Antigone's Monologue Expresses Defiance

Strong Protagonist in Sophocles' Tragedy

Creon weeping over Emones body, last scene from Antigone, tragedy by Sophocles, illustration from LIllustration, Journal Universel, No 66, Volume 3, June 1, 1844
Creon at the end of 'Antigone'. Getty Images

Here, Sophocles has created a dramatic female monologue for his powerful protagonist, Antigone. The monologue gives the performer the opportunity to interpret classic language and phrasing while expressing a range of emotions.

The tragedy, "Antigones," was written around 441 BC. It is part of the Theban trilogy that includes the story of Oedipus. Antigone is a strong and stubborn protagonist who holds her duty to her family obligations above her own safety and security. She defies the law as enacted by her uncle, the king, and holds that her actions obey the laws of the gods.


After the death of their father/brother banished King Oedipus (who, you may recall, married his mother, hence the complicated relationship), sisters Ismene and Antigone see their brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, battle for control of Thebes. Both perish. One brother is buried as a hero. The other brother is deemed a traitor to his people. He is left to rot on the battlefield. No one is to touch his remains.

In this scene, King Creon, Antigone's uncle, has ascended to the throne upon the deaths of the two brothers. He has just learned that Antigone has defied his laws by providing a proper burial for her disgraced brother.


Yea, for these laws were not ordained of Zeus,
And she who sits enthroned with gods below,
Justice, enacted not these human laws.
Nor did I deem that thou, a mortal man,
Could'st by a breath annul and override
The immutable unwritten laws of Heaven.
They were not born today nor yesterday;
They die not; and none knoweth whence they sprang.
I was not like, who feared no mortal's frown,
To disobey these laws and so provoke
The wrath of Heaven. I knew that I must die,
E'en hadst thou not proclaimed it; and if death
Is thereby hastened, I shall count it gain.
For death is gain to him whose life, like mine,
Is full of misery. Thus my lot appears
Not sad, but blissful; for had I endured
To leave my mother's son unburied there,
I should have grieved with reason, but not now.
And if in this thou judgest me a fool,
Methinks the judge of folly's not acquit.

Character Interpretation

In one of the most dramatic female monologues of Ancient Greece, Antigone defies King Creon because she believes in a higher morality, that of the gods. She contends that the laws of Heaven overrule the laws of man.

The theme of civil disobedience is one that can strike a chord in modern times. Is it better to do what is right by natural law and face the consequences of the legal system? Or is Antigone being foolishly stubborn and butting heads with her uncle?

The strong, defiant Antigone is convinced that her actions are the best expression of loyalty and love to her family. And yet, her actions defy other members of her family and the laws and traditions she is bound to uphold.