Creon murmurs that Antigone must hate him. He has long imagined this conversation, seeing a white-faced boy who would come to assassin him and, despite all Creon's efforts, would only tell him he despised him. He cannot believe that boy is Antigone, coming to him over something so meaningless as Polynices's burial. "Meaningless!" Antigone repeats contemptuously.

Creon makes a final appeal that he will tell her the story he alone knows. Antigone sits. He asks her to remember her childhood—how her brothers would torment her and then, when they were older, they would come home late in evening clothes and smoking cigarettes. She must have known they were making her parents unhappy. Staring outward, Antigone recalls how a handsome Polynices once gave her a paper nightclub flower; Creon knows she must have looked to it for courage last night. Polynices, however, was but a "cruel, vicious little voluptuary." Creon recounts how he saw him strike his father once when he refused to settle his gambling debts. Antigone insists that he is lying.

Creon continues and says that Oedipus was too cowardly to imprison him, so he let him join the Argive army. As soon as Polynices reached Argos, the attempts on Oedipus's life began. The assassins confessed the identities of their employees. Creon needs Antigone to understand what goes on in the "kitchen of politics," the wings of her drama. Yesterday he gave Eteocles a state funeral, making him Thebes's martyr. He had no choice: he could not afford a story of two gangsters after a civil war. But Eteocles to plotted to overthrow his father. Both brothers were gangsters, fighting over the spoils of Thebes. When Creon sent for their bodies, they were found mashed together in a bloody pulp. He had the prettier one brought in, but he does not know which was buried.

Creon could not have Antigone die a victim to that "obscene story." Antigone murmurs that she at least had her faith. Dazed, she raises to go her room. Creon urges her to find Haemon and marry quickly, since she has her life before her. A moment ago, he hear himself in her words, the young, pale Creon whose mind was too filled with thoughts of self-sacrifice. She must not waste her life: the child playing at her feet, the tool, or the bench in the garden. Life is but the happiness you get out of it.

Quietly, Antigone challenges him to paint the happy Antigone. She loves Haemon now, but if what she loves in Haemon is to be worn away by Creon's happiness, she will not love Haemon. She laughs at Creon because she sees the impotence he must have had at fifteen. Creon attempts to silence her. Antigone curses his happiness and she refuses his humdrum moderation. Creon tells her to scream on in her father's voice. Antigone cries that she is of the tribe that asks questions, that hates man's filthy, docile, female, and whorish hope. Father was ugly like her but became beautiful at the very end, when his questions were answered, when he could no longer doubt his crime, when all hope was gone.


Creon makes his final appeal. The play imagines it as a story he alone knows, a story left unwritten in Antigone's tragic legend. It remains unwritten because it takes place in its wings, in what Creon describes as the "kitchen of politics." Creon proceeds to systematically demystify Antigone's beloved brothers as brutish, traitorous gangsters, boys who brought their family grief, attempted to assassinate their father, and threatened the kingdom with ruin. More chillingly, Creon has had one declared a martyr and another a traitor for political purposes. Only this slight-of-hand would resolve the civil war and bring order back to Thebes. Creon is not even sure who has been left unburied. This unveiling of the politics at work in the tragedy's wings, the machinations that more closely pass themselves off as the historical account that might accompany the tragedy's events, robs Antigone's act of all justification. As she tells Creon, she has lost her faith. Later she will confess she no longer knows why she must die.