Sophocles’ Antigone Summary

Looking for Sophocles’ Antigone summary? Want to quickly learn the key events of the classic Greek tragedy? You’re in the right place! In the article prepared by our experts, you’ll find Antigone plot overview, an illustrated timeline, and a detailed summary.

📖 Antigone Plot Summary

Sophocles’ Antigone describes the events after the Thebes’ civil war. Eteocles and Polynices, the sons of Oedipus, kill one another fighting over the throne. Creon, who becomes the new king, decides that Polynices will not be buried with honor. Antigone tries to change it and Creon punishes her by immuring her alive. She ends up hanging herself. Antigone’s death sets off a chain of tragic events. Haemon, Antigone’s fiancé and Creon’s son, commits suicide. After that, Eurydice, his mother, kills herself. Creon understands that only he is to blame for the death of his loved ones.

Read the full Sophocles’ Antigone summary below!

📊 Antigone Timeline

Below you’ll find an Antigone timeline that lists all the key events of the play.

This illustrated summary of Antigone lists all the key events in the play's plot.

🔍 Detailed Summary of Antigone by Sophocles

In the below sections, you’ll find a detailed summary of Antigone by Sophocles. The quotes are taken from the translation by Ben Roy, Bliss Perry, Alejandro Quintana, Sam Puopolo, Benji Ho, and Sasha Barish.

Antigone Prologue (Lines 1-116)

In Antigone‘s prologue, the readers get to meet Antigone and Ismene. After Polynices and Eteocles kill each other in the war, Creon, their uncle, becomes the king of Thebes. The brothers were fighting on opposite sides. One was defending Thebes; the other tried to win it. Under those circumstances, Creon decided that Polynices would not be buried because he was on the attackers’ side.

That tortured corpse I still call Polyneices —
He shall be left unwept, unburied, a sweet treasure
For the vultures as they search for the grace of flesh.

(Antigone Prologue)

Antigone wants her brother to be buried properly and tries to convince Ismene, her sister, to go against the king’s order. The laws scare Ismene more than tradition, so she refuses to help Antigone give their brother a proper burial.

Go on then, if you think it best—you’re a fool
To go, but your loved ones still love you.

(Antigone Prologue)

Angry and desperate, Antigone leaves.

Antigone Parodos Summary (Lines 117-178)

The short summary of Antigone misses a lot of little details. One of them is the following lines. Here, the readers get to know what happened before, during, and after the war.

It becomes clear why Antigone is so upset. The chorus appears. Those are the senior citizens of Thebes who start praising the sun. Then, they move on to describing the battle for Thebes.

The two sons of Oedipus were supposed to switch places every year to take the throne. However, Eteocles did not want to give it up, so his brother, Polynices, decided to take it with force and joined forces with other armies. Thebes won, and Polynices was pronounced a traitor.

Antigone Scene 1 Summary (Lines 179-367)

Now, in Antigone‘s Scene 1, Creon enters. He gives a little speech about how he is now the king after the two brothers’ death. Creon speaks to the chorus and highlights that as a leader, he must make the best decisions for the sake of the people.

Be my witness, all-seeing Zeus:
I would never stay silent if I saw trouble
Threatening the safety of our society.

(Antigone Scene 1)

Creon also repeats that Eteocles is to be buried according to all the traditions and with the highest honors. The traitor, Polynices, on the other hand, will be left out somewhere.

Meanwhile, one of the guardians comes in with some news. During the storm, someone tried to bury Polynices’ body, covering it with dust. Antigone‘s Scene 1 summary ends with Creon going mad and threatening the guardians with death unless they find out who did it.

Grumble over this then: if you can’t track down
The criminal who’s done this, you’ll find that
Your ill-gotten gains bring you only misery.

(Antigone Scene 1)

Antigone Ode 1 Summary (Lines 368-420)

When everyone leaves, the only chorus stays on the stage. It is another exciting piece in Antigone summary when the eldest offers the audience food for thought on human nature. People are knowledgeable and persistent, so their hard work can help them overcome obstacles.

There are many marvelous things,
Yet none more so than man.

(Antigone Ode 1)

However, there is one thing that people cannot control – death.

A great leader is a man who creates and follows the laws and does not go against the gods’ will. His city will become prosperous and mighty. But some decide to break those laws and turn against the gods. They become outcasts. There will be examples later in Antigone summary.

Antigone Scene 2 Summary (Lines 421-639)

The guards lead Antigone in. She is presented to Creon as the traitor. It is hard for him to believe initially, but she does not deny the charges. Creon asks her why she would go against his law. Antigone replies that she would never turn her back on the gods.

I didn’t think your decrees
Were strong enough to outweigh
The firm and unwritten laws of the gods.

(Antigone Scene 2)

Old traditions and customs are way more important than one man’s wish. The girl is ready to die, and it does not make her afraid since her life is full of sadness already.

Then, in the middle of this Antigone‘s Scene 2 summary, Ismene enters. She begs Creon to let her share Antigone’s fate. However, since the other sister did not participate in the burial, he spared her life. Antigone is condemned to death.

Yes, it’s settled… settled for both of us, so there’s no point
In arguing any further.

(Antigone Scene 2)

Antigone Ode 2 Summary (Lines 640-682)

The chorus comes on the stage once again. Their chant is related to Antigone‘s plot, as usual. The house of Oedipus, once great, is now doomed. People are too proud and arrogant, which makes them blind and leads to destruction.

Then, the chant switches to Zeus and how powerful he is.

Who of mankind can sustain,
O Zeus, a transgression of your power?

(Antigone Ode 2)

As the king of all the gods, he can easily take away all the fortune and ruin the lives of the most outstanding mortals. People can strive and prosper but are helpless against the gods’ will. This chant fades away as Haemon enters in tears.

Antigone Scene 3 Summary (Lines 683-848)

The summary of Antigone‘s Scene 3 begins with Haemon gaining self-control and delivering a well-prepared speech to his father. He says that he will obey Creon’s will.

Father, I am yours, and you know me well,
You set me on the right path, and I am following it.
I would not prioritize any marriage
Over the wise guidance you give me.

(Antigone Scene 3)

However, he wishes to protect the king’s reputation. People are afraid of Creon, and they do not support such a harsh punishment of Antigone.

Creon is thankful for Haemon’s piece of advice, but he stands by his own opinion. While losing his temper, the king insists on Antigone’s execution since she is a traitor. The two argue, and Haemon rushes away.

By the end of Scene 3 of Antigone, Creon changes his mind. He decides to immure Antigone in a cavern for life instead of executing her.

I will lead her along a deserted path
And then seal her in a rocky cavern there,
Leaving her only as much food as is necessary
To clear the city’s name of the charge of murder.

(Antigone Scene 3)

Antigone Ode 3 Summary (Lines 849-869)

The leader of the chorus expresses his worries about Haemon’s well-being. The boy might do something violent while consumed by despair and emotions. Antigone‘s Ode 3 summary proceeds with the chorus chanting on the topic of love. It is a strong force and can make people suffer and do crazy things.

The chorus is heartbroken with how Antigone’s life is about to end.

No longer strong enough to restrain
The river of tears when I see Antigone
Proceeding to her final place of rest.

(Antigone Ode 3)

Antigone Scene 4 Summary (Lines 870-1001)

As Antigone‘s Scene 4 summary begins with the dialogue between Antigone and the chorus. She is quite sad and desperate herself. The girl cries over the lost chance to become a wife and experience the joys of life.

Look at me, o citizens
Of my fatherland, as I set out
On my last journey, as I gaze upon
My last sunlight,
And never again.

(Antigone Scene 4)

Antigone is terrified of death, and the chorus reminds her that it is all her fault. Blindness, pride, and temper caused it.

Then Creon enters the stage. He interrupts her speech and orders the guards to take her away. They have to build a tomb and put the girl in there alive.

Bring her as fast as you can, and leave her
Alone, sealed in that shadowy tomb—as I’ve ordered you to.
She’ll either die right then and there,
Or she’ll live entombed in that room—the decision is hers.

(Antigone Scene 4)

However, Antigone’s mourning does not end. She confesses that what she did was a sacrifice too big to be made for a husband or even a child. Antigone could only go against the law for her immediate family.

If my husband had died, I could’ve found another,
And if I had lost my first child, another man could’ve fathered my second,
But with my mother and my father both sealed away in Hades,
I can never have a new brother.

(Antigone Scene 4)

It is always possible to find another partner, but since her parents are dead, she can never have another brother again. Antigone then asks the gods to punish Creon if they agree that he is the real traitor here.

Antigone Ode 4 Summary (Lines 1002-1041)

As the guards take her away, it is time for the chorus to have a word. The summary of Antigone’s Ode 4 looks similar to the others. The words of the eldest are like comments about previous Antigone’s scenes. It appears that the girl is not the first to be buried alive, so the chorus proceeds to describe the past victims of such cruel imprisonment. Among them were kings, their ancestors, and the children of gods. Despite their power and status, they could not escape their fate.

Destiny has a certain terrible power:
Nothing—neither wealth, nor Ares,
Nor lofty heights, nor dark sea-tossed ships—
Can ward off its grasp.

(Antigone Ode 4)

Therefore, there is no way Antigone can do anything about hers now either.

Antigone Scene 5 Summary (Lines 1042-1192)

Tiresias is the blind prophet who comes in with the help of a boy. Antigone‘s Scene 5 summary is a turning point. The prophet tells Creon that it is a colossal mistake to break tradition. If the king goes against the gods and leaves Polynices unburied, much suffering and curses will fall upon him. He calls on Creon to correct the mistake and bury the dead warrior.

When a man does wrong, if he makes amends
And moves forward after his mistake,
He is no longer unwise or unblessed—
But your stubbornness has made you clumsy!

(Antigone Scene 5)

However, Creon gets angry and accuses Tiresias of lying. Once again, he refuses to change his mind. Then, the prophet decides to reveal the biggest secret. He says that if Creon does not stop Antigone’s execution, the gods will take his son’s life.

As Tiresias leaves, the king is left in a rage. He is mad at the prophet and does not wish to change his decision.

Creon asks the leader of the chorus for help. The advice he receives makes him rush to free Antigone.

Oh! It’s hard to deny the heart, but
I can’t go on fighting so desperately against the gods.

(Antigone Scene 5)

Antigone Ode 5 Summary (Lines 1193-1225)

Unlike other odes in Antigone’s play summaries, this one leaves a more joyful impression. Since the chorus leader managed to convince Creon to change his mind, they are more cheerful this time. There are speculations about the birth of Oedipus.

However, the central part is devoted to Dionysus. They ask the god for the protection and well-being of the people of Thebes.

Oh show yourself our Lord
With your trusty Thyiads,
Who rage ‘till sunrise
And salute you in dance
As their master –
You, Bacchus!

(Antigone Ode 5)

Antigone Exodus Summary (Lines 1226-1444)

It is the last part of Antigone‘s timeline. The messenger arrives and says that Haemon is dead.

Haemon is finished, bloodied by his own hand.

(Antigone Exodus)

Eurydice, Creon’s wife, asks for an explanation. It appears that Creon took his son, and they gave a proper burial ceremony for Polynices. When they came to Antigone’s tomb, they found her dead body. Out of despair, Haemon tried to kill Creon with his sword but then committed suicide.

Eurydice leaves, and her husband comes in carrying their son’s body. Another messenger arrives to announce that the queen killed herself.

At the altar, with a sharp-edged sword,
She hacked until her black eyes shut…
And with her last breath she sang
Curses upon you as a child-killer.

(Antigone Exodus)

Creon’s grief is taking over, but the chorus leader tells him to endure. Antigone’s exodus ends with a warning about the dangers of pride and the proper use of wisdom.

A boastful man’s mighty words
Are paid for by mighty blows.
In old age he teaches his wisdom.

(Antigone Exodus)

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