This article is about play by Sophocles. For the main summary of antigone by sophocles pdf in the play, see Antigone. Sophocles written in or before 441 BC.
It is the third of the three Theban plays chronologically, but was the first written. The play expands on the Theban legend that predated it and picks up where Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes ends.
In the beginning of the play, two brothers leading opposite sides in Thebes’ civil war died fighting each other for the throne. Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, has decided that Eteocles will be honored and Polyneices will be in public shame.
The rebel brother’s body will not be sanctified by holy rites and will lie unburied on the battlefield, prey for carrion animals like worms and vultures, the harshest punishment at the time. Antigone and Ismene are the sisters of the dead Polyneices and Eteocles.
In the opening of the play, Antigone brings Ismene outside the palace gates late at night for a secret meeting: Antigone wants to bury Polyneices’ body, in defiance of Creon’s edict. Ismene refuses to help her, not believing that it will actually be possible to bury their brother, who is under guard, but she is unable to stop Antigone from going to bury her brother herself. Creon enters, along with the Chorus of Theban Elders. He seeks their support in the days to come and in particular, wants them to back his edict regarding the disposal of Polyneices’ body.
The Leader of the Chorus pledges his support out of deference to Creon. A Sentry enters, fearfully reporting that the body has been given funeral rites and a symbolic burial with a thin covering of earth, though no one saw who had actually committed the crime. Creon, furious, orders the Sentry to find the culprit or face death himself. The Sentry leaves, and the Chorus sings about honouring the gods, but after a short absence, he returns, bringing Antigone with him.
The Sentry explains that the watchmen uncovered Polyneices’ body and then caught Antigone as she did the funeral rituals. Creon questions her after sending the Sentry away, and she does not deny what she has done.