Antigone

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Blindness vs. Sight Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon
Natural Law Theme Icon
Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty Theme Icon
Civil Disobedience Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Antigone, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Blindness vs. Sight Theme Icon

In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus mocks the blindness of the seer Tiresias, who responds by telling Oedipus that he (Oedipus) is blind to the corruption in his own life, and soon will be literally blind, too. Issues of blindness and sight aren't quite as obvious in Antigone, but the same basic tension is there. Tiresias gives the current king, Creon, a warning, and the king is unable to see the wisdom of the seer's words. Creon is blinded by pride—his unwillingness to compromise, to listen to the opinions of his people, or to appear to be defeated by a woman. The blind Tiresias can see that the gods are angry and that tragedy will strike if Creon doesn't rethink his decision and change his mind. Creon lacks the insight to see this. In that sense, he is blind. And although he does eventually change his mind, and come to see the error of his stubbornness, it is too late—events have spiraled out of his control, and he now must witness the destruction of his family.

Blindness vs. Sight ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Blindness vs. Sight appears in each section of Antigone. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Blindness vs. Sight Quotes in Antigone

Below you will find the important quotes in Antigone related to the theme of Blindness vs. Sight.
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 705-1090 Quotes
Spit her out,
like a mortal enemy—let the girl go.
Let her find a husband down among the dead.
Related Characters: Creon (speaker), Antigone
Page Number: 728-730
Explanation and Analysis:

Haemon has arrived, and Creon has checked if Haemon wishes to obey him, to which Haemon replies that he does. Relieved, Creon lectures his son about the importance of obedience, and tells him to reject Antigone and move on. Creon's words show that he takes submission to the authority of the patriarchal family and the state much more seriously than romantic love or the gods. Indeed, his callous statement "Let her find a husband down among the dead" conveys his dismissive attitude toward Antigone's claims about the power of death and the afterlife. Of course, this viewpoint ultimately proves to be foolish; while Creon's words suggest that he has grown cruel from power, this power is meaningless in the face of fate, death, and the gods. 

Whoever thinks that he alone possesses intelligence,
the gift of eloquence, he and no one else,
and character too…such men, I tell you,
spread them open—you will find them empty.
Related Characters: Haemon (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 791-794
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has demanded obedience from Haemon, before launching into a lecture about the importance of law, order, and submission to the rule of the state. When Haemon has a chance to speak, he begins in a tentative and deferential way, stressing his loyalty to his father. However, in this passage he notes that it is foolish for any man to think "that he alone possess intelligence." Haemon goes on to tell Creon that the people of Thebes are siding with Antigone, and his warning against hubris can be seen as a rhetorical strategy designed to persuade Creon to take public opinion seriously. 

In this scene Haemon is shown to be diplomatic, humble, and dutiful. His words in this passage are perceptive, and cohere with the overall moral message of the play. Like the men Haemon describes, Creon is blinded by his confidence in his own knowledge and power. Haemon's comment that the men are "empty" highlights the fact that––despite his superficial glory––Creon remains spiritually hollow because he cares more about power than morality and does not respect the gods. 

What a splendid king you'd make of a desert island—you and you alone.
Related Characters: Haemon (speaker), Creon
Page Number: 826
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon and Haemon have continued to argue, with Creon objecting to the suggestion that he should pardon Antigone because the people are sympathetic to her. When Creon asks rhetorically if he should "rule this land for others" or for himself, Haemon replies that he would make a "splendid king" of "a desert island."

With this sardonic comment, Haemon criticizes Creon for his selfish, tyrranical mode of rule. The image of the desert island also raises the point that Creon isolates himself by refusing to acknowledge the will of the people or to pardon Antigone because she is his niece. As a cruel, dictatorial king, Creon essentially positions himself on a metaphorical desert island, cut off from the rest of the City and only interested in pleasing himself.

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. 

If a man could wail his own dirge before he dies,
he'd never finish.
Related Characters: Creon (speaker)
Page Number: 970-971
Explanation and Analysis:

Antigone and the chorus have reached the conclusion that her terrible fate is indeed the result of her father's misdeeds, and Antigone has ended her lamentation by saying that at her death she will not allow for any love to be shown or words to be spoken. At this moment, Creon enters, heartlessly declaring that if they could, men about to die would continue lamenting forever. Creon's words are exceedingly harsh, highlighting his absolute lack of sympathy for Antigone.

On the other hand, Creon's comment also points to the fact that people tend to indulge in lamentations because it is only at the point of death that they are able to fully understand (and likely regret) their actions. This observation is both perceptive and ironic, considering that at this point Creon still cannot foresee the extent to which he will regret his own actions. This irony suggests that people's judgment of others is usually hypocritical. 

But if these men are wrong, let them suffer
nothing worse than they mete out to me—
these masters of injustice!
Related Characters: Antigone (speaker), Creon
Related Symbols: Antigone's Tomb
Page Number: 1019-1021
Explanation and Analysis:

Creon has instructed the guards to build Antigone a tomb and place her in it. Antigone mourns her fate, but has stated that she would not have done anything differently. As she is led away, she exclaims that she is being punished for honoring the gods, and asks the gods to punish those responsible for her death. She calls Creon and his men "masters of injustice," though asks that the gods do nothing worse to them than has been done to her. Antigone's plea to the gods highlights her strong sense of fairness and fundamental belief that she has made the right decision. Despite breaking the law, she feels confident that she is on the side of divine justice. 

This paradox illustrates the importance of natural law versus the law of the state. While particular rulers and regimes can be unjust, the law of the gods is eternal and always correct. Indeed, as Antigone's case proves, the laws of a particular mortal political regime may in fact violate the will of the gods; yet, as the play shows, this violation will not go unpunished. 

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
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. 

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.