Antigone

Summary

Part VII

Summary Part VII

The Chorus appears at this moment, marking it as another turning point in the automatic progression of Antigone's tale. As in classical tragedy, here the Chorus, functioning until this point as a narrator-figure, intercedes into the action. It enjoins Creon to stop the death sentence. Here the Chorus would directly stand in for the horrified spectator who would futilely protest Antigone's death. Creon's retort is telling. He could not have dissuaded her, as Polynices was a pretext for Antigone's ultimate purpose, death. As we have noted throughout, Antigone refuses cede on her desires, following them to point of her demise. This purpose—one that trumps political, moral, and even familial allegiances in the name of individual desire—is again in tension with the common reading of Anouilh's Antigone as Resistance fighter.

As if automatically, Antigone's death sentence sets off Haemon's. As he tells his father, he will not live without her. Haemon stages his own confrontation with Creon, similarly refusing to "become a man" and accept his place in the human world. Unlike Antigone, he explicitly calls upon filial law. He believes that Creon should save Antigone because Haemon is his son. As with Antigone, Creon reveals himself as not the god that guaranteed the young Haemon's world but a man helplessly and loathsomely beholden to the law and state. Haemon refuses Creon's world and moves to join Antigone in death.

Antigone then appears in her cell with the First Guard. The pathos of the scene inheres in Antigone's appeals to the last face she will see, a face that is blind and indifferent. The Guard, as small-minded as ever, responds unfeelingly, rambling on about the trivialities of his job. As with the discussion of the party during Antigone's arrest, Anouilh would thus contrast his heroine's high tragedy with the banalities that occupy the guardsmen. Again, the Guard is blind in his dogged and self-interested obedience to the powers that be, an obedience indicated by his halting, callous recitation of the official proclamation. As his replies to Antigone show, he is also brutal.

Antigone's appearance in her cell, the only setting we encounter outside the palace, as outcast and criminal also prefigures her movement into a space beyond the living and yet not the afterlife. A number of commentators have cast Antigone as a figure "between two deaths," what we will refer to here as her death as a social or even human being and her death as her demise. This space materialized is most certainly her tomb, the cave in which she, as a tabooed and abject body, is to be immured to keep her from polluting the polis. Her death sentence makes her more wretched than animals; such is her "Oedipal" beauty, a beauty in her total abjection. As she senses, however, she will not die alone. Her tomb will also serve as her "bridal bed," Antigone ultimately bringing Haemon with her to the grave.