Antigone, Sophocles — Scenes 3-4 

Now that you are into the play, let’s talk about a few things:
1. The Greeks gods: The Greeks believed that the gods were involved in the affairs of men. They went about influencing all aspects of nature and human relationships, and punishing wrong behaviors, wrong attitudes, and disrespect for their laws. According to the Greek’s elaborate heirarchy of gods, each god was put in charge of certain things: the wind, the sea, love, death, war, etc. While Mount Olympus was known as the home of the gods and goddesses, Hades (Pluto) spent most of his time in the underworld so this was considered his home. It was not the horrible Hell that we think of, but rather the place where all dead go. When we see the word God (capitalized) in the play, it is puzzling. Is it a reference to the One True God in whom we believe and trust, who they somehow recognized as being above all other gods? Probably not. Is it a reference to Zeus, the king of the gods? Or to the “God of many names,” Iacchus, who is sung to in the Paean (Hymn) in Scene 5? Or does it refer to whichever god is involved in the incident taking place at the time in the play? Or does it refer to all of the gods, collectively? We aren’t given an answer for that. Notice how amazingly complicated man makes things when he is in charge of making up explanations for God, for good and evil, life and death, the seasons and the universe. Even those who study the Greeks and their religion seriously, regard the whole system of gods and goddesses as myth. Remember that.
2. The Chorus and Choragus: Some of the Chorus’ songs (Odes) and interactions with the Choragus are hard to understand. They usually focus on one aspect of human nature that is apparent in that section of the play, or one emotion, one prediction, or one lesson with examples to help make the point. It is the Chorus’ chance to have a “teaching moment.” For example, Ode 1 at the end of Scene 1 focuses on the greatness of man in the world, the place he has made for himself, the many things he controls (except Death), yet in the end, he is destroyed by his own doing (“working both good and evil”). In this case, it is the person who has disobeyed Creon who is called an anarchist even though they do not yet know who it is. They sing about the virtue of keeping laws, and the destruction that results from breaking them. As we learned in the lesson last week, they share the common attitudes and beliefs of the people and express them throughout the play. In Ode 2 at the end of Scene 2, the lesson is about what happens when a man does evil (like Oedipus) and tastes God’s (the gods’) vengeance. They sing that Antigone is in this situation today, facing what she is facing, because of her father’s sin and the “curse of heaven.” As you continue reading, try to identify the “lesson” they are trying to teach as they sing and answer back to each other and the audience.
3. Syntax: You have probably noticed as you read Scenes 1 and 2 that the syntax of some of the sentences seems unusual for everyday speech. Remember, that syntax is the arrangement of words in a sentence. Let’s take a closer look at the syntax in Antigone.
Grammar in Context: Inverted Sentences
Notice where the translator of Antigone places the subject and its verb in each of these excerpts.
Chorus.   Numberless are the world’s wonders,
                                  but none
                        More wonderful than man; . . .
Chorus.   Fortunate is the man who has never
                                  tasted God’s vengeance!
One way in which expert writers vary their sentences to make their writing more interesting is by changing the order of subjects and verbs. In most sentences subjects come before verbs, but in the sentences above, the verbs (in blue type) are placed before the subjects (in red type). Sentences like these are called inverted sentences. They can give a formal tone to writing and can be used to create poetic effects.
Writing Exercise: Rewrite each sentence, placing the main verb before the subject.
Usage Tip: When writing an inverted sentence, make sure the subject agrees in number with the verb.
Original:  Creon is merciless in dealing with his dead nephew Polyneices.
Rewritten:  Merciless is Creon in dealing with his dead nephew Polyneices.
1. Antigone pleads passionately with Ismene for help in burying their dead brother.
2. Creon, king of Thebes, is cruel.
3. The sentry who found Polyneices buried is frightened.
4. Antigone speaks eloquently when she is brought before Creon.


A. Read the Lecture Notes in this Lesson. Some of this information will help you as you complete the quiz.

Complete the Grammar in Context Exercise: Inverted Sentences. Number 1-4 and write the new sentence. You will be asked to put these sentences at the beginning of this week’s Antigone Scenes 3-4 Quiz.
B. Read Scenes 3-4.
Prepare answers for the following questions before opening the quiz. A variety of questions types will be created from these questions: Multiple Choice, True/False, and short answer.
Scene 3
  1. Explain how Haemon shows respect for his father as he approaches him about his ruling against Antigone.
  2. Identify the point in the conversation where Haemon’s attitude changes towards his father. (Copy lines that clearly show this change.)
  3. Why is he upset with his father, specifically (in addition to the obvious-his treatment of Antigone)?
  4. Before he begins arguing with his father, what does Haemon ask his father to do? What examples does he use for emphasis?
  5. Of what does Haemon warn his father when his father tells him that he shall never marry Antigone?
  6. By the end of the argument Creon is so angry that he demands that Antigone be brought before him to be killed in front of Haemon. What does Haemon reply?
  7. What does Creon tell the Choragus about Ismene’s fate? Why?
  8. What does Creon tell the Choragus about Antigone’s fate?
Scene 4
  1. As Antigone is brought before Creon, the Chorus calls out to her, telling her of its sadness. Why does the Chorus say she is not going to death “unpraised” or “without a kind of honor”?
  2. To whom does Antigone compare herself? Why?
  3. What suspicion does the Chorus raise that prompts Antigone to respond, “You have touched it at last . . .” Explain.
  4. Who does the Chorus say is to blame for Antigone’s death?
  5. What pronouncement does Antigone make after Creon says, “. . . our hands are clean”?
  6. In Ode 4, how is Danae used as an example of how nothing can prevail against Destiny?
  7. According to the Chorus, why is King Lycurgus, Dryas’ son, locked in stone? (Be sure to read the footnotes too.)
  8. What is the third horrible example that the Chorus presents about?



Antigone 3,4,5



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