Literature Study GuidesAntigonePart 5 Mid Afternoon Summary

Antigone | Study Guide

Jean Anouilh

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Antigone | Part 5 (Mid-Afternoon) | Summary

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Summary

Antigone enters in the clutches of the three guards. They don't know her identity and don't care. As Private Jonas says, listening to a citizen's complaints gets in the way of doing their job. They don't believe her when she tells them she is Creon's niece. The guards discuss how to spend the reward they will receive. They want to drink and play cards at a bar, and they discuss whether they should bring their wives and kids along. Creon enters, and after a lengthy explanation of how he caught Antigone, Jonas releases her to his custody. Antigone defiantly confesses to Creon, who sends the guards away.

Analysis

This scene belongs to the guards. It's worth reviewing the Chorus's introduction of these characters in the Prologue: "One smells of garlic, another of beer," but "they are not a bad lot." On one level the guards—who are virtually indistinguishable from one another—represent the common man: they have families and petty everyday concerns; their fondness for card playing is apparent in the first and last scenes, and here, where they discuss their plans to celebrate their bonus with a card game.

They also represent the henchman of the police state—in occupied Paris they would be identified with the Fascist enforcers of Nazi law. As Private Jonas, their spokesman throughout the play, explains, their job isn't to worry about the right and wrong of what they're doing; they just do their job. Their callous indifference to Antigone's suffering, signified in their dirty hands, is more disturbing to her than the prospect of death: "I don't mind being killed, but I don't want them to touch me." These words remind audiences of an earlier scene in which Ismene makes her most powerful argument to stop Antigone: if either one of them is caught burying Polynices, they will be at the mercy of the mob. Pure, idealistic Antigone can't live in the world and can hardly bear to be touched by it.

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