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MonkeyNotes-Antigone by Jean Anouilh
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EPISODE III

Summary

The Third Episode begins when the guards arrive to inform Creon that they have found dust sprinkled on the dead body of Polynices. Fear of authority and the possibility of punishment upsets the guards, for any neglect of their duty is a crime. Jonas shakes with fear while reporting the entire matter. Creon is angered by the slow and painful revelation of the truth. He wants to double check to see if there is a dog or a buzzard near the corpse. But the guards are certain that there is no animal, for mud was sprinkled on the body like the priests do in a burial rite. The three guards report that they were alert and doing their duty, but the deed was done secretly. They show Creon a child's shovel that was found near the corpse, evidence that a crime has been committed.

Creon is baffled by the idea that a mere child may have defied his edict. He tries to imagine the law-breaker, a rebel youth of fourteen, full of idealism and courage. In condemning such a youth, he would become a killer, with the innocent blood of a child on his hands. As a result, Creon makes a quick decision. He orders the three guards to go back and uncover the body and not to reveal that someone has tried to bury Polynices. He orders them to continue their watch and threatens that "if the rumor spreads through Thebes that the body received burial, you will be shot--all three of you". In disbelief, Creon keeps repeating "a child!" as he goes off stage with his page.


Notes

In this episode, the plot unfolds from another perspective, that of Creon, who has issued the edict about Polynices' burial. When telling about the burial, the frightened and shaking Jonas keeps beating around the bush, creating a mood of comic irony. Before giving the details, the guard tries to downplay his lapse of duty; he keeps harping on his loyal seventeen years of service. Creon grows impatient and demands a full explanation. After the slow and painful confession by the guards is completed, Creon realizes that someone covered the body with dirt while the three watchmen played cards, not paying attention or guarding the corpse.

Unable to accept that he has been disobeyed, Creon suggests that perhaps a dog kicked some dirt on the body. The guards are emphatic that someone acted deliberately in placing the mud, for a child's rusty shovel was found nearby. Creon is shocked even further by the possibility that a child has broken his law. In a tense monologue, Creon seems almost defeated by the fact that someone has dared to defy his edict. Creon wonders who the baby-faced rebel is. Ironically, his description perfectly suits the actual criminal, Antigone.

Creon is afraid of the problems that may result from this development. He does not want Antigone to be a martyr for the cause of Polynices' side. Suddenly, Creon makes a snap decision. He orders the same guards to go back on duty and clean the body and pretend as if nothing has happened. Thus, he takes the guards into his confidence in order to prevent a public calamity. The guards are relieved at being let off the hook. Creon orders them out while he talks to his page about this threat to his power. He asks the page if he would die for the King. He tries to imagine who could be so loyal to Polynices as to disobey his law so fearlessly. The audience sees Creon, the King, being practical in dealing with a sudden crisis without losing his cool. Creon and the page exit.

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