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Free Study Guide-Antigone by Sophocles-Free Online Summary Booknotes
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Creon: the Final scene/Exodus

Summary

The Chorus wonders at Queen Eurydice’s silent departure. The messenger is filled with hesitation. The Chorus believes that Eurydice’s inability to grieve openly at Haemon’s death is a sign that she is actually deeply distressed. It is preferred that she grieve openly, for suppression of the emotions is bad for the mourner: “There is a danger, even in too much silence.”

The Chorus now notes the return of Creon, who is carrying the body of Haemon. The Chorus openly blames Creon for Haemon’s death.

Creon enters carrying his heavy burden. He blames himself for being too stubborn and repents having passed the decree regarding Polynices’ burial. He curses himself for being so foolish and rash in his actions. The Chorus laments that Creon has learned to follow the right path too late. Creon believes that some god has set him on the road to despair. He cries out as if he has been mortally wounded.

A second messenger enters and tells Creon that he (Creon) is master of sorrows. He reveals to Creon that Eurydice has stabbed herself. Creon is inconsolable. The messenger draws open a curtain, behind which lies the body of Eurydice. He recounts how Eurydice had just mourned at the bed of her dead son, Megareus (who died defending Thebes), and then at Haemon’s bed, before killing herself with a “keen knife.” Before dying, she had cursed Creon and blamed him for the death of her sons.

Creon is filled with terror at this news. He asks whether anyone would put him out of his misery by giving him a mortal blow. He falls into deep distress and begs his followers to take him away. He sees himself as responsible for Eurydice’s death and claims that he has nothing left in the world. He laments that he does not wish to live another day. The Chorus advises Creon that time will determine whether or not he will survive this catastrophe. The Chorus tells Creon that prayer is useless, as everything is predestined. Creon cannot bear to remain with the bodies of his wife and child. He feels that the hand of Fate has fallen heavily upon him. He is taken away by his followers as the Chorus sings the Exodus, or final song.

The Chorus asserts that those who act wisely will live happily, as long as they also follow Heaven’s laws. Proud men who boast about themselves will soon be punished for their pride. They will be forced to suffer immense sorrows. Men will learn to act wisely, explains the Chorus, only when they are old and experienced.

Notes

The conclusion of the play reveals a sobered Creon. He has lost his will to live, due to the deaths of his wife and son. He claims to have learned his lesson although it is too late to remedy the present tragedy. Tiresias’ prophecy has come true. Creon comes to a realization (what Aristotle would define as “Anagnorisis”) at the play’s end. He realizes his mistake in passing an unjust proclamation and accepts responsibility for all that has happened. He had already taken the first step towards repentance when he personally saw to it that the body of Polynices received a funeral (and burial). However, he was too late to rescue Antigone.


Once again, fate has played its part. Antigone seems destined to die. She herself shows an awareness of her destiny throughout the play. Due to chance or misfortune, Creon arrives too late to save her. Had he come to the vault before burying Polynices’ body, Antigone and Haemon might have been saved. But the wheels of fate, once set into motion, cannot be stopped. Antigone must die, and Creon must suffer; only then can there be tragedy.

Eurydice mourns not only for Haemon’s death, but also for the death of her elder son, Megareus, who was killed in the battle against the Argive army.

The Chorus plays a significant part at the play’s end. When Creon is miserable and does not wish to live, they remind him that his duty as a king requires that he should live: “We must attend to present needs.”

The Chorus also reiterates the theme of destiny as an all-powerful force. Their Exodus is moral in tone and assesses Creon’s behavior throughout the play. Creon began by acting foolishly and boasting arrogantly. He refused to pay heed to the warnings of Tiresias and did not believe that the gods were angry with him. Now, through a painful experience, Creon has learned his lesson. As the Chorus says: “High boastings of the proud/ Bring sorrow to the height to punish pride.”

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