The play concerns suffering, but not
redemption. Oedipus's tomb will safeguard Athens, but the gods are
always inscrutable, and misfortune can strike the most upright of
characters. His independent daughter Antigone has given her word to
Polyneices, and at Thebes will be sentenced to death for defying Creon.
Polyneices is locked into his struggle with Eteocles, and neither can
give way. Even the smooth-talking Creon has his commission to fulfil,
and acts as the capable administrator, though treacherous and
high-handed in going about the State's business.
The play is not realistic in our sense of the word. Attic tragedy
employed only a small number of actors, and these wore masks. The
dialogue is interwoven with passages of poetry, music, singing and
probably dance. We can imagine how impressive the spectacle must have
been, but have few details. The play is in verse, in places of a very
high order, with several of the choral pieces among the most famous of
Greek poetry. I have tried in this translation to return attention to
the verse, using rhyme to shape the formal but plain nature of
Sophocles's text. For the same reason, the translation preserves the
line numbering and verse structure of the original.
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