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71 pages 2 hours read

Sophocles

Antigone

Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Scene 1 and 1st Ode

Scene 1 and 1st Ode Summary

Prior to the action, Eteokles and Polyneikes, sons of Oedipus, the former king of Thebes, feuded over who would rule. Initially agreeing to split time on the throne, Eteokles refused to pass the throne to Polyneikes. This led Polyneikes to attack Thebes with an army of allies from Argos. In the battle that ensued, the two brothers killed each other. This mutual fratricide fulfilled a curse set on them by Oedipus. The day after these deaths, Ismene and Antigone, daughters of Oedipus, stand outside the main gate of the house of Kreon, the brother of Oedipus’ former wife, Jocasta, and the current king of Thebes. It is just before dawn.

In her first lines, Antigone tells Ismene that while Kreon had Eteokles buried, he left Polyneikes to rot in the open air, forbidding any from burying him on pain of death. Antigone charges Ismene to show her nobility by aiding Antigone in burying their brother. Ismene refuses, arguing that enough death has befallen their family without their execution. Furthermore, Ismene knows this act would be a rebellion against their social status: “we’re born as women, we’re not brought into being / to war with men” (lines 76-77).

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