The chorus, a group of common people who follow the actions of the play Antigone, waver in their support of either Antigone or Creon, depending on their actions during a particular part of the story-line. Early in the play it is evident that they are extremely pro-Creon, but a short time later they seem to sway into the direction of Antigone and support her actions. This incongruency about the them, however, was an extremely interesting feature of this Sophocles drama, causing the reader to question the reliability of the chorus.
The opening lines from the chorus merely inform the reader about the war which had just taken place between Thebes and Argos. Their last lines of this opening choral passage, however, introduced king Creon, making him seem quite noble yet mysterious to his loyal subjects. They state such questions as: “what new plan will he launch?” and “Why this sudden call to the old men summoned at one command?” (Lines 175-178) These lines are utilized by Sophocles as a suspenseful introduction to Creon’s orders concerning the body of Polynices.
The chorus’s next appearance blatantly shows their biased attitudes against Antigone and her exiled father Oedipus. At this point they still sing praise for King Creon and his unwavering decisions concerning the law which was placed upon the city regarding the body of Polynices: “When he weaves in the laws of the land, and the justice of the gods that binds his oaths together, he and his city rise high–but the city casts out that man who weds himself to inhumanity thanks to reckless daring.
Never share my hearth never think my thoughts, whoever does such things.” (Lines 409-416) In my opinion the man laying down the law here is Creon and Antigone is the “man” wedding herself to inhumanity. The next major choral address is a turning point regarding their attitude towards Antigone.
At this point they are actually feeling pity towards the rebellious young woman: “But now, even I’d rebel against the king. I’d break all bounds when I see this– I fill with tears, can’t hold them back not any more. . . I see Antigone make her way to the bridal vault where all are laid to rest.” (Lines 895-899) This segment follows Haemon’s lengthy discussion with Creon, where he asks for Antigone’s life to be mercifully spared. Several shorter passages from the chorus following this also make the reader perceive Creon as an unrelenting, heartless tyrant, who feels no remorse for his actions.
They say that he went too far and even hint that Antigone may ahve been the victim of her father’s actions many years prior: “Your life’s in ruins, child — I wonder do you pay for your father’s terrible ordeal?” (Lines 945-946) The small choral passage following this, however, states that it was Antigone’s own fault for her tragic downfall: “Reverence asks some reverence in return — but attacks on power never go unchecked, not by the man who holds the reins of power. Your own blind will, your passion has destroyed you.” (Lines 959-962) This again shows the chorus’s tendencies to waiver from one side to the other in support of the play’s actions. The next long dissertation by the chorus is a story which stresses the powers of the fates. This story can be compared to the life of Antigone because her life was supported and ultimately crushed by fate, as was Creon’s. This choral selection solidifies the warnings which Tiresias gives to Creon concerning the powers of destiny and that ignoring it can be disastrous. Although this selection by the chorus is virtually unbiased, it is crucial for introducing a key situation in the play. The final statements from the chorus sum up the tragic downfall of Creon: “Wisdom is by far the greatest part of joy, and reverence toward the gods must be safeguarded. 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.” (Lines 1466-1471) This restates the point given iin the previous paragraph about the dangers of being too proud and the wrath with which the fates can strike when ignored.
Why did the chorus change its loyalities? This is easily explained as a result of their stature in the town in which they live. Like in present times people often change their opinions about others based on their actions. A clear example of this is a presidential election, where a citizen bases who they vote for on the actions of a certain candidate. At first the members of the chorus act as loyal subjects, but as time progresses through the play and actions unfold, they break free from the binds of strict allegiance to their king, and begin to support what is right.
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