Antigone: Book 7

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7. The Aftermath

 

The Chorus enters and announces that now it is Creon’s turn. The Messenger runs in calling for the Queen. The Chorus asks what the Messenger wants with the Queen. He says he has news for her and begins telling the Chorus about Antigone’s death. She had been put into the cave, and they were walling it up when they heard moans from the tomb. It wasn’t Antigone’s voice. It was Haemon’s. Creon howled for them to take away the stones. Creon tore the stones with his own hands. Antigone had hanged herself in the cave and Haemon was holding her in his arms and moaning. Creon tried to get Haemon to get up, but Haemon wouldn’t listen. Suddenly, Haemon stood up, looking like a little boy. He struck his father and Creon leaped away. Then Haemon stabbed himself and embraced Antigone.

 

Creon enters and the Chorus and Messenger turn to look at him.

 

Creon says he has laid the lovers side by side, and now it is done. The Chorus tells him all is not done, for the Queen—

 

Creon interrupts, saying the Queen is a good woman, always gardening and knitting.

 

The Chorus says she won’t be knitting anymore, for she went to her room and cut her throat. Creon says in a dull voice, “They are all asleep” (p. 70).

 

The Chorus replies, “And now you are alone, Creon” (p. 70).

 

Creon turns to his page and says there is a lot of work to be done, and a man can’t refuse to do it, even if it’s dirty work. He tells the page never to grow up if he can help it. He goes to his regular Cabinet meeting at 5:00.

 

The Chorus concludes that it is all over now, and there is peace. Everyone was caught up in the web whether or not they believed in any purpose. Those who survived will forget the dead.

 

The Guards enter and begin to play cards on the steps. The Chorus exits.

 

Commentary on The Aftermath

 

Everything happened as Creon and Antigone expected. They played their roles till the end. What Creon did not count on is that he didn’t know the effect Antigone’s death would have on others. He did not know what roles his son and wife played in the “web” of the action. He was not able to control events or to stamp out Antigone as completely as he wanted to. Although the Chorus says that there is peace at the end and everyone wants to forget the dead, it was the Chorus who warned Creon, “We shall carry the scar of her death for centuries” (p. 60). Perhaps the contradiction of her meaningless death as a scar for society is like what happens in a war. Those who are alive try not to remember the dead so they can go on, but the scars remain with them. Even if no one speaks of Antigone, even if she is not hailed as a heroine, the shame of it is the “great melancholy wave of peace” (p. 71) settling on the empty palace as Creon waits for his own death.

 

The wound that the Chorus speaks of reminds Creon and the audience that there is a price to pay for all this, and that the actions one chooses have consequences. The Chorus speaks of both the collective wound to the city that Antigone’s death will cause, and of the psychic wound Creon deals to his son. In the cave as Haemon holds the body of Antigone, he stares and stares at his father in contempt, “like a knife that Creon couldn’t escape” (p. 69).

 

In Sophocles’s version, Antigone becomes a hero in Thebes for standing up for the religious burial rites, but for Anouilh’s Antigone, by the time she dies, she doesn’t remember the reason why she chose this path. Creon has dimmed her ideals but not her integrity. She only knows she does not want to give in to him or his way of life. The Chorus says, “We shall never know the name of the fever that consumed her” (p. 71). Though Anouilh shows that Antigone’s sacrifice was only meaningful to herself, he wants us to admire a person with moral passion who will stand up to tyranny. This was an especially important point in World War II, the time the play was first performed.

 

The Chorus in Sophocles’s play gives a speech about the passions of youth, mostly to condemn them for causing disorder in the state. The Greek Chorus points out that the passions of a young man like Haemon disturb the harmony with his father and the state. Anouilh, however, makes the fire of youth appear as a good that necessarily burns out as a person grows up. Haemon begs his father to remember that passionate and good man that he once was, for it made him human and sympathetic to others. He is devastated at the loss of the father he loved and respected. Creon takes Haemon’s point too late when he tells the young page to never grow up.

 

 

 

 

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