Antigone In Plain and Simple English (Physical Book or eBook)
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Drama, Intrigue, and Ancient Greece: Step into Sophocles' World!

Imagine the drama and allure of a modern-day soap opera, but set in ancient Greece. Sophocles was the mastermind behind such enticing tales, often hailed as the 'Aaron Spelling' of his era. Yet, the age-old translations often shroud the intriguing, soap-opera-like essence of his plays.

Struggling to discern the plotlines that rival today's TV dramas? Let BookCaps illuminate the narrative for you with a refreshed, modern retelling.

Delve into "Antigone," a captivating tragedy penned by Sophocles. Though third in the Theban series, its creation predates the others. Following the narrative trail left by Aeschylus' "Seven Against Thebes," this play dives deeper into the legendary tales of Thebes.

To enhance understanding, this edition includes both the original text and its modern counterpart, side by side. Reconnect with ancient drama, now made accessible for the contemporary reader.

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Excerpt From Antigone In Plain and Simple English


 Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, the late king of Thebes, in defiance of Creon who rules in his stead, resolves to bury her brother Polyneices, slain in his attack on Thebes. She is caught in the act by Creon's watchmen and brought before the king. She justifies her action, asserting that she was bound to obey the eternal laws of right and wrong in spite of any human ordinance. Creon, unrelenting, condemns her to be immured in a rock-hewn chamber. His son Haemon, to whom Antigone is betrothed, pleads in vain for her life and threatens to die with her. Warned by the seer Teiresias Creon repents him and hurries to release Antigone from her rocky prison. But he is too late: he finds lying side by side Antigone who had hanged herself and Haemon who also has perished by his own hand. Returning to the palace he sees within the dead body of his queen who on learning of her son's death has stabbed herself to the heart.


 Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, the dead King of Thebes, resolves to bury her brother Polyneices, killed in his attack on Thebes.  This defies the order of Creon, who now rules Thebes.  She is caught in the act and brought before the king.  She justifies her action by saying that she must follow the laws of Heaven despite what any man might say.  Creon, unmoved, orders that she should be walled up in a cave.  His son Haemon, Antigone’s fiancé, pleads in vain for her life and threatens to die with her.  Warned by the prophet Teiresias Creon repents and rushes to release Antigone.  But he is too late: he finds Antigone dead from suicide and Haemon kills himself in front of Creon.  Returning to the palace he sees within the dead body of his queen, who stabbed herself through the heart when she heard of her son’s death.





 Ismene, sister of my blood and heart,

 See'st thou how Zeus would in our lives fulfill

 The weird of Oedipus, a world of woes!

 For what of pain, affliction, outrage, shame,

 Is lacking in our fortunes, thine and mine?

 And now this proclamation of today

 Made by our Captain-General to the State,

 What can its purport be? Didst hear and heed,

 Or art thou deaf when friends are banned as foes?


Ismene, sister of my blood and heart,

Do you see how Zeus wants to make us suffer

The curse of Oedipus, a world of sorrow!

For what pain, affliction, outrage, shame,

Is missing from our fortunes, yours and mine?

And now today’s proclamation,

Made by our leader to the State,

What is its purpose?  Did you hear and note it,

Or are you deaf when friends are exiled as enemies?




 To me, Antigone, no word of friends

 Has come, or glad or grievous, since we twain

 Were reft of our two brethren in one day

 By double fratricide; and since i' the night

 Our Argive leaguers fled, no later news

 Has reached me, to inspirit or deject.


To me, Antigone, I haven’t had any word of friends,

Good or bad, since we two

Were stripped of our two brothers in one day

When they killed each other; and since the night

The besiegers from Argos fled, I have had

No further news, saddening or cheering.




 I know 'twas so, and therefore summoned thee

 Beyond the gates to breathe it in thine ear.


I knew this was the case, and so I called you

Outside the gates to whisper it to you.




 What is it? Some dark secret stirs thy breast.


What is it?  You have some dark secret.




 What but the thought of our two brothers dead,

 The one by Creon graced with funeral rites,

 The other disappointed? Eteocles

 He hath consigned to earth (as fame reports)

 With obsequies that use and wont ordain,

 So gracing him among the dead below.

 But Polyneices, a dishonored corse,

 (So by report the royal edict runs)

 No man may bury him or make lament--

 Must leave him tombless and unwept, a feast

 For kites to scent afar and swoop upon.

 Such is the edict (if report speak true)

 Of Creon, our most noble Creon, aimed

 At thee and me, aye me too; and anon

 He will be here to promulgate, for such

 As have not heard, his mandate; 'tis in sooth

 No passing humor, for the edict says

 Whoe'er transgresses shall be stoned to death.

 So stands it with us; now 'tis thine to show

 If thou art worthy of thy blood or base.


What could it be but the thought of our two dead brothers,

One given a proper funeral by Creon,

The other denied one?  Eteocles

Was put in the ground (so it’s said)

With all the customary fitting ceremonies,

So that he would go properly to the underworld.

But Polynieces, a dishonored corpse

Cannot be buried, no-one can grieve for him

(This is what I hear the royal order is);

He must be left without a tomb, without mourners,

A feast for the kites to smell from far off and swoop upon.

This is the ruling (if the reports are true)

Of Creon, our most noble Creon, aimed

At you and me, yes, me as well; and shortly

He’ll be here to spread, for those

Who haven’t heard it, his orders;

It’s obviously not something

He’s taking lightly, as the order says

That anyone who disobeys will be stoned to death.

That’s the situation; now it’s up to you to show

If you live up to your heritage or not.




 But how, my rash, fond sister, in such case

 Can I do anything to make or mar?


But how, my hasty, dear sister, in this case,

Can I do anything, good or bad?




 Say, wilt thou aid me and abet? Decide.


Tell me if you’ll help and support me.  Decide.




 In what bold venture? What is in thy thought?


In what daring venture?  What are you thinking of?




 Lend me a hand to bear the corpse away.


Help me carry off the corpse.




 What, bury him despite the interdict?


What, bury him in spite of the order?




 My brother, and, though thou deny him, thine

 No man shall say that I betrayed a brother.


My brother, and though you won’t recognize him yours too.

No man shall say that I betrayed a brother.




 Wilt thou persist, though Creon has forbid?


Will you go through with this, though Creon forbids it?




 What right has he to keep me from my own?


What right has he to keep me from my own family?




 Bethink thee, sister, of our father's fate,

 Abhorred, dishonored, self-convicted of sin,

 Blinded, himself his executioner.

 Think of his mother-wife (ill sorted names)

 Done by a noose herself had twined to death

 And last, our hapless brethren in one day,

 Both in a mutual destiny involved,

 Self-slaughtered, both the slayer and the slain.

 Bethink thee, sister, we are left alone;

Shall we not perish wretchedest of all,

 If in defiance of the law we cross

 A monarch's will?--weak women, think of that,

 Not framed by nature to contend with men.

 Remember this too that the stronger rules;

 We must obey his orders, these or worse.

 Therefore I plead compulsion and entreat

 The dead to pardon. I perforce obey

 The powers that be. 'Tis foolishness, I ween,

 To overstep in aught the golden mean.


Think, sister, what happened to our father,

Hated, dishonored, convicted of sin by himself,

Blinded , his own executioner.

Think of his mother-wife (names which should not go together),

Killed with a noose she knotted herself,

And lastly, our unlucky brothers, who on the same day,

Caught up in a shared fate,

Killed themselves, each one killer and victim.

Think, sister, we are left alone;

Will we not die the most wretched death of all,

If against the law we ignore

A monarch’s orders? – we are weak women, remember,

Not built by nature to fight with men.

Remember this too, that the stonger one rules;

We must obey his orders, these or even worse ones.

So I say that I am forced not to do this and ask

The dead to forgive me.  I have to obey

The ruling powers.  It’s stupidity, I think,

To try and rebel against the king in anything.




 I urge no more; nay, wert thou willing still,

 I would not welcome such a fellowship.

 Go thine own way; myself will bury him.

 How sweet to die in such employ, to rest,--

 Sister and brother linked in love's embrace--

 A sinless sinner, banned awhile on earth,

 But by the dead commended; and with them

 I shall abide for ever. As for thee,

 Scorn, if thou wilt, the eternal laws of Heaven.


I won’t try to persuade you; in fact, if you now said you would,

I wouldn’t want you with me.

Go your own way, I shall bury him alone.

How sweet to die doing such a task, to rest –

A brother and sister linked in a loving hug –

A sinless sinner, condemned a while on earth

But applauded by the dead; and I shall live

With them forever.  As for you,

Reject the eternal laws of Heaven if you want.




 I scorn them not, but to defy the State

 Or break her ordinance I have no skill.


I do not reject them, but I haven’t the skill

To stand up to the State or break her laws.




 A specious pretext. I will go alone

 To lay my dearest brother in the grave.


A poor excuse.  I will go alone

To place my dearest brother in his grave.




 My poor, fond sister, how I fear for thee!


My poor, dear sister, how I fear for you!




 O waste no fears on me; look to thyself.


Don’t be frightened for me; have a look at yourself.




 At least let no man know of thine intent,

 But keep it close and secret, as will I.


At least don’t tell anyone what you’re up to,

Keep it secret and hidden, as I will.




 O tell it, sister; I shall hate thee more

 If thou proclaim it not to all the town.


Oh, tell everyone, sister; I’ll hate you more

If you don’t tell the whole town.




 Thou hast a fiery soul for numbing work.


You have a brave soul for such dangerous work.




 I pleasure those whom I would liefest please.


I give pleasure to those I would most like to please.




 If thou succeed; but thou art doomed to fail.


If you succeed; but you’re doomed to fail.




 When strength shall fail me, yes, but not before.


If my strength fails then so will I, but not before that.




 But, if the venture's hopeless, why essay?


But why try it, when the thing’s impossible?




 Sister, forbear, or I shall hate thee soon,

 And the dead man will hate thee too, with cause.

 Say I am mad and give my madness rein

 To wreck itself; the worst that can befall

 Is but to die an honorable death.


Sister, give up, or I shall soon hate you,

And the dead man shall hate you too, justifiably.

Call me mad and leave my madness free

To destroy itself; the worst that can happen

Is that I’ll die an honorable death.




 Have thine own way then; 'tis a mad endeavor,

 Yet to thy lovers thou art dear as ever.




Have it your own way; it’s a mad plan,

But those who love you love you just as much.




 (Str. 1)


 Sunbeam, of all that ever dawn upon

 Our seven-gated Thebes the brightest ray,

 O eye of golden day,

 How fair thy light o'er Dirce's fountain shone,

 Speeding upon their headlong homeward course,

 Far quicker than they came, the Argive force;

Putting to flight the argent shields,

The host with scutcheons white.

 Against our land the proud invader came

 To vindicate fell Polyneices' claim.

 Like to an eagle swooping low,

 On pinions white as new fall'n snow.

 With clanging scream, a horsetail plume his crest,

 The aspiring lord of Argos onward pressed.


Sunbeam, you are the brightest that ever

Dawned on our seven gated Thebes,

Oh golden eye of day,

How lovely your light shone over Dirce’s fountain,

Sending on their hurtling homeward way,

Far quicker than they came, the army of Argos;

Putting to flight the silver shields,

The army with their white decorations.

Against our land the proud invader came

To pursue evil Polyneice’s claim,

Like an eagle swooping down

With his snow-white claws.

With a clanging din and a horsetail plume in his helmet,

The hopeful lord of Argos pressed onwards.





 Hovering around our city walls he waits,

 His spearmen raven at our seven gates.

 But ere a torch our crown of towers could burn,

 Ere they had tasted of our blood, they turn

 Forced by the Dragon; in their rear

 The din of Ares panic-struck they hear.

 For Zeus who hates the braggart's boast

 Beheld that gold-bespangled host;

 As at the goal the paean they upraise,

 He struck them with his forked lightning blaze.


He waited, besieging our city walls,

His hungry spearmen at our seven gates,

But before a torch could burn our towers,

Before they’d tasted our blood, they turned,

Forced by the Dragon; in their rear

They heard with panic the noise of war.

For Zeus, who hates  arrogance,

Saw that gold covered army;

And as they raised a shout of triumph at reaching their goal

He struck them with his forked lightning.


 (Str. 2)


 To earthy from earth rebounding, down he crashed;

 The fire-brand from his impious hand was dashed,

 As like a Bacchic reveler on he came,

 Outbreathing hate and flame,

 And tottered. Elsewhere in the field,

 Here, there, great Area like a war-horse wheeled;

 Beneath his car down thrust

 Our foemen bit the dust.

 Seven captains at our seven gates

 Thundered; for each a champion waits,

 Each left behind his armor bright,

 Trophy for Zeus who turns the fight;

 Save two alone, that ill-starred pair

 One mother to one father bare,

 Who lance in rest, one 'gainst the other

 Drave, and both perished, brother slain by brother.


He smashed down upon the earth,

The firebrand was snatched from the blasphemous hand,

As he staggered on like a drunk at an orgy,

Breathing hate and flame,

And fell.  Elsewhere in the battle

Here, there, great Mars wheeled like a war horse,

Spearing out from his chariot,

And our enemies bit the dust.

Seven captains hammered on

Our seven gates; there was an opponent for each,

And each left behind his bright armor,

A trophy for Zeus who turned the tide;

There were just two who remain, that unfortunate pair,

Born of the same parents,

Who charged with their lances, one against the other,

Drove them home and both died, brother killed by brother.


 (Ant. 2)


 Now Victory to Thebes returns again

 And smiles upon her chariot-circled plain.

 Now let feast and festal should

 Memories of war blot out.

 Let us to the temples throng,

 Dance and sing the live night long.

 god of Thebes, lead thou the round.

 Bacchus, shaker of the ground!

 Let us end our revels here;

 Lo! Creon our new lord draws near,

 Crowned by this strange chance, our king.

 What, I marvel, pondering?

 Why this summons? Wherefore call

 Us, his elders, one and all,

 Bidding us with him debate,

 On some grave concern of State?


 [Enter CREON]


Now Victory comes back to Thebes,

And smiles on her plain, circled with chariots.

Now let feast and festival

Blot out the memories of war.

Let us all go to the temples

And dance and sing the whole night through.

god of Thebes, lead the song,

Bacchus, the ground shaker!

Now let’s stop our celebrations;

Look!  Creon, our new lord, is coming,

Crowned, by the twists of fate, our king.

What, I wonder, is he thinking of?

Why has he summoned us?  Why has he called

All of the elders,

Calling us to debate with him

Some important affairs of State?




 Elders, the gods have righted once again

 Our storm-tossed ship of state, now safe in port.

 But you by special summons I convened

 As my most trusted councilors; first, because

 I knew you loyal to Laius of old;

 Again, when Oedipus restored our State,

 Both while he ruled and when his rule was o'er,

 Ye still were constant to the royal line.

 Now that his two sons perished in one day,

 Brother by brother murderously slain,

 By right of kinship to the Princes dead,

 I claim and hold the throne and sovereignty.

 Yet 'tis no easy matter to discern

 The temper of a man, his mind and will,

 Till he be proved by exercise of power;

 And in my case, if one who reigns supreme

 Swerve from the highest policy, tongue-tied

 By fear of consequence, that man I hold,

 And ever held, the basest of the base.

 And I contemn the man who sets his friend

 Before his country. For myself, I call

 To witness Zeus, whose eyes are everywhere,

 If I perceive some mischievous design

 To sap the State, I will not hold my tongue;

 Nor would I reckon as my private friend

 A public foe, well knowing that the State

 Is the good ship that holds our fortunes all:

 Farewell to friendship, if she suffers wreck.

 Such is the policy by which I seek

 To serve the Commons and conformably

 I have proclaimed an edict as concerns

 The sons of Oedipus; Eteocles

 Who in his country's battle fought and fell,

 The foremost champion--duly bury him

 With all observances and ceremonies

 That are the guerdon of the heroic dead.

 But for the miscreant exile who returned

 Minded in flames and ashes to blot out

 His father's city and his father's gods,

 And glut his vengeance with his kinsmen's blood,

 Or drag them captive at his chariot wheels--

 For Polyneices 'tis ordained that none

 Shall give him burial or make mourn for him,

 But leave his corpse unburied, to be meat

 For dogs and carrion crows, a ghastly sight.

 So am I purposed; never by my will

 Shall miscreants take precedence of true men,

 But all good patriots, alive or dead,

 Shall be by me preferred and honored.


Elders, the gods have steadied

Our storm-tossed ship of state, now safely in port.

But I have gathered you by special summons

As my most trusted advisers; firstly, because
I know that you were loyal to Laius in the old days,

And then as you were also loyal to Oedipus when he saved our state,

Both when he ruled and when his rule was finished,

You stayed loyal to the royal family.

Now that his two sons have died in one day,

Brother murdered by brother,

I claim and hold the throne and kingship,

By right of my relation to the dead princes.

But it isn’t easy to tell

The strength of a man, of his mind and willpower,

Until it is tested once he’s in power;

And for me, if anyone who has the highest power

Dodges following the best policy, not speaking

For fear of the consequences, I have always

Thought that man the lowest of the low.

And I despise the man who puts his friend

Before his country.  For myself,

I swear by Zeus, who sees all,

That if I uncover some cunning plan

To damage the State, I will not be silent;

Nor would I have a public enemy

As a private friend, knowing that the State

Is the good ship that carries all our futures:

Friendship will be ended if she is wrecked.

This is my policy as I try

To serve the people, and so

I have issued an order in relation

To the sons of Oedipus: Eteocles,

Who fought and died for his country

As a hero – he should be buried

With all the respect and ceremony

That are the right of the honored dead.

But for that wretched exile who returned,

Meaning with flames to destroy

His father’s city and his father’s gods,

And satisfy his thirst for revenge with the blood of his kinsmen,

Or to drag them as prisoners behind his chariot –

For Polynieces I rule that nobody

Shall give him a burial or mourn for him,

But that his corpse should be left unburied as meat

For the dogs and carrion crows, a horrid sight.

This is my decision; never will I let

Scoundrels be honored over true men,

But all good patriots, alive or dead,

Shall be promoted and honored by me.
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