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Antigone | Study Guide

Jean Anouilh

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Antigone | Quotes


You are always defying the world, but you're only a girl, after all.

Ismene, Part 2 (Meeting with Haemon)

Ismene uses this argument—"you're only a girl"—more than once to stop Antigone from burying her brother. For Antigone that's the point; as a girl—not yet a woman—she still burns with youthful idealism. As for her sex, Antigone says at one point, "Haven't I spent my life cursing the fact that I was a girl?" Her girlhood makes it more important she act on her ideals now, before she is forced into the passive role of wife like the ever-knitting Eurydice.


Tragedy is restful; and the reason is that hope ... has no part in it.

Chorus, Part 4 (Chorus)

The Chorus makes this remark after he announces "the spring is wound up tight"—nothing can affect the outcome of the play. He says that unlike melodrama, which keeps audiences on the edge of their seats hoping for the hero's rescue, tragedy provides no "foul, deceitful" hope.


If we had to listen to ... people ... tell us what's the matter with this country, we'd never get our work done.

Private Jonas, Part 5 (Mid-Afternoon)

Private Jonas says this to Antigone, whom he has caught red-handed, as she tries to explain who she is. He and the other guards represent the police, whom the Chorus calls "eternally innocent ... eternally indifferent." They also represent the mediocre masses, a common motif in Anouilh's plays. They are not susceptible to argument or pity; they simply play their role without ever questioning why.


Nothing has a name—except the ship, and the storm.

Creon, Part 6 (The Daughter of Oedipus)

In justifying tyrannical actions, even shooting into a mob, Creon compares war-torn Thebes to a ship foundering in a storm. There is no time, he argues, to worry about individual people or personal notions of right and wrong when civilization (the ship) itself is under attack (the storm).


My part is not an heroic one, but I shall play my part.

Creon, Part 7 (One Last Appeal)

Creon speaks this line in his last-ditch effort to show he is serious about putting Antigone to death if she buries Polynices. Throughout the play Anouilh emphasizes that each character is playing a part in the tragedy, and there is no hope that a chance intervention will change the course of events.


Paint me the picture of your happy Antigone ... To whom must I sell myself?

Antigone, Part 7 (One Last Appeal)

This marks the point in the play at which Creon loses his argument with Antigone; by appealing to her to be happy, he reawakens her ire at those who say "yes" to life's compromises.


We are of the tribe that hates your filthy hope, your docile, female hope.

Antigone, Part 7 (One Last Appeal)

Antigone shouts these words when Creon says she sounds like her father, who embraced his tragic fate. From this moment, it's clear Antigone too is embracing the same role. She echoes the Chorus's earlier line: "Hope, that foul, deceitful thing, has no part in [tragedy]."


Life is nothing more than the happiness that you get out of it.

Creon, Part 7 (One Last Appeal)

Creon uses this argument to persuade Antigone to forget about self-sacrifice, marry Haemon, and be happy. "Life is not what you think it is," he says; instead it is the simple moments of joy, like "a child playing around your feet." He warns Antigone to guard against people who want to use her passion for their own political purposes.


You would all have been so happy except for Antigone.

Antigone, Part 9 (In Her Prison Cell)

Antigone asks Private Jonas to write this line in a secret letter to Haemon, just before she dies. Antigone realizes that in her stubborn idealism she has destroyed everyone else's chance for happiness. The Chorus echoes this line at the end of the play, adding everyone involved is now long dead; no one remembers Antigone or "the fever that consumed her." Her death was meaningless, he seems to say, but then again, so was everyone else's life.


Those who have survived ... won't remember who was who or which was which.

Chorus, Part 10 (Late Afternoon)

These lines echo the Prologue, in which the Chorus tells the audience "who's who and what's what." At the beginning of the play, this background seems important to the audience. In the end, however, the Chorus seems to suggest that none of it was important. Here Anouilh, not for the first time in the play, reflects on the absurdist philosophy that human existence is meaningless.

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