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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