Antigone in middle age

Peter Parsons

Elle s’appelle Antigone et il va falloir qu’elle joue son rôle jusqu’au bout.’ Anouilh’s chorus states, what most readers would assume: there is only one part Antigone can play, and that is the part which Sophocles gave her. The sons of Oedipus quarrel; Polynices, exiled in Argos, returns to attack Eteocles, who rules in their native Thebes; in the battle, the brothers kill one another; Creon, the next king, orders that Eteocles be buried as a hero, Polynices left unburied as a traitor; Antigone, the sister of the dead men, defies the order and symbolically buries Polynices; Creon condemns her to an underground prison; there she hangs herself, and Creon’s son Haemon, in love with her, kills himself at her side. Before Sophocles’s play (produced about 440 BC) Antigone was a shadowy figure; after it, no treatment escapes the influence.

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The Antigone papyrus is published by David Hughes in ‘The Oxyrhynchus Papyri’ Vol. XLVII (1980), No 3317.