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MonkeyNotes-Antigone by Jean Anouilh
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EPISODE V

Summary

This episode begins with the guards leading Antigone onto center- stage. When she returned to Polynices' body to do additional burial rites, the three of them caught her in the act of covering the corpse with dirt. They arrest her immediately. As she is brought on stage, the omniscient Chorus leaves the stage saying, "For the first time, Antigone is going to be herself--a rebel, a fiercely independent spirit!"

The rough guards, who have handcuffed Antigone and have pushed her along rudely, have not recognized her as the princess. When she introduces herself as Antigone, daughter of King Oedipus, the guards are shocked that she has the courage to break Creon's law. They say, "I never saw such nerve!" The first guard tells her that they are going to get a nice bonus from the King because they have caught the culprit. They plan to have a party with their families to celebrate their success.

Creon enters and is surprised to see Antigone. He orders the guards to take off her handcuffs. He then asks Antigone what she was doing outside the gates. The guards answer that she was trying to cover Polynices' body with dirt again. The first guard gives the details about the noonday heat, the smell of the rotting corpse, and the sudden appearance of Antigone on the scene. When she is captured, she scratches and bites them, demanding to be left alone.

Antigone admits to everything. Creon asks her if she has performed the same act earlier in the morning, and Antigone confesses that it was she who had used the toy shovel. Creon orders the guards to wait outside. There is silence on the stage as Creon tries to think of a way out of this situation.


Notes

When the handcuffed Antigone is dragged on stage by the three guards at the first of the episode, the Chorus notes that she has ventured into the world of the lawless and is now alone, but unafraid. When the Chorus departs, the attention of the audience is turned on the heartless guards, who are full of self-importance because they have captured the guilty person. Antigone protests about their hurting her and points out that they have dirty hands. She tells them that she does not mind being killed, but she does not like being touched by the likes of them. She asks them to release her, saying that she is King Oedipus' daughter and will not run away like a petty crook. One of the guards compares her to a clawing hyena and jokes that "she ain't got all her marbles!". There is obviously a world of difference between her noble nature and the crude pettiness of the three guards.

The guards openly discuss their success, preoccupied with the petty thoughts of a monetary reward or a promotion for their efforts in capturing the criminal. When they receive their bonuses, they plan to throw a big party and celebrate their success with their families. They have no capability of understanding the tragedy before them. Instead, they are pictured as small, mean policemen, much like the cold-blooded and inhuman Gestapo of Nazi Germany.

Creon comes in and is stunned to see his niece Antigone shackled. As he asks her some simple questions, the truth and horror of the situation begin to sink in. The guards then give a detailed and dramatic account of how they were watching over the body at high noon when Antigone came up suddenly and started scraping mud with her bare hands to cover Polynices' body. Antigone was desperate to finish the burial ritual. When they captured her, she fought so wildly that they felt they should handcuff her.

Antigone clearly and calmly admits her guilt. She tells of how she also went out at dawn to begin the burial rites and used Polynices' own childhood shovel to dig the dirt. Shocked at this revelation, Creon asks the men to wait outside for further orders. He turns to Antigone, but there is a meaningful silence on stage.

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