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Antigone | Study Guide

Jean Anouilh

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Antigone | Part 9 (In Her Prison Cell) | Summary

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Summary

In her cell, realizing that Private Jonas is the last face she will see, Antigone asks about his life. After a while she cuts him off and asks him to smuggle out a letter to Haemon. Private Jonas refuses—he'd be punished—but suggests writing it down in his book, in his own hand. Antigone reluctantly agrees. She asks him to write, "I don't even know what I am dying for," but then tells him to scratch that out, saying, "Nobody must know that." Moments later guards take Antigone to the cave where she will be walled up.

Analysis

As Jonas prattles on about the benefits of being in the guard, Antigone seems to physically weaken, her responses become more and more muted. Her plan was to die in a state of purity; Jonas's prosaic outlook and petty complaints corrupt her final moments. The idea of Jonas as the medium of her message to Haemon is repulsive—another sign of her disdain for the corrupting world.

In Sophocles's original, Creon experiences anagnorisis—the moment in Greek tragedy when the hero learns the truth. At the play's climax, Creon learns his stubborn pride and flouting of divine law have caused disaster. If anagnorisis exists in the Anouilh's Antigone, it's experienced not by Creon but by Antigone herself, after the emotional climax of the play has already passed. In her cell she realizes, anticlimactically, that dying is terrible and her death is pointless. Her determination to keep this idea hidden from others, however, undercuts the value of her revelation. Haemon, for example, unaware of her new insight, will kill himself too. The audience, at least, can ponder whether Antigone or Creon is more heroic.

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