Antigone: Top Ten Quotes

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1.   “From the moment the curtain went up, she began to feel that inhuman forces were whirling her out of this world.”

This statement by the Chorus highlights that we are watching a play, and that Antigone knows she is a character assigned the part of a girl who will have to die. Throughout the play, it is said that Antigone was born to die young; it is her “fate.”

2.   “. . . they are policemen: eternally innocent, no matter what crimes are committed; eternally indifferent, for nothing that happens can matter to them.”

The Chorus is introducing the Guards. The statement is ironic, for the policemen are not innocent; they are dull, playing their assigned roles, with no human feeling for anyone. They are only “innocent” in that they wash their hands of responsibility. This is the only way they could be policemen. It is an accusation that the original audience would apply to the police during World War II, who were following orders as they terrorized and killed people.

3.   “When you cry like that, I become a little girl again; and I mustn’t be a little girl today.”

Antigone speaks these words to the Nurse, who cries as she thinks Antigone is being naughty and fresh with her. Antigone cannot tell her that she is going to die on this day. She needs her adult courage for what she will have to face.

4.   “He will do what he has to do, and we will do what we have to do.”

Antigone tells her sister Ismene that of course Creon will torture and kill them for burying Polynices; it’s his job. He will do his part, and they must do theirs to defy him. She speaks as though it is all predetermined, and all they have to do is go through with their parts, like in a play. Each person’s part is scripted by fate or character. It can make no difference to Antigone what another character will do.

5.   “You have everything in the world to make you happy. All you have to do is reach out for it.”

Ismene tries to persuade Antigone to change her mind. She cannot understand Antigone’s seeking of her own death by defying Creon. She is a princess, engaged to be married. Why should she turn her back on that?

6.   “You are always defying the world, but you’re only a girl, after all.”

Ismene instructs Antigone on her role in society. Men are heroes; women must be obedient. She refers to the place of Greek women to remain in the background, like Queen Eurydice, and obey the men of the family. It is the classic attempt to put someone in a category for the purpose of control. Antigone does not let herself be controlled. She doesn’t care whether she is a child, a girl, or a princess. She claims the right of sovereignty over herself.

7.   “Tragedy is clean, it is restful, it is flawless.”

The Chorus explains the effect of tragedy as opposed to melodrama. Everyone knows the outcome of a tragedy ahead of time, and so there are no exaggerated emotions. The action is clean and uncluttered, like watching something fall or a spring unwind. It is like a dance, precise, without eleventh hour discoveries and repentance. The audience contemplates the action instead of getting over-involved.

8.   “Nothing less than a cozy tea party with death and destiny will quench your thirst.”

Creon accuses Antigone of being like her father, Oedipus, who was not satisfied until he had brought fate down on himself. The two of them seem to despise happiness and embrace their own death.

9.   “I have other plans for you. You’re going to marry Haemon; and I want you to fatten up a bit so that you can give him a sturdy boy.”

Creon tries to picture a different life for Antigone than the tragic role she seeks. He does not want the mess it will create to have to kill her. He tries to cover up what she did and put her in her place as an ordinary housewife.

10. “I will not be moderate. I will not be satisfied with the bit of cake you offer me if I promise to be a good little girl.”

Antigone says no to Creon and his tyrannical worldview. She wants life on her own terms or not at all.

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