page 1 of 2
The Chorus continues, evoking tragedy's stillness in the hush when the executioner raises his ax, the silence when two lovers stand naked before each other for the first time, the silence within when the roaring crowd acclaims a winner, leaving you, "the victor, already vanquished," alone in the desert. Tragedy is clean, restful, and flawless. It has nothing to do with melodrama. In tragedy, everything is inevitable, hopeless, and known, making for tranquility and "fellow-feeling" among the characters. All are innocent, simply bound to their parts. All one can do is shout.
The Guards are heard and the Chorus announces that Antigone has been caught and will be able to be herself for the first time in her life. The Guards enter with the struggling Antigone, the First telling her to give it a rest. Antigone complains of their dirty hands; the Guard gestures to her own. Imagine taking a tobacco break only to find a girl clawing away by the corpse like a hyena. The Second Guard compares her to a nut who exposed herself in the main square the other day.
The First proposes that they throw a party. The trio discusses plans, the First insisting that they keep it from their wives. Creon and the Page enter, and the guards stand at attention. The First explains Antigone's arrest. The guards had moved the corpse upwind to mitigate the stench. When he took a break for some tobacco, he found her madly clawing in the broad daylight. Antigone affirms his account and also confesses to having come the night before; the child's shovel on the scene was once Polynices's. The First Guard remarks how one sentry thought she was a dog. Creon sends the guards out.
Once he is certain no one saw Antigone arrested, he orders her to bed. She is to say that she has been ill and not left the palace. He will get rid of the guardsmen. Antigone replies that he knows she will only do the same tonight. She says that Polynices is home from the hunt and it is her duty to unlock the house of the dead for him. Creon asks if she thought her being the proud Oedipus's daughter put her above the law. No one has a more sacred obligation to the law than its makers. Antigone retorts that had she been a scullery maid she would have done the same. Creon disagrees and a maid would have taken the edict seriously. Antigone replies that she has never doubted Creon would put her to death.
Creon curses the pride of Oedipus. Like him, her death seem the "natural climax" to her life. For them, human happiness is meaningless and human misery unable to satisfy their passion. Only a "cozy tea party" with death and destiny can quench them. Oedipus was happiest when he listened greedily to the revelation of his tragic fate. But those days are over for Thebes. Being more humbly named, Creon will devote himself only to the order of the kingdom.
The Chorus continues its comments on tragedy by underlining its stillness. Stillness appears as a key metaphor in the Chorus's comments on the nature of tragedy. First the Chorus evokes this stillness in its theatrical mode. This stillness is apiece with the spring-like tension and sense of suspense in tragedy that it evokes earlier. Tragedy's stillness appears in the moment before the execution, the moment at the beginning of a play before the consummation of a love affair. This tension only finds release in the terrible, ecstatic shout. Note this conjunction of sex and death. The stillness of sex and death is precisely where the play's two lovers will ultimately end, lain together in the tomb that figures also as their "bridal bed."
Take a Study Break!