near fine dust jacket price at flap that shows just a touch of shelf wear as well.

The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity) The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity)
The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity) The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity)
The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity) The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity)
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The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity) The Thebaid: Seven against Thebes (Johns Hopkins New Translations from Antiquity)

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