This excerpt from Jean Anouilhs Antigone is the most dramatic of the play, consisting almost entirely of dialogue between the two main characters Creon and Antigone. It is the climax of the play where the tension and power struggle between two powers, namely Creon and Antigone, happens in its entirety. I have chosen this particular passage as besides it representing the climax of the play Antigone, it is certainly the most drawn out and influencing scene and is where the plot and character development are the most interesting. In this essay I will analyse the plot development that arises from the two characters Antigone and Creon in the debate that occurs within this passage and its significance to the whole play Antigone.
At the beginning of this passage Creon is still trying to convince Antigone to agree to hide the crime of burying her brother Polynices. He resorts to telling Antigone the truth about her brothers asking her if she realises what she would really be dying for. In this scene Creon is desperate; he knows that he is cast as the villain in the story that is the play but recounts the scandal of her brothers in the attempt to explain his actions in the hope of redeeming himself in front of Antigone. Prior to this, Creon, after finding out that Antigone is the culprit, attempts to cover up her crime, which would allow the audience to sympathise with his actions in keeping Antigone alive. The dialogue of Creon which follows this represents one of the major turning points in the flow of the play. He is reluctant to tell anyone of the scandal, as we can see from the stage directions given to the actor He meditates for a moment, his head in his hands, further increasing the tension and feel of the scene.
While Creon is on the end of his tether in this scene Antigone is stubborn, headstrong but ignorant of the truth of her brothers. Presented with negative memories of her brothers, such as how they broke her dolls and were always whispering together to make her jealous she makes up half-hearted excuses in defence of her brothers. This only serves to illustrate further the naive youth which dictates the decisions of Antigone. (At the end of Antigone this is all the more apparent when she admits that she does not know what she is dying for any longer) As Creon demystifies and destroys the glorified image of her brothers, one of the more significant of Antigones denials in this scene is when she tells Creon of a paper flower that Polynices brought her. Creon goes on to suggest that she had looked at it to give her courage before going out to which Antigone replies with a start Who told you? Her reply to this shows how predictable she is, as are most young people with their radical ideas and opinions.
Creon uses many adjectives to describe the brother of Antigone such as brainless roisterer, cruel and soulless little thug which all the more emphasises the point he is trying to make. After a while, this attempt proves to be successful as Antigone is slowly broken down and tires of denying as she is brought to the realisation at last. After Creon delivers the final blow, a long speech in which he denounces Eteocles as no better than Polynices and reveals the truth about the political scandal, a long pause is called for in the play. This long pause is significant in that it gives the audience time to contemplate what was said by Creon and to suggest the many thoughts that must be going through the mind of Antigone and her growing doubt. Antigone then reveals her doubt and asks Creon Why have you told me all this? She tells Creon that maybe it would have been better to let her die for what she believed in rather than to destroy what she thought she was going to die heroically for. It is clear now that from how Antigone did not truly know her brothers that she could be merely using her brother as an excuse to fight for something, anything, whether to glorify herself or to find some meaning in life.
For a while, it seems like Creon has won and succeeded in quieting Antigone and her radical ideas about life and happiness. Antigone finally agrees to go to her room, compliant to Creon, a major contrast compared to the argument that had just taken place. It is clear that her spirit and will to fight has been beaten; from the stage directions where Antigone is getting up, like a sleepwalker the fact that she has given up is apparent. This is however only the calm before the storm as this quiet gives Creon the chance to commit a fatal mistake, the most outstanding part of this scene. In this dialogue Creon is content with finally seeming to make Antigone see his point of view but carries on with a lengthy speech comparing her to a young Creon. He speaks of life and happiness, and how it is some sort of consolation for growing old.
Youll despise me more for saying this, but finding it out, as youll see, is some sort of consolation for growing old: life is probably nothing other than happiness. This quote from the passage shows Creon as a man of compromise and complacence with whatever life gives, in contrast to Antigone who despises this. Indeed, it is Creons complacent idea of happiness which ultimately causes Antigone to decide again to die. On the other hand, it can also be said that Antigone was bent on suicide from her insistence and her questionable motives. In another attempt to quiet Antigone Creon asks her if she loves Haemon to which she replies I love a Haemon whos tough and young A Haemon whos demanding and loyal like me. Here Antigone demonstrates the qualities of her demanding character; she despises those who learn to say yes like the rest and comply simply to make everyone happy. In Antigones mind it is youth which separates her from Creon, the country that he cant enter anymore with his wrinkles, wisdom and belly. She continues with her attack on Creon, denouncing his idea of happiness. In this is the unambiguous idea she constantly expresses: if she cant have everything, then she would rather have nothing. This reflects somewhat of a spoiled attitude, of a nave young girl and this is exactly what is seen in Antigones reciprocations.
Oedipus, Antigones father is also explicitly mentioned in this argument, when Creon compares her again to her father in how she stubbornly and proudly chooses death over humble content. We can observe later from her defense of Oedipus: Father was only beautiful afterwards when he knew for certain that hed killed his father and slept with his mother, and that nothing, now, could save him. She again condemns Creon and refers to his handling of the political scandal when you talked about cooking up plots. You all look like cooks, with your fat faces! Antigones use of a menial occupation such as a cook reflects her slightly arrogance which could be attributed to her royal upbringing. Antigone yells for the guards and tells Creon to call them but instead Ismene enters. Ismenes entrance serves to bear some resemblance to Sophocles Ismene; she changes her mind and begs Creon to kill her if he kills her sister. Antigone, however, does not view this with sympathy or compassion, rather, she thinks that it would be too easy for her to muscle in and die with her now as she did not bury their brother like she did. Ismene finally tells her that she will go tomorrow and Antigone uses this to her advantage, telling Creon that he has no choice but to put her to death now. In the end, Creon gives up, tired of arguing and resisting Antigone and finally calls the guards to take her to her death. Antigone cries out At last, Creon, at last! and it is clearly observed that all along she had chosen death as her destiny.
In conclusion, this passage represents a scene in which many extreme changes are observed, from the momentary defeat of Antigone to the surrender of Creon to Antigones stubborn resilience. This excerpt is pragmatically the most important of Antigone as it contains all the ideas of happiness and life Jean Anouilh includes in the play. More importantly, it is also the heart and climax of the tragedy as it is where Antigone has the chance to choose life over death but still condemns herself to die. Furthermore, in this passage we see clearly two opposed sides and views. Creons character, old and committed to realism and doing anything to attain simple happiness, is cast in radical contrast to that of young Antigone, idealistic and demanding. Ultimately, however, Jean Anouilh highlights in this passage the fact that in fact despite the arguments given by both sides, neither of them, Creon or Antigone, is neither truly wrong nor right.