The Revelation in Antigone

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Important notice(s): This article is not a summary of Antigone and is not an analysis of the entire play. The reader is expected to know the story, otherwise what is presented here will not make much sense. The translation I am using is from Paul Roche (Signet classics).

In this masterpiece created by Sophocles, there lies a stunning revelation concerning hubris and how it contaminates an individual entirely, making him blind and even contempt toward the numinous. Instead of the necessary perceiveration, the temperance of our actions, we too often believe ourselves (or our cause) to be right, flawless. Thus, we throne ourselves beyond fate, beyond the gods and beyond ‘others’. Such is the character of the ignorant man, his empathy completely detached from everything but from his insignificant persona. Forgetting his forgettable place in the κόσμος…

When Tiresias, the prophet, warns Creon to undo his wrongs and stop being stubborn, favoring his king-like philosophy of ‘might is right’, Creon does not want to hear any of it. Believing the laws of men (his) to be more just than the divine laws, thus ignoring the prophecy of Tiresias for a while.

Tiresias: Think son, think! To err is human, true, and only he is damned who having sinned will not repent, will not repair. He is a fool, a proved and stubborn fool.

Creon: Bargain away! All the silver of Sardis, all the gold of India is not enough to buy this man a grave; Not even if Zeus’s eagles come, and fly away with carrion morsels to their master’s throne. Even such a threat of such a taint will not win this body burial. It takes much more than human remains to desecrate the majesty divine.

Tiresias: Creon! Creon! Is there no one left who takes to heart that…

Creon: Come, let’s have the platitude!

Tiresias: …That prudence is the best of all our wealth.

Creon is the very embodiment of hubris because he was not tempered in his judgment and preferred fulfilling his juvenile king-like ego rather than to admit he had been wrong in refusing to properly honor and bury the dead body of Polyneices. This arrogance led him to go through with his cruel sentence for Antigone even though he had been suggested otherwise by everyone (Tiresias, his son, the chorus and his lieutenant).

Ultimately, Creon will come to listen to the prophecy of Tiresias, more out of fear than out of reason but too late. He will order to set Antigone free from her sepulcher where she was meant to die but unfortunately, she did just that and hanged herself. Upon seeing this, Haemon, the son of Creon, is taken by despair and tries to kill his father but does not succeed. He then thrust the blade through his stomach and dies bleeding while holding Antigone, his promised bride. Creon, dismantled by this whole event, comes back to Thebes only to learn that the terrible news reached Eurydice, his wife, before he did. She also committed suicide…

Hubris alone is responsible for the death of the royal family. Had Creon tempered his judgment and listened to the wisdom of the prophet and the state, which was in favor of Antigone, he would have preserved everything.

The moral Sophocles leaves us with is crystal clear and should be constantly remembered as an example of cultural and earthly  πάθει μάθος. No abstractions can defile what is numinous. Stop yourself before your ignorance might cause sufferings and keep aside this fiery pride that consumes everything on its path.

Chorus: Where wisdom is, there happiness will crown a piety that nothing will corrode. But high and mighty words and ways are flogged to humbleness, till age, beaten to its knees, at last is wise. 

And here, the same part but translated by David Myatt:

Chorus: Judgement is the greater part of good fortune Just as it is necessary not to be disrespectful to the gods – For the great words of the excessive boaster Are repayed by great blows And this, as one grows old, teaches judgement.

Sophocles knew how hard it is for this lesson to sink into the soul of men. Even though Creon witnessed Oedipus downfall, he still committed the same mistakes and went through a similar, unavoidable ordeal. We alike, centuries after centuries, are still upholding philosophies of ‘might is right’. Not learning, not listening to the wisdom of the ancients to restore  muliebral virtues instead of the imprudent masculous ones. The honorable, the wise, the tempered, the pious is Antigone in this story, dishonorably muted as it happened so many times throughout history by a throning fool.

-Beldam, 128 yf






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