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One of the main arguments
The attitude of the Chorus.
used to show that Sophocles conceived Antigone as partly censurable has been drawn from the utterances of the Chorus. It is therefore important to determine, if we can, what the attitude of these Theban Elders really is. Their first ode (the Parodos) shows how strongly they condemn Polyneices, as having led a hostile army against his country. We might have expected, then, that, when Creon acquainted them with his edict, they would have greeted it with some mark of approval. On the contrary, their words are confined to a brief utterance of submission: ‘Such is thy pleasure, Creon, son of Menoeceus, touching this city's foe, and its friend; and thou hast power, I ween, to take what order thou wilt, both for the dead, and for all us who live’ (211 ff.). We can see that they are startled by such a doom, even for a man whom they hold deeply guilty. Their words suggest a misgiving. Just afterwards, they significantly excuse themselves from taking any part in the enforcement of the edict (216). But it is otherwise when the edict, having been published, is broken. Then they range themselves on Creon's side. They refer to the disobedience as a daring offence (371). When Antigone is brought in, they speak of her folly (383). Nevertheless, Antigone is convinced that, in their hearts, they sympathise with her (504). And, indeed, it is plain that they do so, to this extent,—that they consider the edict to have been a mistake; though they also hold that it was wrong to break the edict. Hence they speak of Antigone's act as one prompted by ‘frenzy at the heart’ (603). The clearest summary of their whole view—up to this point of the drama—is given in verses 872-875, and amounts to this:—Antigone's act was, in itself, a pious one; but Creon, as a ruler, was bound to vindicate his edict. Her ‘self-willed temper’ has brought her to death.

So far, then, the view taken by the Chorus is very much Boeckh's:—the merits are divided; Creon is both right and wrong; so, too, is Antigone. But then Teiresias comes (v. 988), and convinces the Chorus that Creon has been wholly wrong; wrong in refusing burial to Polyneices; wrong in punishing Antigone. It is at the urgent advice of the Chorus that Creon yields. And when, a little later, Creon blames himself as the cause of all the woe, the Chorus replies that now at last he sees the truth (v. 1270). Thus the Theban Elders entertain two different opinions in succession. Their first opinion is overthrown by Teiresias. Their second opinion—which they hold from verse 1091 onwards—is that which the poet intends to be recognised as the true one.

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hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 1270
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 211
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 216
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 371
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 383
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 504
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 603
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 872
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 988
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