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Antigone Sophocles

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Antigone

by Sophocles

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Episode 2

(Enter Antigone and Watchman)

Chorus

Could she be so lacking in reason?

Watchman

Caught, red-handed. Sacred red ochre stilll upon her hands. No sooner had the body been uncovered, returned to a state of disgrace, she appeared to rebury him. Where is Creon?


(Enter Creon)

Creon

I am here. What news do you bring?

Watchman

It is best never to take vows, for the mind is a plastic thing. Thoughts resolved for one conclusion could dissolve and reform into another. Fear creates the desire to flee or perhaps to fight, but should we struggle if we cannot win. I have returned to you to deliver this woman who I apprehended in the midst of sacred ritual over the body of Polynices. Here she is. Now you can interrogate her in the manner you see fit. I thank the Gods that I can wash my hands of this.

Creon

Antigone? This is not to be believed. How is it that Antigone is here?

Watchman

This is the maid! This is the one who buried the traitor. Now you know everything.

Creon

Are you sure of this?

Watchman

With my own eyes I saw her doing the deed. I swear. She was performing sacred burial rites over the body.

Creon

You swear to this.

Watchman

My Lord. I have sworn. I did as you commanded, with the results that you demanded.

I returned to the scene of the deed. The other guards did their due diligence removing the soil that covered the body leaving it bare once again to be easily ravished by wild animals. I joined my crew at the top of the hill overlooking the disgusting scene of death. None of us wished to descend from our perch to the putrid vicinity.

We were in retreat from the smell, baking in the sun when it seemed the clouds parted for a moment and the leaves on the trees shook as if there were a storm. Dust whirled so we closed our eyes but for the moment, heard a piercing wail which brought us to our feet.

Looking at circle of death below, we beheld this woman who was uttering curses upon us, those who had removed the soil from the body. She had brought more sacred oil, pure blessed water, red ochre and holy mead from the temple. She completed the ceremony by the time we took her in custody.

She did not deny that she had honored the traitor. It is a mixed blessing to have captured one who on the one hand has broken your law, sire, and on the other hand claims to be fulfilling the timeless laws of the Gods.


Creon

Do you deny what this man is saying?

Antigone

I do not deny it. I buried my brother.

Creon

Watchman, you may leave. You have done your duty!

(Exit Watchman)

Why did you do this thing? My decree was well advertised!

Antigone

I knew of your proclamation.

Creon

Yet you dared honor the traitor?

Antigone

Who are you to defy the eternal laws of spirit? Do you think yourself Zeus to overrule the divine laws of spirit and defy sacred justice?


Creon

I am the King. King of Thebes. I am the law.

Antigone

Justice holds scales in one hand and a sword in the other ...

Creon

I am that sword.


Antigone

You wish you could be that sword, but beware, the sword of justice is in the hands of a blind woman and that sword can also cut you...


Creon

Are you making threats.

Antigone

The higher laws of spirit are sacred. Do you think you can overturn divine law?

Creon

I do not contend against the Gods. We are a nation of laws. We will not honor traitors.

Antigone

I have freed my brother's soul to cross the river Styx. The door to the Hall of spirits is now open. It cannot be closed to him again. I honor the gods.

Creon

You honor a traitor and thus dishonor the nation.

Antigone

The dishonor is in your mind. It is your thinking that makes this bad. You are a prisoner of your thoughts.
-- note

 

Creon

My decree is not just a thought, it is law.

Antigone

It is your law, not my law, not the timeless law of Spirit.

Creon

You can join your brother in the Hall of the Spirits.

Antigone

Do you think I am afraid? I am only afraid of not doing my duty to the Divine. I am not afraid of you.

Creon

You are stupid or mentally challenged. You are mad. Only someone who is insane would do such a thing. The madness of your father has infected you.

Chorus

The Apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Freedom is found in responsibility.
We must pay homage to the Gods.
But also we must do our duty to our country

Antigone

Is that your solution? Label me mad? Will that enable you to avoid the truth of your own responsibility?

Creon

I am not responsible for your stupidity! I am simply protecting our nation. Anyone who knows the forge, knows that iron overworked or forged too hard in the fire is more likely to shatter. That which is brittle is more likely to break.

Antigone

I think you are talking about yourself! Your words do not come from the Gods.

Creon

The angry horse needs a bridle. Every transgressor claims to be innocent.


Antigone

It is better to be humble. The gods will judge me and my motives. I'm committed to spirit.

[Compare with Proverbs 16]

Creon

What would cause you to conceive such a plan.

Antigone

The Gods inspire to obey the eternal laws.

Creon

The fates weave the tapestry of life. Their fingers ever busy working out the final day of disaster.

Antigone

Yes, the fates determine the weft and the warp of lives but what to some is disaster, to others is success.

Creon

The Gods detest hubris, you can be sure of that.

Antigone

What I am sure of is who violates divine law will suffer from their transgression. Love is not the source of punishment. Faith is not the source of suffering. Only those who fear to do the right thing need fear the future.

Creon

Your future is bleak.

Antigone

The Gods bless those who obey the Divine Laws. People make peace and way is made smooth.

Creon

Your brother did not bring peace to our nation. He sought to profit at our expense bringing foreign warriors and mercenaries to plunder our lands.

Antigone

Even the dead of the enemy deserve respect. Compassion and right action goes a long way. It is better to forgive, injustice brings only sorrow.

Creon

Forgive! We do not forgive those who trespass against the nation. A traitor is not forgiven! He chose his path. He chose to attack his blood, his people. The Gods witnessed his betrayal.

Antigone

Your lips drip with anger, spitting forth the fire of your fury. An oracle of insight. But your decrees are not proclamations of justice.

Creon

The King must make decisions for the good of the people, decreeing laws that reward those who do good and meting out justice to those who betray the nation.

Antigone

No, the scales of Justice are held within the hand of the Goddess. Balance is found within truth. Lies cannot be allowed to tip the scales, neither can power. We must defer to the Gods, follow the higher laws.

Creon

A King is called upon to do what is right. I am not unjust. My rule is rooted in righteousness. I listen carefully to my citizens taking joy in honest souls, rewarding truth and honesty. This messenger who brought you, brought news. News of death, news of your deed. Should I condone your crimes? You rewarded a traitor.

Antigone

I did what was right. I obeyed the law.

Creon

My decree is the law. I am the King. Don't you get that? My smile, my appreciation means life. My favor is like the gentle rain that nourishes the crops to grow. My anger means death. You would do well to be contrite and thereby avoid the never ending night of death.

Antigone

Am I to beg forgiveness for doing the right thing? No. I think not. I would rather have wisdom than reward. I would rather have soulful insights than a bag of silver. The high road is the way of truth, our highest duty is to divine law. By obeying the eternal laws of spirit we guard our souls against corruption.

Creon

The spirit possessed by pride is like a depressed person standing on a precipice soon to fall. It is better to be humble and ask for forgiveness, than hasten toward doom. Look. Listen and learn. Take heed and understand, perhaps then...

Antigone

I will trust in the Gods, the way of Divine Spirit, take my blessings from them. The greatest wisdom is found in discerning the way, making choices. The best instruction given with soft words and gentleness.

Creon

Is it not time for prudence? Your life is at stake. You could demonstrate some remorse. It is folly to proceed with pride, not to show any regret. If there is wisdom in your heart, insight in your mind, you will desist from this path, you...

Antigone

Truth cannot be bartered, nor wisdom attained through dishonest means. Wisdom teaches us the higher path is to obey the divine laws, to uphold even the rights of the dead to ...

Creon

Do you not understand? Remorse is the key to forgiveness. Penance softens anger like honey sweetens a bitter tea or a poultice heals a wound.

Antigone

You believe your way is right, yet no one can avoid death. You believe in your decrees. I believe in divine law and thus could not deny my brother his burial. I did this deliberately.

Creon

The root of evil is ever found within desire. The path to Hades is paved with cobblestones placed with good intention. Your hunger exceeds your appetite plotting evil against the people and now you simply defend your actions. Your words brand yourself with perverse logic.

Antigone

I had no choice. My lot was cast when you chose dishonor. My decision was inevitable, a fulfillment of Divine Right Action.

[End comparison with Proverbs 16]

Creon

You seem to be skilled in insolence. Perhaps it is your heritage, the rotten branch of a noble tree. You and your sister plotted this perverse path together with whispers and winks...

Antigone

Leave my sister out of this. She had nothing to do with this.

Creon

Criminals always hide their accomplices. You could not have done this alone. Summon her sibling!

Antigone

I told you, she had no part in this!

Creon

So you say, but I saw her within the palace just a moment ago, wringing her hands and acting fearful like someone with something to hide. Dark deeds often possess the criminal mind causing such behavior. Fetch her now. I am not going to tolerate this kind of behavior.

Antigone

What do you want from me?

Creon

Nothing. You are a shameful creature, a blight and bane on our nation.

Antigone

Then get on with it. Your words are as a foul wind from the sewer. There is no substance but always a foul smell. You are just a pitiful politician who has found yourself at the head of our nation not because of your own merits but because death opened the door for you. You are a vulture, seeking to ascend to an eagles aerie. One day you will be forgotten for you have no real claim to fame. You are not noble, you are but a shadow of a man.

Creon

Your mouth knows no words of wisdom. You're the bitter bird, but your words will not be heard, soon you will sleep forever.


Antigone

Do your worst! I do not ask for anything.


Creon

You have asked for death.

Antigone

You are a king and can get away with anything, but your failure to stop me is simply the prologue to your eternity. You will be known as a tyrant for all time. I will be remembered forever for burying my brother.

Creon

Wishful thinking. You will be forgotten. Or if there is a whisper of you in the collective consciousness it will be the chronicle of a cadmean in the cause of a traitor.

Antigone

Your pride will only persist while you have the power to enforce your proclamations.

Creon

Have you no shame?

Antigone

There is no shame in honoring the dead, in particular your own family.

Creon

Your brother was a traitor.

Antigone

Even the enemy deserves dignity and if it means my life, I am willing to die.

Creon

What honor can be found in honoring the dishonorable?

Antigone

Are you now confessing? You the guilty one. Haven't you dishonored the Gods through disobeying Divine Law?

Creon

No one has disobeyed Divine Law. We are simply not going to honor your brother. A traitor to our nation.

Antigone

You cannot defy Divine Law just because you are angry.

Creon

Your brother sought to rape and pillage the nation of his birth. He did not deserve honor.

Antigone

The rites of the dead cannot be denied. They are a human right and thus divine.

Creon

The nation does not reward those who seek to destroy it.

Antigone

The rites of the dead are not a reward. They are a requirement.

Creon

An enemy is an enemy. Whether dead or alive. We do not honor enemies.

Antigone

Death is the greatest democracy. Participation is denied to none, granted to all. The battlefield is a graveyard where fallen soldiers gave their lives. Their combined blood nourishes the earth. All lie dead and their death makes them equal. Captain, plain soldier, general, those from good or wealthy families are all congruent when they fall dead. That is the reward for their stupidity. War is a labor of men. Women do not find glory in war. In fact there is no glory in war or honor in victory. There is only death on the field and in termination all are equal. Thus all equally deserve the rites of the dead.

Creon

A woman's wisdom. You wish to be the equal of the fallen heroes but you cannot be, because you cannot understand the rigors of war or the vigor of the victor. But take comfort in this, in death you will achieve your just deserts. Your belief in equality will die with you, or as you reason, give you the equality that you feel you deserve.

Antigone

No, my beliefs will echo in eternity. Your name will only live as long as it is linked with mine.

Creon

Prattle on, you are not my equal. I don't accept your arguments

Antigone

You are right, I will not stoop to your level, nor consider us to be equals. It is for the Gods to decide who is ultimately right and I am unafraid to slip into the night


Creon

And slip you shall, then if you find equality in death as you believe, you will soon have proof, but you might want to keep in mind that no one has returned from the dimensions of the dead to tell their tale.

Antigone

My tale will be told by poets. An essential human story for the rest of time.

Chorus

Here comes Ismene already enshrouded in the gray gown of grief,
Her eyes filled with tears, her pain visible as her heart speaks.
Innocence is obvious to those who listen with the heart,
but can an angry mind fathom the truth?


(Enter Ismene)

Creon

Viper! Do not think that you have gone unnoticed as you lurked within the darkness. Vampires ever seek to suck the energy of the nobility till like a tick bloated with black milk, lose your energy and fall into the grass giving birth to more bloodsuckers.

Instead of hiding in the shadows and plotting together. You shall join your sister, your fellow traveler. You can travel as partners on the final journey, unless you swear by the Gods, upon the soul of your mother, you had nothing to do with this.

Ismene

I am guilty. I am as much to blame as she, if that is what you see.

Antigone

Do not lie! Did you not argue it was better to survive? Why are you claiming a share in my crime when you refused to take part?

Ismene

You are my sister, without you I am alone. I stand beside you. We will perish together.

Antigone

No. You did not do the deed. You will not share the glory. You cannot make a claim on what you do not own.

Creon

Glory?! there is no glory in dishonorable deeds.

Antigone

I hear a buzzing.

Ismene

Antigone, do not leave me behind, let me share your fate.

Antigone

My fate cannot be shared. The deed is done and you were not part of that, so you have no claim.

Ismene

How can I live without family, you are all I have left.

Antigone

Your answer is with him. Your king. Ask him for a husband, then you will not be alone.

Ismene

Why do you insult me? What good comes from insults?

Antigone

I don't insult you, I simply affirm your truth. It was you who said you didn't know. It was you who refused to help me when I asked.

Ismene

I can help now.

Antigone

No, you cannot come after the deed is done saying you had a hand in it. You must live your truth. Remember you said you believed it was your duty to survive. So survive.

Ismene

I cannot live without family. I must stand with you.

Antigone

No. You must now stand alone on your own. The lone survivor. You chose life. I choose death. I go my way. You go yours.

Ismene

My heart was with you. My thoughts are with you now.

Antigone

Your heart may have been with me, but your feet and your hands were not. When has the wealthy capitalist liberated the nation? Sitting within her mansion, profiting in the labor of others while receiving a pedicure does not nourish democracy. We cannot right injustice while sleeping. Victories in sleep are only dreams. To accomplish anything, we must rise from slumber and take action. You chose your path, now live it.

Ismene

How can it feel so wrong?

Antigone

Because you would like to change the situation. You are afraid. You are afraid to be alone. You must live. Through living you will overcome your fear. My thoughts have been with the dead so long that I am, in fact, dead already. That is the nature of thought. That which we contemplate we become. Think on life and soon your life will be that which you envisioned.

Creon

Here, we can see how siblings of their ilk will twist in the wind seeking an excuse for their actions.

Ismene

Sir, this is misfortune!

Creon

Yes, but it is your fortune that is amiss. It is unfortunate that you chose to aid the ignoble.

Ismene

How can I live with no family? She is all I have.

Creon

She is nothing. She is already dead.

Ismene

She is your son's fiancee.

Creon

There are always other fields to plow.

Ismene

They are meant for each other.

Creon

My son cannot marry someone who is dead or dishonored.

Ismene

Haemon, forgive your father!

Creon

Marriage is for the honorable. Your sister is a whore to her desire.

Ismene

How can you insult the betrothed of your son? She is the love of his life and he hers.

Creon

She killed herself. You heard her. She dwelled on death so long she manifested her own crypt. Soon she shall live forever in that dwelling. Hades shall inherit her. She loves the dead. There is no love of life within her.


Ismene

So, there is no mercy within you.

Creon

Mercy is for those who show remorse. Your sister chose this course, the way of defiance. So I must deliver you both to your fate. Guards, Watchmen, seize them. Women and children want to run from death and pain.


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