Antigone

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The Chorus Character Analysis

In Antigone, the chorus represents the elder citizens of Thebes. Sophocles's choruses react to the events of the play. The chorus speaks as one voice, or sometimes through the voice of its leader. It praises, damns, cowers in fear, asks or offers advice, and generally helps the audience interpret the play.

The Chorus Quotes in Antigone

The Antigone quotes below are all either spoken by The Chorus or refer to The Chorus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Antigone published in 1984.
Lines 1-416 Quotes
And speech and thought, quick as the wind
and the mood and mind for law that rules the city—
all these he has taught himself
and shelter from the arrows of the frost
when there's rough lodging under the cold clear sky
and the shafts of lashing rain—
ready, resourceful man!
Never without resources
never an impasse as he marches on the future—
only Death, from Death alone he will find no rescue
but from desperate plagues ha has plotted his escapes.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 396-405
Explanation and Analysis:

A nervous sentry has informed Creon that someone has begun giving Polynices' body proper burial rites, and Creon reacts furiously, threatening to torture the sentry unless he finds the man responsible. Creon and the sentry have exited, and the chorus remains onstage to deliver a chant about humanity. The chorus claims that mankind is the greatest of the world's wonders, with immense skill and "resources." According to the chorus, men can be stopped by no impasse except death––"from Death alone will he find no rescue." These words directly echo Antigone's claim about the transience of life in comparison to the permanence of death. As the chorus emphasizes, humans may possess impressive talents and abilities but these are rendered somewhat meaningless in the face of the inevitability of death. 

By facing death without fear, Antigone displays a humble awareness and acceptance of the limitations of humanity's power. She knows that she may be killed, yet reasons that this is a worthwhile risk because in defying Creon she is honoring the importance of dignity in death, as well as obeying the will of the gods and natural law. Creon, meanwhile, is blind to the point made by the chorus in this passage that humanity is unable to escape death. Indeed, he is suffering from hubris, an excess of pride and lack of humility. Creon has forgotten that the world of death, the afterlife, and the gods is more powerful than he will ever be as a mortal king. 

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Lines 417-704 Quotes
Like father like daughter,
passionate, wild…
she hasn't learned to bend before adversity.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Antigone
Page Number: 525-527
Explanation and Analysis:

The sentry has brought Antigone to Creon, explaining that it was she who gave Polynices burial rites. Creon, shocked, has asked Antigone if the sentry's claims are true and how she could have dared to break a law. Antigone replies that she does not fear death, and that it would be far worse to not give her brother a proper funeral than to die. Following this exchange, the chorus remarks that Antigone is strong-willed like her father, Oedipus. In some ways, this comparison is flattering to Antigone; despite his flaws and all that befell him, Oedipus was considered a great man. In behaving like him, Antigone is also exhibiting the masculine virtues of courage and honor that were thought to be rare in women at the time.

On the other hand, this comparison to Oedipus has negative connotations, and hints at the sinister events to come. Oedipus' refusal to "bend before adversity" led him to stubbornly ignore Tiresias' prophecy, thereby inadvertently fulfilling it. Antigone betrays more foresight than her father––she is already aware that she might die for breaking Creon's law. Indeed, this highlights another similarity between Antigone and Oedipus: they are both doomed to live lives dominated by suffering and tragedy. 

Blest, they are truly blest who all their lives
have never tasted devastation. For others, once
the gods have rocked a house to its foundations
the ruin will never cease, cresting on and on
from one generation on throughout the race—
like a great mounting tide
driven on by savage northern gales,
surging over the dead black depths
roiling up from the bottom dark heaves of sand
and the headlands, taking the storm's onslaught full-force,
roar, and the low moaning
echoes on and on
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker)
Page Number: 656-666
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has condemned Antigone to death for burying Polynices, also condemning Ismene despite Antigone's insistence that Ismene is not guilty and that her offer of solidarity came too late. Although Ismene has protested on the grounds that Creon's son, Haemon, is in love with Antigone, Creon has not relented.

After all the characters exit, the chorus delivers a chant about the fact that tragedy that has befallen the house of Oedipus "will never cease, cresting on and on." The chorus describes the pain and suffering of Oedipus' family in lyrical terms, comparing it to a powerful storm. Note that there is no redemption at the end of this suffering; indeed, the only purpose of it is to demonstrate the irreproachable power of the gods. 

Lines 705-1090 Quotes
Love, you mock us for your sport.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Antigone, Haemon
Page Number: 894
Explanation and Analysis:

Haemon has exited, telling his father they will never see each other again. Creon has announced that he will spare Ismene, but will exile Antigone to the desert, leaving her food so that the state cannot technically be held responsible for her death. Creon exits, and the chorus delivers a chant about love, which begins by accusing love of mocking humanity. Once again, the Chrous reminds the audience that people, even while they may be convinced and even obsessed by their own power, are in fact controlled by larger forces such as death, the gods, and in this case, love.

This is true even of Creon, who is rigid in his refusal to sympathize with his niece, listen to his son, or otherwise take into account the views of other people. Yet while at this point Creon behaves as if he is immune to the influence of love, by the end of the play the suicides of Antigone, Haemon, and Creon's wife, Eurydice, will leave him a broken man. 

You went too far, the last limits of daring—
smashing against the high throne of Justice!
Your life's in ruins, child—I wonder…
do you pay for your father's terrible ordeal?
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Antigone
Page Number: 943-946
Explanation and Analysis:

The chorus have been speaking with Antigone about her tragic fate, implying that she is both noble and that she has defied the natural boundaries of behavior for a mortal woman. In this passage, the chorus tell Antigone that she "went too far," and that her suffering and death could be a kind of retribution for her "father's terrible ordeal." This conversation is important, as it reveals the limitations in the sympathy that the chorus feel for Antigone. Although her intentions to honor her brother and please the gods were good, the chorus emphasize that it is nonetheless inexcusable to defy "the high throne of Justice." 

The suggestion that she is "paying" for Oedipus' sins is significant on multiple levels. It coheres with the overall idea that the house of Oedipus is cursed, and that his relatives will continue to suffer for many generations. Indeed, this suffering is shown to breed even more suffering––after all, Antigone's fate is the result of an earlier familial tragedy, the fact that her brothers fought for opposite sides in the Trojan-Theban war and ended up killing each other. Although Antigone is not personally responsible for the actions of her father or brothers, her life is "ruined" by the terrible consequences. 

Still the same rough winds, the wild passion
raging through the girl.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Antigone
Related Symbols: Antigone's Tomb
Page Number: 1022-1023
Explanation and Analysis:

Antigone has been taken away by the guards to be sealed in her tomb. The chorus delivers a chant about all the people in different myths who were killed by being buried alive in a tomb. All were royalty or the children of gods, but none of them survived their fate.

In this passage, the chorus describes how Antigone's "wild passion" was inherited from her father, and that the intensity of this passion is akin to "rough winds." However, this wild and free spirit contrasts with the way in which Antigone is doomed to die: trapped within a tomb from which there is no hope of escape. This contrast again highlights the powerlessness of any mortal human in the face of the forces of fate, while also again connecting Antigone's fate to the previous sins of her father. 

Lines 1091-1470 Quotes
The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.
Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1468-1470
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has been led offstage by his attendants, destroyed by grief and guilt over the suicides of his wife and son. Alone onstage, the chorus speak directly to the audience, explaining that proud people are punished by fate and thereby taught wisdom. This statement makes the moral message of the tragedy clear: Creon was consumed by hubris – a too-great confidence in his own knowledge and power – and because of this was punished in order to restore the natural order.

While Creon has suffered one of the worst fates imaginable and considers himself a broken man, the chorus emphasizes that this suffering is not meaningless. Rather, like his brother-in-law Oedipus (Oedipus was married to Creon's sister), Creon will eventually be able to grow wiser as a result of his experience – as will the audience. 

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The Chorus Character Timeline in Antigone

The timeline below shows where the character The Chorus appears in Antigone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-416
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The chorus enters. They are elder citizens of Thebes. They offer a chant to the rising sun... (full context)
Natural Law Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
Creon enters and addresses the chorus. Creon explains that, after the death of Oedipus's two sons, he is now king, and... (full context)
Natural Law Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
The leader of the chorus suggests that this might be the work of the gods. This idea sets Creon into... (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Alone on the stage, the chorus offers a chant on the nature of man. With their capacity for hard work and... (full context)
Lines 417-704
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
The leader of the chorus notes that Antigone is as passionate and stubborn as her father. Creon responds that he... (full context)
Natural Law Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
...off the marriage. Ismene continues to plead for Antigone. Creon tells the leader of the chorus that Antigone must die. Guards take Antigone and Ismene away. (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The chorus delivers a lyrical chant about the tragedy and ruin of the house of Oedipus. The... (full context)
Lines 705-1090
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
...further reason why she must not be allowed to defy him. The leader of the chorus says that this sounds sensible. (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The leader of the chorus worries that Haemon may do something violent. Creon doesn't care. He decides to spare Ismene,... (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
The chorus offers a chant about love, a force that can't be conquered, that taunts people and... (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...experience the joys of marriage. She further laments the horror of her coming death. The chorus tells her she went too far in her protests, and wonders if she is continuing... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The chorus chants about other figures of mythology who were entombed alive. All of them were kings... (full context)
Lines 1091-1470
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...prophet's words, but is reluctant to undo his decree. He asks the leader of the chorus for advice. The leader tells him to free Antigone and bury Polynices quickly. Fearful, Creon... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The chorus prays to the god Dionysus, asking him to protect and heal the people of Thebes. (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
..."I don't even exist—I'm no one. Nothing." He prays for death. The leader of the chorus tells Creon that he must endure his suffering. Creon says that he has murdered his... (full context)