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The Oedipus Plays

by: Sophocles

Important Quotations Explained

1
My own flesh and blood—dear sister, dear Ismene, how many griefs our father Oedipus handed down! Do you know one, I ask you, one grief that Zeus will not perfect for the two of us while we still live and breathe? There’s nothing, no pain—our lives are pain—no private shame, no public disgrace, nothing I haven’t seen in your grief and mine. (Antigone, 1–8)

Antigone’s first words in Antigone, “My own flesh and blood,” vividly emphasize the play’s concern with familial relationships. Antigone is a play about the legacy of incest and about a sister’s love for her brother. Flesh and blood have been destined to couple unnaturally—in sex, violence, or both—since Oedipus’s rash and unwitting slaying of his father. Antigone says that griefs are “handed down” in Oedipus’s family, implicitly comparing grief to a family heirloom.

In her first speech, Antigone seems a dangerous woman, well on her way to going over the edge. She knows she has nothing to lose, telling Ismene, “Do you know one, I ask you, one grief / that Zeus will not perfect for the two of us / while we still live and breathe?” Before we even have time to imagine what the next grief might be, Antigone reveals it: Creon will not allow her brother Polynices to be buried. Ismene, on the other hand, like the audience, is one step behind. From the outset, Antigone is the only one who sees what is really going on, the only one willing to speak up and point out the truth.