By Sophocles


Welcome to the timeless world of Sophocles’s “Antigone”! 🏛️✨ Sophocles, an ancient Greek tragedian whose work has captivated audiences for centuries, is the mastermind behind this compelling drama. Set against the backdrop of Thebes, a city steeped in mythology and heroism, “Antigone” belongs to the genre of Greek tragedy, a form that explores the complexities of human nature, fate, and the divine.

Sophocles lived from around 496 BC to 406 BC and was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, alongside Aeschylus and Euripides. His plays are celebrated for their deep exploration of the human condition, intricate characters, and profound moral questions. “Antigone,” written around 441 BC, stands out as a beacon of the genre, intertwining the fate of its characters with the gods’ will and societal laws.

The play dives into themes of loyalty, honor, and the conflict between following one’s conscience and obeying the law, making it as relevant today as it was over two millennia ago. Let’s embark on this journey through ancient Thebes, where family bonds and moral dilemmas collide with tragic consequences. 🌟

Plot Summary

“Antigone” by Sophocles is a powerful drama that unfolds the tragic conflict between personal duty and civic law, encapsulated through the experiences of its titular character, Antigone. Here’s a breakdown of the main events:

Exposition — The play begins in the aftermath of a civil war in Thebes, where Oedipus’s sons, Eteocles and Polynices, have killed each other over the throne. Creon, now king, decrees that Eteocles will receive a hero’s burial for defending the city, but Polynices, deemed a traitor, will be left unburied.

Rising Action — Antigone, sister to both dead princes, defies Creon’s edict and performs burial rites for Polynices, believing it her moral duty to ensure her brother’s soul rests in peace. She is caught in the act and brought before Creon.

Climax — Despite Creon’s threats and her sister Ismene’s pleas for caution, Antigone refuses to renounce her actions. Creon, enraged and seeing her defiance as a challenge to his authority, sentences Antigone to death, ordering her to be entombed alive.

Falling Action — Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s betrothed, pleads for her life, arguing that the citizens of Thebes sympathize with her. Creon remains unmoved, causing a rift between him and Haemon. The blind prophet Tiresias warns Creon that the gods disapprove of his actions and that he will suffer for his hubris.

Resolution — Realizing his grave mistake too late, Creon decides to release Antigone, only to find that she has hanged herself. Haemon, in despair, tries to kill Creon but ends up taking his own life. Eurydice, Creon’s wife and Haemon’s mother, also kills herself upon hearing the news of her son’s death. The play ends with Creon, a broken man, lamenting his pride and the tragic consequences of his actions.

Through these events, “Antigone” explores the devastating impact of inflexibility and pride, the conflict between individual moral duty and societal laws, and the tragic fallout of a clash between the two.

Character Analysis

In “Antigone,” Sophocles crafts a set of deeply complex characters, each embodying a spectrum of human virtues and flaws. Let’s explore the main characters and their intricate dynamics throughout the play.

  • Antigone — Antigone is the play’s tragic heroine, characterized by her unwavering resolve and loyalty to her family. Despite the laws of Thebes that forbid the burial of her brother Polynices, she chooses to follow divine law and her moral compass, leading to her ultimate demise. Her actions and steadfastness raise questions about morality, law, and individual rights versus state power.
  • Creon — Creon, the king of Thebes, represents the law and the state’s authority. His decree against the burial of Polynices stems from a desire to establish order and loyalty within his kingdom. However, his rigid adherence to this law, even in the face of moral objections and divine warnings, highlights his hubris and leads to his tragic downfall, losing his son and wife.
  • Ismene — Ismene, Antigone’s sister, contrasts Antigone with her caution and reluctance to defy Creon’s edict. Initially, she refuses to help Antigone bury their brother, fearing the consequences. Her character explores themes of fear, compliance, and the struggle between familial loyalty and self-preservation.
  • Haemon — Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiancé, plays a pivotal role in highlighting the conflict between his father’s laws and his own beliefs in justice and love. His attempt to persuade Creon to spare Antigone and his subsequent suicide upon finding her dead, underscore the play’s tragic exploration of love, loyalty, and the catastrophic effects of stubbornness.
  • Tiresias — The blind prophet Tiresias serves as a voice of wisdom and divine insight in the play. His warnings to Creon about the gods’ displeasure with his actions serve as a critical turning point, emphasizing the themes of fate, divine will, and the consequences of human pride.
  • Eurydice — Eurydice, Creon’s wife, appears briefly but her suicide upon hearing of Haemon’s death underscores the personal tragedy Creon faces as a result of his decisions, amplifying the play’s themes of loss, consequence, and the human cost of leadership and pride.

Here’s a summary table for a quick reference:

AntigoneResolute, moral, defiantLoyalty to family and divine lawRemains steadfast, faces tragic end
CreonAuthoritative, proud, inflexibleEstablish law and order, assert powerRealizes his hubris, faces loss
IsmeneCautious, compliant, lovingSafety, familial concernGrows to support Antigone’s cause
HaemonLoyal, passionate, rationalLove for Antigone, justiceChallenges his father, tragic end
TiresiasWise, insightful, bluntServe as divine messengerWarns Creon, highlights his folly
EurydiceGrieving, distantMaternal and spousal loveTragic end reflecting Creon’s losses

Sophocles’s “Antigone” presents a rich tapestry of characters, each contributing to the play’s exploration of themes such as law vs. morality, the consequences of pride, and the complexity of human nature.

Themes and Symbols

“Antigone” by Sophocles is rich with themes and symbols that contribute to its enduring significance and complexity. Here’s a look at some of the major ones:

  • Conflict between Divine Law and Human Law — This central theme of the play is embodied in the clash between Antigone’s moral duty to honor her brother according to divine laws and Creon’s human laws designed to maintain order and authority. This conflict raises questions about justice, morality, and the limits of state power.
  • Pride and Hubris — Creon’s downfall is a classic example of Greek tragedy’s focus on hubris. His refusal to heed warnings and his rigid adherence to his decree, despite its moral implications, illustrate the dangers of excessive pride and the inevitability of divine retribution.
  • Fate vs. Free Will — The characters in “Antigone” grapple with their predestined fates while asserting their free will, a common theme in Greek tragedies. The play suggests that while humans have the agency to make choices, they cannot escape the fates assigned by the gods.
  • Loyalty and Betrayal — Loyalty to family versus loyalty to the state is a significant conflict represented by Antigone and Creon, respectively. Antigone’s act of burying her brother is a testament to familial loyalty, while Creon’s actions are motivated by his loyalty to the laws of Thebes, highlighting the complex dynamics of allegiance.
  • The Role of Women in Society — Antigone challenges the traditional roles of women in ancient Greek society through her defiance and strong will. Her character questions societal norms and asserts the strength and capability of women to influence the political and moral landscape.
  • Death and Sacrifice — Death is a pervasive symbol in “Antigone,” representing both the finality of Antigone’s actions and the sacrifice she makes for her moral beliefs. It also symbolizes the tragic consequences of pride and the inevitability of fate.
  • The Power of the Gods — The gods play an unseen but critical role in the play, influencing the events and outcomes. Their will is manifested through omens and the words of the prophet Tiresias, reminding characters and the audience of the divine power that overshadows human actions.

Each of these themes and symbols interweaves to create a complex narrative that explores the depths of human nature, the moral dilemmas faced by individuals, and the consequences of their actions within the confines of society and divine will.

Style and Tone

Sophocles’ “Antigone” showcases his mastery in weaving complex themes through a compelling narrative, characterized by its distinctive writing style and tone. Let’s delve into these elements:

  • Tragic Tone — The overarching tone of “Antigone” is undeniably tragic, permeated with a sense of inevitable doom. From the onset, the audience is aware that the characters’ fates are sealed, creating a somber and contemplative atmosphere that invites reflection on the play’s moral and ethical dilemmas.
  • Formal and Elevated Language — Sophocles utilizes a formal and elevated style of language, typical of ancient Greek tragedy. This choice reflects the grandeur of the themes and the societal positions of the characters involved, from kings and queens to the divine interventions of gods. The language also serves to elevate the moral and philosophical questions posed by the narrative.
  • Dramatic Irony — A key stylistic feature in “Antigone” is the use of dramatic irony, where the audience is privy to knowledge that the characters are not. This technique heightens the tension and tragedy, as viewers can foresee the characters’ fates unfold, particularly in the case of Creon, whose decisions lead to unforeseeable personal loss.
  • Chorus Commentary — The Chorus in “Antigone” acts as a narrator, commentator, and participant within the play, offering insights, background information, and reflections on the events and characters. Their lyrical odes and dialogues with the characters add depth to the narrative, providing moral and philosophical commentary that guides the audience’s interpretation of the events.
  • Conflict-driven Dialogue — The dialogues in “Antigone” are intense and conflict-driven, reflecting the high stakes and deep moral convictions of the characters. Through these exchanges, Sophocles explores complex themes such as loyalty, justice, and the clash between individual conscience and societal laws.
  • Symbolism and Imagery — Sophocles employs powerful symbolism and vivid imagery to enhance the themes and emotional impact of the play. For instance, the unburied body of Polynices symbolizes disrespect towards the gods and nature, while Antigone’s tomb represents the isolation and finality of death, as well as the consequences of defiance.

These stylistic choices and the tone Sophocles adopts in “Antigone” are integral to the play’s impact, effectively conveying its themes and engaging the audience in its tragic narrative.

Literary Devices used in Antigone

Sophocles’s “Antigone” employs a range of literary devices that enhance its thematic depth and emotional resonance. Here are the top 10 devices used throughout the play:

  1. Irony — The tragic irony is evident in Creon’s declaration that leadership is a burden he must bear alone, only to find his decisions lead to personal isolation and tragedy.
  2. Foreshadowing — Early in the play, the conflict between Antigone and Creon foreshadows the tragic outcomes of their unyielding stances.
  3. Metaphor — The play uses metaphors to deepen its themes, such as comparing the law to a steadfast guard and death to a final, unyielding judge.
  4. Symbolism — Symbols abound, including the unburied body of Polynices, which symbolizes disrespect to the gods and natural order, and the tomb of Antigone, symbolizing both defiance and the consequences thereof.
  5. Allusion — References to Greek mythology and previous events in the Theban saga (such as the fate of Oedipus) enrich the narrative’s context and themes.
  6. Hyperbole — Characters often use hyperbole to express their strong emotions or convictions, amplifying the drama and stakes of their conflicts.
  7. Imagery — Vivid imagery is used to evoke a sense of the divine and the mortal, the natural and the unnatural, particularly in descriptions of death and the gods’ will.
  8. Anaphora — Repetition of phrases at the beginning of sentences or clauses is used for emphasis, particularly in the Chorus’s speeches, to highlight moral or thematic points.
  9. Chiasmus — The rhetorical device of chiasmus, where concepts are repeated in reverse order, is utilized to underscore the play’s themes of reversal of fortune and the inversion of expectations.
  10. Pathos — Sophocles skillfully evokes pity and fear through pathos, drawing the audience into a deep emotional engagement with the characters’ fates.

These literary devices collectively contribute to the play’s powerful exploration of its themes, character dynamics, and tragic structure, showcasing Sophocles’s literary artistry and deep understanding of human nature and society.

Literary Devices Examples

Let’s explore specific examples and explanations of the top 10 literary devices used in Sophocles’s “Antigone” to understand their impact on the narrative and themes.


  • Example 1: Creon’s law to leave Polynices unburied is meant to uphold state authority but instead leads to his personal downfall.
  • Example 2: Antigone is entombed alive for honoring the dead, an ironic punishment that underlines the conflict between divine and human laws.
  • Example 3: Creon accuses Antigone of arrogance, yet his own arrogance leads to his tragedy.


  • Example 1: Antigone’s resolve to bury her brother despite the law foreshadows her fate and the consequences of her actions.
  • Example 2: Tiresias’s prophecy foreshadows the downfall of Creon and the tragic end for his family.
  • Example 3: The Chorus’s reflections on fate foreshadow the inevitable outcomes of the characters’ actions.


  • Example 1: The state is frequently likened to a ship, with Creon as its captain, navigating through the storms of dissent and rebellion.
  • Example 2: Death is metaphorically described as a “merciless conqueror,” highlighting its inevitability and finality.
  • Example 3: Antigone’s tomb is referred to as her “bridal chamber,” a metaphor for her marriage to death instead of Haemon.


  • Example 1: Polynices’s unburied body symbolizes the conflict between state law and divine will.
  • Example 2: Antigone’s defiance is symbolized by her solitary burial of Polynices, representing individual moral conviction.
  • Example 3: The setting sun symbolizes the fall of Creon’s authority and the end of his family line.


  • Example 1: References to the curse of Oedipus allude to the inescapable fate that haunts his lineage.
  • Example 2: The Chorus alludes to the battles of Thebes to contextualize the city’s history of suffering and resilience.
  • Example 3: Allusions to the gods’ laws versus human laws reinforce the thematic conflict of the play.


  • Example 1: Characters often exaggerate their loyalty or defiance to emphasize their moral or ethical stances.
  • Example 2: Creon’s description of the consequences of defying his orders heightens the drama of Antigone’s rebellion.
  • Example 3: The Chorus’s lamentations about Thebes’s fate amplify the play’s tragic tone.


  • Example 1: Descriptions of the unburied Polynices create a vivid picture of disrespect to both the gods and nature.
  • Example 2: The imagery of Antigone’s tomb evokes a sense of claustrophobic finality and tragic isolation.
  • Example 3: The stark imagery of death and mourning throughout the play underscores its themes of loss and consequence.


  • Example 1: The repetition of phrases in the Chorus’s odes emphasizes the play’s moral and philosophical dilemmas.
  • Example 2: Antigone’s repeated declarations of her duty to her family highlight her unwavering resolve.
  • Example 3: Creon’s speeches often begin with repetitive phrases to assert his authority and decisions.


  • Example 1: The structure of some dialogues mirrors the inversion of fortunes, such as Creon’s rise to power and subsequent fall.
  • Example 2: Antigone’s argument that her actions honor the dead over the living reflects the thematic inversion of values.
  • Example 3: The play’s narrative structure itself is a chiasmus, from order to chaos and back to a tragic order.


  • Example 1: The emotional appeals in Antigone’s defense of her actions elicit sympathy from the audience.
  • Example 2: Haemon’s plea for Antigone’s life and his subsequent suicide evoke deep emotional responses.
  • Example 3: The play’s conclusion, with the deaths of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice, generates a profound sense of pity and fear, fulfilling the Aristotelian definition of tragedy.

These examples illustrate how Sophocles utilizes literary devices in “Antigone” to enrich the narrative, deepen thematic explorations, and evoke emotional engagement, showcasing his mastery of dramatic storytelling.

Antigone – FAQs

What is the main conflict in “Antigone”? The main conflict in “Antigone” revolves around the clash between Antigone’s moral and religious duty to bury her brother, Polynices, in accordance with divine law, and Creon’s edict that forbids Polynices’ burial as a punishment for treason against Thebes. This conflict explores broader themes of duty, justice, and the struggle between individual conscience and state law.

Why does Creon decide not to bury Polynices? Creon decides not to bury Polynices as a statement of power and a warning against treason. Polynices had attacked Thebes, and by denying him burial rites, Creon aims to assert his authority and the consequences of rebellion against the state. This act is also intended to uphold civic law over individual desires or divine law.

How does “Antigone” challenge gender roles? “Antigone” challenges traditional gender roles through its titular character, who defies societal and patriarchal expectations by standing up against Creon, the male authority figure, and choosing to follow her moral convictions. Antigone’s actions and her willingness to face death for her beliefs highlight her strength and agency, contrasting with the traditional passive roles assigned to women in ancient Greek society.

What is the significance of the Chorus in “Antigone”? The Chorus in “Antigone” serves multiple purposes: it provides background information, reflects on the play’s themes, offers commentary on the action, and represents the voice of the general Theban populace. Through their odes and dialogues, the Chorus helps to bridge the gap between the audience and the characters, guiding the audience’s emotional and moral engagement with the play.

What lessons can be learned from “Antigone”? “Antigone” offers several lessons, including the dangers of pride and inflexibility, the importance of balancing individual conscience with civic duty, and the tragic consequences of extreme adherence to personal convictions or laws without considering ethical implications or human compassion. It also underscores the significance of understanding and empathy in leadership and governance.

How does Sophocles use dramatic irony in “Antigone”? Sophocles employs dramatic irony in “Antigone” by allowing the audience to know more about the characters’ fates and the outcomes of their actions than the characters themselves do. For example, the audience is aware of the tragic consequences of Creon’s edict and Antigone’s defiance from early in the play, heightening the tension and tragedy as the characters’ decisions lead them inexorably toward their doomed ends.

What role do the gods play in “Antigone”? The gods play an indirect but crucial role in “Antigone,” representing the divine law that contrasts with Creon’s human law. The characters’ actions and fates are heavily influenced by their adherence to or defiance of the gods’ wills, as seen in Antigone’s determination to honor her brother according to divine law and Tiresias’s prophecy that warns Creon of divine retribution for his actions.

These FAQs provide a deeper understanding of “Antigone” and its themes, helping students to engage more critically with the text in an advanced placement language course.


Here’s a multiple-choice quiz designed to test comprehension of Sophocles’s “Antigone.” Each question highlights key aspects of the play.

1. Why does Antigone decide to bury her brother Polynices?

  • A) To challenge Creon’s authority.
  • B) Out of hatred for her sister Ismene.
  • C) To ensure Polynices’ soul could rest in peace according to divine law.
  • D) She mistakenly believes it’s what Creon wants.

2. What is Creon’s decree regarding Polynices?

  • A) That he should be buried with full military honors.
  • B) That he is not to be buried or mourned.
  • C) That anyone who buries him will be rewarded.
  • D) That he should be cremated immediately.

3. Which character tries to persuade Creon to spare Antigone?

  • A) Ismene
  • B) Haemon
  • C) Tiresias
  • D) Both B and C

4. What is the main theme of “Antigone”?

  • A) The power of love.
  • B) The dangers of pride and inflexibility.
  • C) The importance of wealth.
  • D) The adventures of travel.

5. How does Antigone die?

  • A) She is executed by Creon.
  • B) She hangs herself.
  • C) She dies in a battle.
  • D) She is saved by the gods.

6. What is the consequence of Creon’s actions by the end of the play?

  • A) He is celebrated as a hero.
  • B) He loses his wife and son.
  • C) He becomes more powerful.
  • D) He leaves Thebes forever.

7. Who provides a warning to Creon about the gods’ displeasure with his actions?

  • A) The Chorus
  • B) Ismene
  • C) Haemon
  • D) Tiresias

8. What literary device is predominantly used to enhance the tragic quality of the play?

  • A) Humor
  • B) Irony
  • C) Sarcasm
  • D) Allegory


  1. C) To ensure Polynices’ soul could rest in peace according to divine law.
  2. B) That he is not to be buried or mourned.
  3. D) Both B and C
  4. B) The dangers of pride and inflexibility.
  5. B) She hangs herself.
  6. B) He loses his wife and son.
  7. D) Tiresias
  8. B) Irony

This quiz covers critical plot points, themes, and character dynamics in “Antigone,” helping students review their understanding and engage more deeply with the play’s content and implications.


This exercise is designed to help students identify and understand the use of literary devices in Sophocles’s “Antigone.” Read the following paragraph from the play, then identify the literary devices used.

Paragraph for Analysis: “In her defiance, Antigone becomes a beacon of unwavering resolve, her actions echoing through the ages as a testament to the strength of will over the mandates of tyranny. As she stands before Creon, her voice does not falter; it carries the weight of justice and the unyielding spirit of those who walk the path of righteousness, even in the face of death. Her tomb, though meant to be a place of solitary confinement and despair, transforms into a symbol of her indomitable spirit and the eternal struggle between the divine will and human law.”

Identify the Literary Devices:

  • Metaphor:
    • Explanation:
  • Symbolism:
    • Explanation:
  • Allusion:
    • Explanation:


  • Metaphor: “Antigone becomes a beacon of unwavering resolve” — This metaphor compares Antigone to a beacon, highlighting her role as a guiding light and symbol of resistance against injustice.
  • Symbolism: “Her tomb…transforms into a symbol of her indomitable spirit” — The tomb symbolizes not just Antigone’s physical confinement and death but also her enduring spirit and the principles she stands for, particularly the conflict between divine will and human laws.
  • Allusion: “The eternal struggle between the divine will and human law” — This alludes to the broader theme in Greek literature and mythology of the conflict between the gods’ decrees and human actions, a central theme of “Antigone.”

This exercise encourages students to closely read and analyze the text, enhancing their understanding of how literary devices contribute to the play’s themes and characterizations.