opening scene in Antigone starts in the middle of a conversation
between Antigone and her sister, Ismene. Antigone is convinced that it
is her duty to bury Polynices, her brother, who is being left
uncovered at the command of Creon, the king of Thebes. The play doesn't
go into detail about Polynices- only that he was a traitor to Thebes
and enemy of the city.
unequivocally opposed to Antigone's plans, citing the king's law
which forbids burial of the corpse. She does not believe, as Antigone
does, that the king's command can be broken for religious reasons.
But Antigone responds to her by saying, "...if it is a crime, then
it's a crime that God commands."
discussion, the Chorus enters, glorifying in Thebes' recent victory
against outside attack. Here it mentions Polynices briefly, exalting
the Theban gods as well as Creon for their success.
Soon Creon enters,
reiterating his command that anyone who buries Polynices will be put
to death. He proclaims, "He's not to have a grave or any mourning.
His corpse is to be left, a grim warning, pecked at by the birds and
worried by the dogs. That is my policy. A malefactor mustn't have
the same treatment as the loyal man."
Soon a guard enters,
bringing bad news. It seems someone has tampered with the body,
burying and blessing it as the Greek custom (and the gods) mandates.
Creon grows suddenly enraged, blaming the guard for his lack of
vigilance. Creon even goes so far as to suggest that the guard himself
buried the corpse for money.