The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone

The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone

Seamus Heaney

Language: English

Pages: 96

ISBN: 0374530076

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this outstanding new translation, commissioned by Ireland's renowned Abbey Theatre to commemorate its centenary, Seamus Heaney exposes the darkness and the humanity in Sophocles' masterpiece, and inks it with his own modern and masterly touch.

Sophocles' play, first staged in the fifth century B.C., stands as a timely exploration of the conflict between those who affirm the individual's human rights and those who must protect the state's security. During the War of the Seven Against Thebes, Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, learns that her brothers have killed each other, having been forced onto opposing sides of the battle. When Creon, king of Thebes, grants burial of one but not the "treacherous" other, Antigone defies his order, believing it her duty to bury all of her close kin. Enraged, Creon condemns her to death, and his soldiers wall her up in a tomb. While Creon eventually agrees to Antigone's release, it is too late: She takes her own life, initiating a tragic repetition of events in her family's history.

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leave of it. Your queen’s life-blood Is on the palace floor. Creon Let the hounds of Hades lick it! Why am I clamped like prey In the hungry jaws of death? I’m a kill that death has made And attacked for the second time. Your words are tooth and claw. Say again the news of the queen. The corpse of Eurydice is revealed. Chorus It doesn’t need to be said. It cannot be kept hidden. Creon Mother. And child. Both. I have wived and fathered death. Messenger No, my lord. She dealt

always money lurking and I never Underestimate the lure of money. Enter Guard. Guard Sir, I wouldn’t exactly say I was panting to get here. Far from it. As a matter of fact, I was more for turning back. I was over a barrel. One part of me was saying, ‘Only a loony would walk himself into this,’ and another part was saying, ‘You’d be a bigger loony not to get to Creon first.’ It was, ‘You take the high road, I’ll take the low road,’ then, ‘What’s your hurry?’, then, ‘Get a move on.’ But when

no shame in burying a brother. Creon Your brother Eteocles also died in the war. Antigone My father’s and my mother’s son, yes, dead. Creon – And dishonoured, when you honour Polyneices. Antigone The dead aren’t going to begrudge the dead. Creon So wrongdoers and the ones wronged fare the same? Antigone Polyneices was no common criminal. Creon He terrorised us. Eteocles stood by us. Antigone Religion dictates the burial of the dead. Creon Dictates the same for loyal

and now In this tormented house Are letting madness loose. The unabashed gaze of a bride Breeds desire and danger. Eternal, sexual, smiling, The goddess Aphrodite Is irresistible. Love mounts to the throne with law. Antigone is led in under guard. But the law and all it stands for Cannot hold back my tears. Antigone, you are a bride, Being given away to death. Antigone Given away to death! Remember this, citizens. I am linked on Hades’ arm, Taking my last look, My last walk

In my bones. Tiresias Then know this: where you are standing now Is a cliff edge, and there’s cold wind blowing. Creon Why do you always put that shiver through me? Tiresias Because I have the power to see and warn. I know things once I sit in that stone chair And the birds begin to skirl above my head. But never in all my years have I heard the likes Of the screams and screeches that I heard this day. There was no meaning to them. I knew by the whirl of wings And the rips and

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