Commentary on Antigone
O you mock me! Why, in the name of all my fathers’ gods Why can’t you wait till I am gone— Must you abuse me to my face? O my city, all your fine rich sons! And you, you springs of Dirce, Holy grove of Thebe, where chariots gather, You at least, you’ll bear me witness, look Unmourned by friends and forced by such crude laws I go to my rockbound prison, strange new tomb— Always a stranger, O dear god, I have no home on earth and none below Not with the living and not with the breathless dead.
As Antigone prepares to be taken to her “rockbound prison,” she surrenders her resolute facade and reveals her vulnerable, humbled side as she feels estranged and doomed as an outcast forever from her loved ones and society as whole (939). Antigone begins calling out to her city saying “O you mock me! ” personifying Thebes, giving the city power over herself; power to judge her transgressions (930). Antigone uses many apostrophes as she calls out to Thebes for forgiveness, in a tone of phony admiration.
Throughout the entire passage Antigone repeats the interjection “O” as she cries out for someone to save her from her doomed fate. As she continues she makes many references to “fathers,” “gods,” and “sons” suggesting Antigone accepted her role as a subservient woman in Athenian society; a role her hubris prevented before (931-935). When Antigone exclaims “holy grove of Thebes, where chariots gather…” she is again accepting her role in society because in Ancient Greece chariot races were the only Olympic sport women were allowed to watch (936).
Antigone then uses ethos as she pleas Thebes to “bear me witness… unmourned by friends and forced by such crude laws… always a stranger” (937-939). In these lines Antigone’s tone is meek and submissive, a contrast from the woman she was before, characteristics of the stereotypical Athenian woman. Finally Antigone recognizes she is now an outcast as she has dishonored the gods and her city and ends her speech with “I have no home on earth and none below, not with the living, not with the breathless dead” (941-942).
In these final lines Antigone utilizes rhetorical devices to create sympathy from the audience, as she is now an outcast in this life and her soon to come afterlife. The repetition of “not” creates the feeling of rejection, furthering the idea of Antigone as an outcast. Sophocles inserted this essential stanza to reveal the horrors of being a woman in Athens. He takes a strong-willed, unwavering female character, filled with pride and ultimately turns her into a weak, beggar in her final moments. Sophocles hoped for women to advance their rights but ultimately believed it was a lost cause.