Antigone

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Tiresias Character Analysis

The blind prophet, or seer, who warns Creon not to execute Antigone and not to stick so rigidly to his decision to disallow the burial of Polynices. When Creon insults Tiresias, the seer prophesies that the gods will punish Creon for Antigone's death by taking the life of his child.

Tiresias Quotes in Antigone

The Antigone quotes below are all either spoken by Tiresias or refer to Tiresias. 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 1091-1470 Quotes
Then reflect, my son: you are poised,
once more, on the razor-edge of fate.
Related Characters: Tiresias (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1099-1100
Explanation and Analysis:

Tiresias the seer has entered, led by a young boy. He addresses Creon, who seems tentatively willing to listen. In this passage, Tiresias warns Creon that he is at a pivotal juncture, "poised... on the razor-edge of fate." Tiresias' clarity here is key––although in Greek tragedy the advice of seers is often presented as difficult to comprehend, in this instance Tiresias is exceptionally direct. This makes it all the less excusable that Creon ultimately chooses to ignore him.

Note that Tiresias' words stress the intermingling of free will and fate. The events that have led up to this moment were doomed to take place, and Tiresias' vision of the future illustrates that the events to come are similarly predetermined. On the other hand, Tiresias stresses that the decision facing Creon is his to make, thereby placing responsibility on him for the consequences of his choice. 

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These arrows for your heart! Since you've raked me
I loose them like an archer in my anger,
arrows deadly true. You'll never escape their
burning, searing force.
Related Characters: Tiresias (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 1206-1209
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has reacted furiously to Tiresias' advice, accusing Tiresias of being a false prophet who has accepted bribes. In response, Tiresias responds by informing Creon that he will pay for Antigone's death by losing a child of his own. Before he exits, he tells Creon that Creon has angered him, and that as a result he is releasing metaphorical arrows aimed at Creon's heart. Tiresias warns that Creon will "never escape their burning, searing force." This is a climactic moment in which it is clear that Creon has sealed his own terrible, tragic fate. However, the fact that Creon had so many chances to redeem himself proves that this fate has come about as a result of his own free will. 

Tiresias' words also confirm the long-lasting nature of his curse. Creon will be punished not only with one terrible event, but an eternal legacy from which he will never be able to escape. This emphasizes the theme of curses and suffering living on through many generations, and children paying for their parents' wrongdoing. 

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Tiresias Character Timeline in Antigone

The timeline below shows where the character Tiresias appears in Antigone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1091-1470
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Tiresias, the blind prophet, enters, led by a young boy. Creon greets him and agrees to... (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Creon flies into a rage, cursing Tiresias and swearing that the body will never be buried. He accuses Tiresias of false prophecy... (full context)
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Tiresias now reveals the full secret he knows. He says that the gods alone hold sway... (full context)