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Tragedy in one act




Antigone and Ismene, daughters of Oedipus and sisters of Polynices and Eteocles.
Creon, master of Thebes.





Antigone - You cannot promise me death, Creon; you do not know what it is.

Creon - You will live no longer, Antigone.

Antigone - For you, I will live no longer. Your power will stop there. I will no longer be here to help you.

Creon - I do not need your help. How can you help me?

Antigone - By being the one who stands up to you. Without me, you will no longer be able to give orders.

Creon - All Thebes will be there.

Antigone - Thebes is already yours.

Creon - Because that is my will.

Antigone - Because for the Thebans it is enough just to live.


Beware, Antigone,
You reveal your self.
You will soon no longer be
One of the invisible bodies
That make up the crowd.
Fear to be seen;
For then you will be defenceless.


You will be alone;
No-one will help you.

Ismene - On pain of death, Creon has forbidden the burial of our brother Polynices, who had laid siege to Thebes. What do you hope to achieve by covering Polynices with earth despite that ban?

Antigone - To be true to my brother by doing what the laws of the gods require.

Ismene - Is your will to please the gods or Polynices?

Antigone - I do not know.

Ismene - How can you seek to be true without knowing the reason?

Antigone - Being true does not have its source in my reason; it is part of my self.


It is not you who chose Polynices
To be your brother.


You do not have to be true to him.

Ismene - Reason is what makes Thebes strong.

Antigone - That strength is nothing before the gods.

Ismene - What would you do for Polynices if the gods gave you no orders?

Antigone - Polynices is my brother; that is what the gods willed.


Your brother would destroy Thebes.
Ismene is your sister;
That is also what the gods willed.
In Thebes she lived.


Creon forbade Polynices' burial.
Daughter of Thebes, you owe him obedience.

Creon - By burying Polynices, you make him triumph.

Antigone - The laws of the gods are the same for Thebes and for its enemies.

Creon - By making Polynices triumph, you encourage Thebes' enemies.

Antigone - I encourage them to respect the gods.

Creon - Do you think they will ask a daughter of Thebes for advice?

Antigone - Do you think a daughter of Thebes should beg their mercy?


You would inspire the cities to wisdom.
Will it bring them the power
To which they aspire?


Without the help of arms,
You cannot convince.

Ismene - Do you know the gods you obey?

Antigone - My heart knows them, and tells me what to do.

Ismene - Are you sure your heart does not deceive you?

Antigone - I cannot know.

Ismene - Then why die?

Antigone - If my heart deceives me, what is there left to live for?


So it is for love of yourself
That you seek death.
You proclaimed your acceptance of death
To obey the gods.
Are you twain?


It is not for you
To decide your life.

Ismene - You owe yourself as much to your sister as to your brother. What can you do for me if you are dead?

Antigone - I help those I love. What worth is my help if I am not worthy to love?

Ismene - You would sacrifice the life the gods have given you.

Antigone - The gods accept the sacrifices of men.

Ismene - Does Polynices deserve your sacrifice?

Antigone - He deserves it because he is the brother the gods gave me.

Ismene - They also gave you a sister.

Antigone - I am not untrue to you; so it is to your brother I remain true.


Admire Antigone's determination
To have no other master than herself;
Advice that we deem full of wisdom
Do not turn her aside from her goal!


If you hold to your decision,
You will be the woe
Of those who love you.
Do you give yourself that right?

Creon - Will you act in secret?

Antigone - No; I want Thebes to see me.

Creon - Do you declare you obey the gods' decree?

Antigone - Yes, I say it aloud, so that Thebes can hear me.

Creon - Then is it not enough for the gods to see and hear you?

Antigone - If I do not do the duty they require of me, the gods will see me all the same.

Creon - By acting in full daylight, you set yourself as an example to the Thebans. Is that your will?

Antigone - The Thebans will not be the only ones to see my example.

Creon - Do you mean the enemies of Thebes?

Antigone - The world is not made up only of Thebes and its enemies.

Creon - Then would you also set yourself as an example to the world?

Antigone - I have told you I will act in full daylight. If you would not have the world see me, you will have to close the seven gates of Thebes for ever.


So you have made up your mind.
Woe to those who love you!
The woe of men
Is of less account to you
Than the weal of the gods.


Whence do you claim
The right to act thus?
From the gods, or yourself?

Creon - Daughter of Thebes, your duty is to obey the laws of Thebes.

Antigone - Who made those laws? You, or the gods?

Creon - The gods should be honoured, but each city has its laws.

Antigone - Should I love otherwise when I am in another city?

Creon - Those you love obey the laws you refuse.

Antigone - If the laws change, must those I love change also?

Creon - They live in accord with their city; why would you disturb them?

Antigone - So that they live in accord with the gods.

Creon - You deprive the Thebans of the fortune of living in peace.

Antigone - If they live in accord with men, their fortune will be transient; if they live in accord with the gods, their fortune will be eternal.

Creon - The gods have made mortal man to live on earth. If you refuse man's earthly fortune, you also refuse the gods' will.

Antigone - The gods you speak of are those of which men have spoken to you. The gods I speak of are those my heart has made known to me.


So it is indeed from yourself
That you take the right to act.
Your gods are only words
That you speak.


The gods are on Olympus,
Men are on earth;
I look towards Olympus,
But I do not see you.

Ismene - It is to the gods not Polynices that you are true in wanting to bury your brother.

Antigone - It is to our father and mother that we both owe our life. It is a part of myself that I will cover with earth. No-one will ever again be able to touch that which will belong to the gods.

Ismene - In that case, what you cover with earth will also be a part of me, for I am born of the same father and the same mother.

Antigone - The gods will refuse your presence; they accept only those who obey them.

Ismene - Then they do not love!

Antigone - I obey the gods my heart has made known to me; it is therefore my heart that I obey. Do you think my heart cannot love?

Ismene - You obey only yourself; that is what Creon does.

Antigone - Creon obeys only transient laws; I obey eternal laws.

Ismene - A law cannot be eternal if it depends only on you.

Antigone - This law depends on the gods who have taught it to me. Creon's law depends on the men for whom it has been made.


You separate yourself from men
To obey the laws of the gods
That men have taught you.


Would you be she
Who teaches
The gods' laws to men?

Creon - What have the gods told you that men did not?

Antigone - Men have spoken to my mind; the gods have spoken to my heart.

Creon - If men had not spoken to you, would you know the gods' existence?

Antigone - The olive tree reaches skywards without men ever speaking to it.

Creon - Man decides what he will do. If he decides alone, he no longer has a place among men.

Antigone - The olive tree still has its place in the olive grove.

Creon - The olive tree does not know why it grows.

Antigone - I do not know why I must bury Polynices.

Creon - You say you obey the gods.

Antigone - My heart knows the gods; my reason does not.


She has lost her senses!
She says so herself.
Her reason has left her,
Woe will come upon her!


Forget your heart;
It only brings
Disorder in your mind.

Ismene - It is the gods who have given you life.

Antigone - The life they have given me is not enough for me.

Ismene - You must keep it in order to obey them.

Antigone - I must not keep it for nothing.

Ismene - You must keep it for those you love.

Antigone - If I hide my life to protect it, it will be of no use to those I love.

Ismene - If you die, how can it be of use?

Antigone - I do not know.

Ismene - Would you act without knowing?

Antigone - I do not know what the gods have given me life for. Must I live without knowing?


If you do not know
Who the gods are
That you obey,
Why do you obey them?


You have opposed Creon;
Now, you oppose the gods.
So it is not on earth, or on Olympus either,
That you are to be found.

Creon - Who am I for you?

Antigone - You are the master of Thebes.

Creon - I am not only the master of Thebes; like Ismene, I am also of your blood. You cannot break that link.

Antigone - Polynices also was of my blood.

Creon - Have I betrayed you, as Polynices did by betraying Thebes?

Antigone - You betray the gods.

Creon - The gods have also entrusted me with the fate of Thebes and the fortune of the Thebans.

Antigone - The fate of men is not that of a single city.

Creon - You are still young; time alone matures the mind. My age bears witness to my wisdom.

Antigone - The gods have not told me that I should be reborn by becoming another in the course of my life.

Creon - Do the gods speak only to you?

Antigone - The gods do not speak to me; I hear them in me.


You are the only one to hear them.
Who can know
If what you say
Is truly their law?


You are not the custodian
Of the gods' laws.
Creon is the master of Thebes
By the will of the gods.
You must accept his decisions.

Ismene - You would speak in the name of the gods, without listening to those whose charge has ever been to transmit their words.

Antigone - I speak on my heart's behalf.

Ismene - I am your sister and my heart knows yours; but my reason cannot reach it.

Antigone - So does your love for me stop at the gates of your reason?

Ismene - It is the gods who have given me reason; to refuse it is to refuse the gift of the gods.

Antigone - The gods make men the gift of many reasons; each one is different from the other.

Ismene - You would judge the acts of the gods.

Antigone - The gods make men the gift of a single heart; it is with that heart that Eteocles and Polynices fought, each with the reason he had received from the gods.


Daughter of Thebes,
Eteocles was defending your city,
Polynices sought to take it.


It is the triumph of evil
That you would approve.

Ismene - Do not remain alone; hear the words of your people!

Antigone - Thebes did not belong to Eteocles.

Ismene - He was its king.

Antigone - He was its wrongful king.

Ismene - He was defending Thebes.

Antigone - Eteocles was not defending Thebes, he wanted to keep for himself the throne that with Polynices he had wrested from Oedipus, our father.

Ismene - And yet Creon has rendered honour to Eteocles.

Antigone - It was not for Creon to render honour to Eteocles.

Ismene - Creon also allowed Eteocles' burial.

Antigone - Creon should have forbidden Eteocles' burial as much as Polynices'.

Ismene - If he had, would you have done the same for Eteocles?

Antigone - Do you doubt my answer? Eteocles is my brother.

Ismene - Creon is now the master of Thebes.

Antigone - He would not have been without the wrong of he to whom he now renders honour.

Ismene - Eteocles was not alone when he betrayed our father; Polynices was with him.

Antigone - When I have buried Polynices, together they will be in Hades.


By seeking to cast doubt
On Creon's authority,
You sow disorder
In the city where we live;
Who will it profit,
If not the enemies of Thebes?


Would you deliver our city
To those who covet it?
Or do you seek to reign over Thebes?

Creon - If I ply to your will, my power will no longer have any meaning for Thebans.

Antigone - The Thebans need a power filled with wisdom.

Creon - I do my duty to the Thebans.

Antigone - You should do it to the gods.

Creon - What, would you have another take my place?

Antigone - I do my duty to the gods; do the same!

Creon - When I order, I do so in the name of Laius, Oedipus' father, who gave me the regency of Eteocles' son; when I order, I do so in the name of the Thebans, who have given me their trust. You told me the gods did not speak to you; in whose name do you give orders?

Antigone - I show you the depths of my heart; do I need to make you believe my words are those of another?

Creon - So are you the only one whose words suffice unto themselves?

Antigone - My words are there only so that you can hear the gods' words.

Creon - Do you think I do not hear the gods' words when you are not there?

Antigone - You hear those words only through your will.

Creon - My will is what the Thebans wish.

Antigone - The Thebans also, you hear them only through your will.

Creon - The Thebans must be true to their city; if you bury Polynices, they will be troubled.

Antigone - My act will bear witness to the gods' will; and the gods do not trouble the hearts of men who are true to them.

Creon - So you can exist only with the gods. You will never submit to the laws of the city. Whatever you do, I cannot let you live among men.

Antigone - Without fear will I go to Hades; for my heart has remained pure.


She was alone
Among men.
Let us hope the gods
Do not refuse her.






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