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Antigone | Study Guide

Jean Anouilh

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Antigone | Part 2 (Meeting with Haemon) | Summary

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Summary

Haemon arrives while Antigone is still talking to the nurse, who exits. He has come to make up after an argument they apparently had when they last met. She seeks reassurance that he shares the intensity of her love. When she asks whether he feels, like her, "that there is something inside ... that is just—dying," he agrees. Then she makes him promise he will leave her with no questions asked after she tells him two things: first, she confesses that on their last meeting she had intended to sleep with him—partially to allay the great pain she is about to cause him. Then she tells him she can never marry him. Haemon, stunned, keeps his promise and leaves the stage.

Ismene enters and makes one last effort to dissuade Antigone from her purpose. She says everyone just wants Antigone to be happy. She says Polynices was a bad brother. Finally she says, "You are always defying the world, but you're only a girl, after all." Antigone shocks her sister with the truth: she has already buried her brother.

Analysis

This scene between Antigone and Haemon does not appear in Sophocles's play. As theater scholar Leonard Pronko says in The World of Jean Anouilh, "It not only serves to reveal the love between the couple and the heroism of Antigone in renouncing this love, but it heightens the pathos of her death, and prepares us for what is to happen later." The scene certainly does heighten the pathos; in fact some critics feel Antigone's scenes with Haemon and with her nurse are entirely too sentimental, undermining the overall quality of the play.

As in the scene with the nurse, Antigone talks at cross purposes, this time with Haemon, who seems only dimly aware that his fiancée is deeply troubled. Even when she asks whether he shares her feeling of something "dying" inside him—surely not something he hopes for—he agrees too readily. She seems to have been testing him. Her pause after his agreement shows she understands he doesn't understand. Haemon, unlike Antigone, is unaware of the role he is about to play in the coming disaster.

The audience, however, knows Antigone is seriously troubled. Her whole conversation with Haemon is presented in terms of what might have been. The closest she came to reaching out for adult happiness is when she "wore Ismene's dress and rouge," planning to sleep with Haemon. She tried to play a role, using the actor's tools of costume and makeup, but she couldn't follow through. Her role is a different one, less tawdry and purer; she is incapable of renouncing it. The dream of a happy, ordinary life as a wife and mother is a lie.

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