non sibi sed toti

Classics Teaching Resources

Antigone by Sophocles

The Story

When the king of Thebes dies, he leaves the kingdom to his two sons, Eteocles and Polyneices. They agree to rule for a year each. Eteocles has the first year, but when it is time for Polyneices to take over Eteocles won't hand over the kingdom. Polyneices gathers six powerful friends with their armies, and attacks Thebes. In the battle, the two brothers fight and kill each other.

The new king, Creon, makes an order that Eteocles is to be buried with all honour, but the body of Polyneices is to be left lying on the ground. Antigone, the sister of Eteocles and Polyneices, believes that if her brother's body is not buried his soul will not go down to the dead in peace, so she disobeys the new king Creon and buries her brother by pouring earth on his body.

Creon's guards catch her and bring her to Creon, who orders her to be shut in a cave to die. Creon's son Haemon, who was going to marry Antigone, tries to persuade his father not to punish her, but Creon is firm.

At last the Chorus persuade Creon to change his mind, but when he reaches the cave he finds that Antigone has hanged herself. His son Haemon is there in the cave and attacks him with a sword. When he cannot kill his father Haemon kills himself. When Creon's wife hears about her son's death, she kills herself. Creon has lost his wife and his son, and is a broken man.


Antigone is brave to bury her brother. She knows that she may be put to death if she is caught, but she does what she believes is right. She loved her brother very much.

Another sister, called Ismene, tells her that women can't stand up to men. She says that Antigone should let the men rule, and obey them even when they are wrong. Ismene is much more like real Athenian women than Antigone.

For the full text of the play, click here.
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