Based on the tragedies
Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone by Sophocles
The Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus
and The Phoenician Maidens by Euripides
This screenplay has been published in the book 4 SCREENPLAYS. For ordering information, please click here.
INTERIOR THEBAN PALACE - DAY
CREON sits on the throne. On his right sit POLYNEICES and ETEOCLES. On his left sit ANTIGONE, ISMENE, and the blind OEDIPUS. On the benches sit some THEBAN ELDERS. Polyneices is 21, Eteocles is 20, Antigone 18, and Ismene 17.
Since that fateful day many years ago
when my sister Jocasta died in grief,
and Oedipus here was blinded in agony,
I, Creon, have ruled the city of Thebes.
Now the two sons of Oedipus,
Polyneices and Eteocles, are fully grown,
and having consulted the oracles and prophets,
I have decided to pass this throne to them.
The question that must be decided
is how they may share this kingship.
My noble uncle, as the oldest,
I believe I ought to have priority.
That certainly seems reasonable to me,
but what share will be left for Eteocles?
After I have died, then he can be king.
But brother, that is hardly fair,
and knowing you as I do,
I'm afraid you won't pass the kingship on to me.
I believe you would later decide
that your son should rule after you.
But I have no son; I'm not even married.
Noble Creon, since Polyneices is older,
I am willing to grant him the opportunity
to be king before I am;
but if the royal scepter is to be truly shared,
I believe that we should alternate every year.
That certainly does seem reasonable
and much more equal to me also.
Therefore let it be so.
Today I renounce this throne
and give it to Polyneices.
Then one year from now Eteocles shall rule.
Creon stands up and picks up the royal scepter that was leaning on the throne and hands it to Polyneices who then sits on the royal throne still holding the scepter in his hand. Creon sits where Polyneices had been.
Now that I am invested with royal power,
I want there to be a new era here in Thebes.
Everyone knows that our city has been cursed
by shame and infamy since the day our mother died
when Oedipus learned the truth of his birth
and found himself to be the murderer of King Laius.
Even before that day our city suffered a plague
because of the pollution from that murder.
Now I wish to end all that and begin anew.
Therefore I decree that the time has come
for Oedipus, our father, to leave this city
and never come back to haunt this place.
My dear son, Polyneices, would you begin your reign
by banishing from the city your very own father?
Yes, father, I think it's best for the city.
That dreadful day I learned the truth about my fate,
I begged Creon to let me leave this city forever.
But he waited to consult the oracles and prophets
and would not let me go as I wished.
As time passed, it seemed easier to him
and eventually also to me to remain here
where I could pass my days of blindness
in a familiar place with my children around me.
To this I have become much accustomed.
Now I no longer wish to leave Thebes
to wander I know not where.
Why do you always want to command
and refuse to obey others?
I have made a decree,
and by royal power that is now the law.
But what am I to do without eyes?
Where am I to go and beg?
Dear father, I will go with you
and be your eyes and hands for you.
That is the sweet voice of Antigone.
How blessed am I to have such a loyal daughter
even though my eldest son has banished me!
What says my other son, Eteocles,
to this harsh decree of my exile?
Father, I must confess that my brother and I
have long discussed this matter and agreed that
Thebes could get a fresh start and be a better place
without the reminder of your polluting shame.
Then both my sons have turned against me.
Hear one last time your father's voice
before he goes off alone banished by your cruelty:
a curse upon you both and your royal power.
May a sword divide you and end your lives
before you can cause too much misery to others.
Come, dear Antigone,
I am not wanted here anymore.
Oedipus stands up and with his staff starts for the outer door, as Antigone takes his hand and leads him.
I'm glad you're leaving so soon, father.
I do wish you well in spite of your curse.
EXTERIOR GROVE AT COLONUS - DAY
Oedipus with a staff in one hand is led by Antigone among the laurel and olive trees and vines while the TITLES are shown.
Antigone, what is this place?
Let me stop here and sit down.
We're near the city of Athens in a holy grove.
I see a man now, not far away.
A STRANGER approaches them.
Is he coming this way?
Here he is now.
Friend, my daughter's eyes serve as my own.
She tells me we are fortunate to meet you.
Don't go on; you must move from here.
This place is holy,
and it's forbidden to walk on sacred ground.
What god is honored here?
All-seeing daughters of darkness
and gentle spirits of mysterious earth.
May they be gentle to this suppliant,
for I shall never leave this resting place.
Without authority from the city
I dare not move you.
First I must show them what you're doing.
Who rules this place?
King Theseus rules in Athens.
Would you tell this king
I have a small favor for him?
I'll inform the people what you say;
it's up to them to decide what to do.
The stranger returns the way he came.
Child, is he gone?
Yes, father. You may rest easy now.
O spirits of this place hear my prayer:
grant me a resting place to end my bitter life.
Some ATHENIANS arrive at the grove.
Zeus defend us. Who is this old man?
I'm an exile, but don't ask my name.
Answer us: who was your father?
God help me! What can I say, Antigone?
Tell them; there is no other way.
Have you heard of Laius' family?
and ruined Oedipus?
Him?! How dreadful!
Get away, you must leave our country.
O reverent men, take pity on us.
My father did not know what he did.
Have mercy on my unhappiness;
we've been wandering for a long time.
We do pity you and your misfortune.
But we tremble to think what the gods may do.
They say Athens is a place of refuge
and has the power to save the miserable.
Do you dread my past actions?
I suffered those more than I did them.
Please give me sanctuary here.
Someone is coming on Sicilian ponies.
Am I dreaming?
Could it be my dear sister Ismene?
Ismene and an ATTENDANT approach riding Sicilian ponies. They dismount, and Ismene greets her sister and father.
O dearest father and sister,
at last I've found you.
Father, how old you seem now.
Touch me, my child.
I shall hold both of you.
Ismene gives them each a hug.
But Ismene, why have you come?
I have news for you, father.
But where are your brothers?
Couldn't they come?
It is hard for them now.
Ah, they act like Egyptians
where the men stay indoors weaving
and the women go out to do what's needed.
But you two girls bear my hardships.
Now tell me why you came;
it must be something serious.
I'll skip the troubles I've had searching for you.
I've come to tell you about your sons' conflicts.
You know how after one year
the younger Eteocles took over the kingship,
but now after his year is up
he refuses to give the throne back to Polyneices
but has banished him.
Polyneices has gone to Argos to gain allies
telling them Argos can win Thebes.
Yet how long will it be
before the gods relieve your distress?
Is there hope concerning my deliverance?
Yes, father, an oracle asked by the people
says that your death will bring benefit.
Creon is coming to settle you near Thebes,
but you are not allowed inside the border.
What good would I do outside their country?
They're afraid your burial will be unlucky
if they do not keep you near.
Do my sons know about this?
Yes, they both understand it.
But they would not give up the throne
to take me back?
It hurts me to say it, but I can't deny it.
O gods! May their ambitions' fire not go out
until they have destroyed each other in battle!
These two banished me by proclamation.
Out I went as a beggar to wander.
Only the devotion of you two girls saved me.
Let Creon try to find me; I'll not go with him.
May the spirits of this place give me refuge!
I suggest you make expiation to these divinities.
Will one of you girls make atonement for me?
I'll do it for you, father.
Antigone, you stay and take care of him.
Ismene goes off the opposite way she came.
They say you did it with your mother
and that you killed your father.
You have suffered so much from those sins.
No, I did not sin.
I did not know she was my mother,
nor my father either who attacked me.
I was defending myself.
King Theseus is coming.
THESEUS arrives with SOLDIERS.
Your tortured face reveals your identity.
I too have been an exile,
and so no wanderer shall come here
and not receive whatever aid I can give.
Theseus, your words make clear your nobility.
I have come with the gift of myself.
What grace is that
and when shall we learn it?
When I am dead and you have buried me.
That is a small favor we can do for you.
Some people want to take me away from here.
Won't you go rather than be in exile?
No, they cast me out. I won't go back.
What childishness is that?
Don't reproach me until you know me.
Then tell me so that I won't speak in ignorance.
The oracle compels them to summon me.
They're afraid to be struck down in this land.
I'll not refuse your request, Oedipus.
Are you firm in what you promise?
You can trust me; I'll not betray you.
No one will take you against my will.
I am oppressed by fear.
When the mind masters itself,
threats don't matter.
Theseus leaves with the soldiers.
Now you are our guest in this land.
Creon arrives with a few GUARDS.
Here comes Creon and his guards.
May our friends prove they can protect me.
Don't be afraid.
I may be old, but my city's strength is not.
Please don't be afraid; I'm not hostile.
I am old and have been sent by all Thebes
as an emissary to my relative.
Come home now, Oedipus.
The people of Thebes and I summon you.
I see you are ravaged
and suffering a beggar's life
with this poor girl.
This is a disgrace for all our people.
Listen to me now, Oedipus.
Leave Athens and come back home with me.
You rascal with your crafty speeches!
Why do you try to trap me?
When I was in agony and would have left this life,
you would not give me what I wanted.
Then when I became comfortable,
Thebes threw me out to wander.
Now you want to coax me back,
not to my home but outside Thebes
so it may escape my curse
and punishment by Athens.
Leave me here in peace.
This talk only hurts yourself.
Go away and stop bothering us.
If I take you away---
What! By violence?
With these men fighting for me?
I'll give you pain.
You have two daughters.
One has already been seized;
now I'll take the other.
Oh friends, will you help me
and drive this thief away?
Go, stranger; you have no right to do this.
You there, take her now,
whether she wants to go or not.
One of the guards grabs Antigone.
O God, where shall I run?
This is unjust.
No, I take what belongs to me.
What are you doing, stranger?
Will you let her go,
or shall we have a test of strength?
or your city will have war if you hurt me.
The guards pull Antigone away.
They have overpowered me and are taking me!
Give me your hands, dear.
Antigone is taken away by two guards.
Guide yourself with your stick, old man,
and you'll learn you've done yourself no good.
Anger has always been your greatest fault.
Now I'll take you too.
You are bold, if you think you can.
The ruler of our land comes to stop it.
Theseus arrives with his soldiers.
Why are you shouting?
What's the trouble here?
Ah friend, I know your voice.
This man is committing a crime.
Who is this man? What did he do?
He is Creon, and he stole my daughters.
Run and get the horseman
and those on foot to search for them.
A soldier runs off.
This man shall not go unpunished.
You will not leave this land
until you produce those girls here.
Your behavior shames your country.
This state practices justice and rules by law.
You take what you please by violence
as if we were slaves.
I say it again:
bring those girls here quickly,
or your stay with us will be under guard.
I don't consider your state ill-governed,
but I did not think
you'd keep my citizens here against my will,
especially an unholy patricide
who slept with his mother.
Yet I would not have touched him,
if he had not cursed my race and me.
You do what you think is right.
I am weak and unsupported,
but I'll try to hold you accountable.
O shameless arrogance that you insult me so!
Those bloody deaths and incest were calamities
that I suffered against my will.
That happened long ago;
but now while I pray you seized me
and carried off my daughters.
Now I ask the divinities of this place
and the men who defend this town to aid me.
While the perpetrators flee, we loiter here.
What should I do?
You lead the way until the girls are found.
The hunter is now ensnared.
What was taken by stealth will not be kept.
Do you understand me now?
I don't object,
but at home we'll decide what to do.
If you have to threaten,
do so as we go.
Oedipus, you stay here
and rest assured that unless I die
I'll bring your daughters back to you.
Bless you, Theseus, and good luck in this.
Theseus leaves with the soldiers escorting Creon.
EXT. NEAR THE COLONUS GROVE - DAY
Theseus and his soldiers catch up to the guards with Antigone who quickly surrender her. The horseman then ride up with Ismene on one of the horses.
Good work, men.
Now let's take them all back to Oedipus.
EXT. COLONUS GROVE - DAY
Theseus and his men with Antigone and Ismene approach Oedipus and the other Athenians.
Father, I wish some god would give you eyes
to see how this noble prince brought us back.
Oh, Antigone, is Ismene with you too?
Yes, the strength of Theseus
and his men has saved us both.
Come, let me touch you again.
As you wish, father.
Antigone and Ismene go over and touch Oedipus.
Oh my children, you are my staff and support.
And your partners in sorrow.
I have what is dearest in the world.
To die now would not be so bad.
But I've almost forgotten to thank noble Theseus
for saving my children and myself.
My life is distinguished by my actions
more than by words.
As for how I kept my word to you,
your daughters can tell you all about it.
But I found a man praying at Poseidon's altar
who has asked to speak with you.
I wonder what it could be.
It must be important if he is praying.
Do you have any relative in Argos?
Say no more, my friend.
What's the matter?
Nothing could bring me more pain
than to have to listen to my hated son.
But can't you listen to his supplication
as a duty to the god?
Father, listen to me even though I'm young.
Let this man satisfy his conscience
and give the gods their due.
Let our brother come here for my sake.
Don't be afraid;
he'll not throw you off your purpose.
What harm is there in hearing what he says?
If he has bad intentions, he'll betray them.
Even if your son wronged you, father,
it's not right for you to wrong him back.
Others have bad sons and are easily angered;
yet they accept advice from their friends.
Remember the past
and what a terrible result wrath can bring.
Your lost eyes are a permanent reminder.
Give in to us if our request is just.
Don't be so stubborn,
for I'm not being hard on you.
My child, your talk gives you pleasure,
but it will bring me pain.
Yet let it be as you wish.
Only, Theseus, if he comes here,
let no one have power over my life.
I only need to hear you say that once, old man.
Be sure that your life is as safe as mine is.
I'll bring him to you.
Theseus goes off and returns with Polyneices; then Theseus retires.
I think I see him, father;
his eyes have surely been weeping.
It's who we've been thinking of - Polyneices.
What should I do, sisters?
Shall I weep for my own misfortunes
or for those of this old man, my father?
Now that I see his old garments,
ragged hair, thin body, and poor food,
it's too late for me.
I swear I've been wrong in not supporting you.
Know that compassion limits even the gods;
so there may be a limit for you, father.
For all faults can be corrected,
and the worst is over.
Why are you silent?
Speak to me, father; don't turn away.
Won't you answer at all?
Will you send me away without a word?
Not even explain why you're angry with me?
My sisters, try to move your father.
Don't let him reject me with contempt.
I'm here on a pilgrimage.
Poor brother, you must tell him why yourself.
As one speaks it may give pleasure,
annoy, or touch the heart,
providing the mute with voices.
Your advice is good; I'll speak.
First I ask for help from Poseidon
to whom I've been praying in this land.
The ruler here is kindly allowing me
to speak with you and my sisters.
Now, father, I'll tell you why I came.
I've been driven from my country a fugitive,
because I tried as the oldest
to take my place on your sovereign throne.
But Eteocles, the younger son, banished me,
not by argument or ability in arms,
but because he won the city over.
I believe the Furies pursuing you
were the cause of this,
as clairvoyants have told me so.
Then I went to Argos
and married the daughter of Adrastus.
Binding leaders there by oath to fight with me,
I've formed an expedition of seven spearmen
to attack Thebes and expel those who exiled me.
So why should I come here now?
Father, I make my prayers to you,
with the seven captains who fight -
Amphiareus, Tydeus, Eteoclus,
Hippomedon, Capaneus, Parthenopaeus,
and I, your son, who lead these Argive forces.
Now in the name of these two daughters, father,
and for your own soul's sake we implore you
that you give up your heavy wrath against me.
I go to punish the brother
who robbed me of my country.
If oracles can be trusted, they say that
whoever you bless shall come to power.
By the gods of our people I pray you listen.
Are we not both beggars and exiles?
The same fate follows us both.
But he lords it in our house in luxury
and laughs at both of us.
If you will stand by me in my resolve,
In short work I'll scatter his power to the wind.
Then I'll establish you at home along with myself,
while I throw him out.
If your will is with me, this can happen;
if not, I can't be saved.
For the sake of the one who sent him,
speak to this man before you send him away.
Yes, were it not for Theseus
thinking he should have an answer,
you never would have heard a word from me.
He has asked,
and the answer he will hear from me
will not make him happy.
It was you who held the throne and power,
as your brother does now in Thebes,
when you drove me into exile.
Me, your own father, you made a homeless man.
These rags now you cry over
since you have fallen on evil days in exile.
Weeping is too late now.
I must bear with the rest of my life,
but I regard you as a murderer.
You made me an alien, begging bread from others.
If I had not had these daughters to comfort me,
I might have lived or died for all you cared.
But they preserved me by their support,
their courage and faithfulness.
As for you two boys, you're not my sons.
The eyes of Fate are watching you.
If those troops march against Thebes,
they cannot take that city.
You and your brother will fall in blood.
For I have cursed you before this,
and now I invoke it again,
that you may learn to respect your parents,
and though I'm blind not dishonor me.
For these girls did not.
So your ambitious request is surely defeated
if ancient justice still abides in God's laws.
Now go, abhorred and disowned, you scoundrel,
with my curse upon you that you may never
conquer your native land by force of arms
nor see your home again in Argos,
that you may die by your brother's hand,
and kill your brother who banished you.
For this I pray and cry to the hated underworld
to take you home by the power of furious war
that has filled your hearts with hate.
Now you've heard what I have to say;
go and tell the Thebans and your friends
what honors Oedipus divides among his sons.
Polyneices, your coming here has given no joy.
Now go away at once.
What a failed journey!
My poor companions!
Look at the end of our march from Argos.
I can't speak of this to anyone
nor lead my friends back again.
I must silently go to meet this doom.
O sisters, you've heard our father's hard curse.
If it comes true, don't dishonor me in death.
But give me a funeral that will quiet me.
Then you shall be praised for serving my spirit.
Polyneices, I beg you to listen to me.
Dearest Antigone, what is it?
Withdraw your troops to Argos right away.
Don't go to your death in Thebes.
I can't. How could I command the army
and then fall back?
Why, brother, must your anger rise again?
What gain is there in destroying your city?
It's shameful to run away
and be laughed at by my brother.
But look at his prophecies you'll fulfill
that you'll kill each other.
He wishes it, and I cannot give in.
I'm devastated; but who will go with you
after hearing those prophecies?
I won't report them.
A good commander tells the positive,
not the negative.
Then you've made up your mind?
Yes, don't try to stop me.
I must take this dark road before me
doomed by my father and his Furies.
God bless you if you do what I've asked.
Only in death can you help me now.
Now let me go; goodbye.
You break my heart.
Don't grieve for me.
How could I not grieve,
since you go to a death you see?
If it's fate, I must die.
No, listen to me.
You ask the impossible.
Then I'm lost, if I must lose you.
All that depends on the powers over us.
I pray that no evil comes to you two,
for everyone knows you deserve no more pain.
Thus in this we see new forms of terror
working through the blind or inscrutable destiny.
Lightning and thunder.
Oh child, could someone bring Theseus here?
My appointed end has come.
Lightning and thunder. An Athenian goes off.
Great Zeus, I make my prayer to you.
Is the king near? Will he come in time?
Lightning and thunder.
Tell me what you have in mind.
To give him the blessing I promised
in return for his great kindness.
Lightning and thunder. Theseus arrives.
What's all this shouting for me about?
This is God's will that you have come.
What must be done?
I'll lead you to the place where I must die.
and now children I become your guide,
as Hermes and Persephone lead me on.
Oedipus leads Antigone, Ismene, and Theseus into the grove. At a fountain the daughters help him to bathe and put on a fresh garment.
Now, children, your father is going,
and your burden of caring for me is lifted.
One word makes all difficulties disappear,
and that word is love.
Now you must show your nobility
and have the courage to leave this place.
Only Theseus may see what now will happen.
Antigone and Ismene leave Oedipus and Theseus. Then suddenly Oedipus disappears and only Theseus is left standing with his hands covering his face.
EXT. COLONUS GROVE - DAY
Antigone and Ismene walk back to where the Athenians are waiting.
Now we weep in bitter grief against our fate.
We can only guess, my friends.
Is he gone?
It was not war or the ocean that took him,
but something invisible and mysterious.
Now we're lost with deadly night ahead of us.
How can we go on with our lives?
I don't know;
in such desolation I can't go on living.
It's strange to long for the past
even though then it seemed so bad.
Life was not sweet, but I thought it was
when I could put my arms around my father.
Now he's gone to eternal darkness,
but even there he shall not lack our love.
He did what he wanted.
What do you mean?
He died where he chose to die
in a strange country.
O pity! What is left for you and me
now that we have lost our father?
his end was free and blessed.
Let's go back there.
What could we do?
A longing carries me away.
To see the final resting place.
But that's not allowed; don't you see?
Don't reproach me.
Remember he had no tomb.
Take me there and kill me too.
Oh, I'm lost, helpless, and without a friend.
Where should I go and live?
Children, don't be afraid.
A refuge has been found
where you will not be harmed.
There's no way for me to go home again.
Don't go home.
My home is in trouble.
It has been so before.
It was desperate then, and now it's worse.
Truly great are your troubles.
O Zeus, where can I turn?
To what last hope do the powers push me?
Theseus arrives with some of his soldiers.
Mourn no more, children,
for those whom the dark powers bless
should not be mourned.
Theseus, we wish to see our father's tomb.
No, that is not allowed.
But King of Athens, why not?
Your father commanded me, children,
that no one should go near the place,
since it is holy.
Then our father's wish must be honored.
Please, then, send us back to ancient Thebes
that we may stop this bloody war
from occurring between our brothers.
I will do so, and anything else I can do
for your happiness for his sake.
I will not fail.
EXT. GARDEN IN THEBES - LATE AFTERNOON
HAEMON and Antigone walk together as they talk.
I appreciate your meeting me here, Haemon.
I've been away from Thebes so long
I know little of what is occurring here.
Dear Antigone, I have missed you
since you went away with your father.
You know I care for you very much.
Now that you are old enough to marry,
I hope that you will consider me.
I never thought anyone would marry me.
I've always loved you,
and I admire your strength and kindness.
You are a fine man, Haemon.
If your father Creon approves,
I will agree to be your wife.
You make me very happy, Antigone.
When can the wedding take place?
Not till this coming war is stopped or ended.
I wish I were as happy as you, but I'm not;
I feel a great foreboding about my brothers.
I've asked Eteocles to grant a truce
so that he and Polyneices can talk.
If anyone can persuade them to make peace,
it's you, their sister, Antigone.
I pray you're right.
INT. THEBAN PALACE - DAY
Eteocles sits on the throne, and Antigone and Ismene sit to his left. Polyneices comes in while the guards look tense and alert, and a few Theban elders look on with interest from the benches.
Come in, brother Polyneices;
you'll be safe here today
while the truce protects you.
I've broken off ambushing your chariots
to listen to you in this arbitration
arranged by our sister, Antigone.
Please be calm, my dear brothers.
Swiftness rarely brings justice.
In careful speech is found the greatest wisdom.
Do not glare at each other
and let your feelings seethe.
This is no monster you see, Eteocles,
but your brother who has come to you.
And you, Polyneices, look upon your brother
that you may speak better and hear better.
I want to give you both some good advice.
When friends fall out and disagree,
let them look into each other's eyes
and forget the old wrongs that divide them.
Polyneices, why don't you speak first?
For you have come with an Argive army
as one who claims he's been wronged.
Now may the gods judge your case
and reconcile your grievances.
The word of truth is simple by nature,
and a just cause needs no interpreting.
But an unjust argument is sick
and needs convoluted medicine.
Everyone knows Creon gave the throne to me
to rule here in Thebes for one year,
and then I willingly passed it over to you,
my brother, to rule next for your year
so that then I would take my turn again,
and we would not fall into hate and envy.
But you have broken the agreement
and still hold the tyranny of this house.
Now I'm ready if I get what is mine
to send away the army from this land
and take my proper turn ruling this house a year
before yielding it back to you for equal time.
I have no desire to plunder this land
nor to besiege her towers by force of arms.
But if I do not get justice, this I must do.
The gods know that I have acted justly,
that I am unjustly robbed of my fatherland,
which is an offense to heaven.
I've reviewed the facts without elaboration,
and one does not need to be clever
to see that I have spoken correctly.
You have presented your case clearly, Polyneices.
Now what says my other brother, Eteocles?
If everyone saw the just and wise the same,
there would be no need for debate.
I'll speak without hiding anything, dear sister,
I'd go to the stars or under the earth for one thing:
to gain rulership, the greatest of the gods.
I will not choose to give up this good thing
to anyone when I can keep it myself.
I'd be a coward to let this go and settle for less.
I'd be ashamed to let someone come with arms
to sack my homeland to achieve his purpose.
That would be a real shame for Thebes
for me to yield the scepter I hold
out of fear of spearmen from Mycenae.
He should not come with an army to seek peace
when an argument could straighten this out.
He is free to live here on some other terms,
but what he asks I will not give.
Why should I be his slave when I could rule?
So harness the horses, fill the plain with chariots,
and bring on fire and the swords of war,
for know that I will never yield my rule.
I believe it's best to have power,
even if it's wrong.
It's not right to speak such evil, brother;
this is not good, but bitterness to justice.
My brother Eteocles, listen to me.
Even though I'm young, I may be wise.
Why do you pursue the goddess Ambition?
This goddess of injustice is the worst of all.
Often she comes to happy homes and cities,
but she destroys their owners before she leaves.
It's better, brother, to honor Equality,
who unites friends, cities, and allies together.
For equality brings stability to people,
or else the lesser hates the greater force,
and so begins the day of hostility.
Equality is a scale for weights and measures.
Night and day are equal and serve humanity
each yielding to and not resenting the other.
Yet will you not tolerate holding your house
in even shares with your brother?
Where is justice then?
Why do you honor so much tyrannical power
and think that unjust happiness is great?
It's nice to be looked up to, but it's empty.
You want much wealth in your halls,
but then you get the troubles that go with it.
What good is having so much?
Enough is enough for people of sense.
People do not really own their private goods;
we simply take care of what is the gods',
and when they will, they take them back again.
Wealth is not steady, but lasts merely a day.
Now let me ask you a double question,
whether you wish to rule or to save this city?
Will you choose to be a tyrant?
But if your brother wins this battle,
and the Argive spear beats the Theban lance,
then you will see Thebes subdued
and many maidens taken off as slaves
to be assaulted and ravished by our enemies.
The wealth which you want to have
would mean nothing but grief for Thebes.
You're too ambitious; that's your problem.
My sister speaks well,
and you both should listen to her.
Now let me turn to Polyneices.
In ignorance Adrastus has helped you
come in folly to sack your city.
If you take this land--heaven forbid--
what trophies will you set up to Zeus?
Would you start your rule
by sacrificing your conquered country?
How would your inscription read?
"Polyneices set up these shields
after he burned Thebes"?
Never let this be your fame in Greece.
If you lose and his side wins,
will you leave thousands of corpses here
and go back to Argos where they'll say,
"Adrastus, what a wedding for your daughter!
For one girl's marriage we've been destroyed."
You are pursuing two evils:
either to destroy Thebes or Argives.
Both of you, drop this excessive violence.
When double folly strikes, this is worst of all.
O gods, somehow avert these evils
and make these brothers agree!
Sisters, it's too late for talk,
and this truce has been a waste of time.
Your good purpose can accomplish nothing now.
For we cannot agree except as I have said
that I shall hold the scepter of power in Thebes.
End your long advice, Antigone, and let me be.
And you, Polyneices, get outside these walls,
or you shall surely die.
Who will slaughter me with a sword
without bringing a murder upon himself?
One near enough.
Do you see these hands of mine?
Oh, I see you all right.
Wealth's nothing but a coward who loves his life.
Then why do you come with so many
to battle with a nobody?
A prudent captain is better than a bad one in war.
You can boast, while a truce saves you from death.
So can you. Again I claim rule here
and my proper share of the land.
It's no use for you to ask.
My house shall be ruled by none but me.
Holding more than your fair share?
Yes. Now leave this land at once
which you have come to plunder.
O gods, I am driven from my country wrongly.
Don't call upon these gods, but Mycenae's.
You are impious.
Never have I been my country's enemy.
You drive me off without my portion.
I'll kill you yet.
O my city!
Go to Argos; that's your city.
I'm going. You have insulted me.
And you have insulted me back.
Where will you be before the towers?
Why should you ask that?
I shall stand against it to kill you.
I desire the same thing.
Oh, my brothers, what will you do?
Won't you flee your father's curses?
Soon my sword will be bloody.
By the land which bore me and her gods I swear
that dishonored and badly treated
I am thrust out of this land like a slave,
as if I were not son of Oedipus, as he is.
O my city, if you suffer, blame not me but him.
I attack against my will
after being thrust away unwillingly.
I don't know if I'll ever speak to you again,
but I hope if the gods are on my side
that I shall kill you
and be master of this Theban land.
Leave this place.
Your name means quarrel and suits you well.
Polyneices goes out. Eteocles speaks to a guard.
Go, and bring in Creon now.
I want to consult with him about the war.
I will not listen to these war preparations.
Come, Ismene, let us go pray.
Antigone and Ismene go out, and Creon comes in.
I've been round all seven Theban gates, King,
and the Argive heroes will attack at every gate.
May I face my brother then.
If our side wins and I die, Creon,
I order you to never let Polyneices
be buried in Theban soil.
Whoever tries to bury him must die for it.
Now I go to put on my armor and fight.
EXT. MAIN GATE OF THEBES - DAY
The gate is opened, and Eteocles goes out to meet Polyneices.
Your Argive heroes have been defeated
at every gate but this one;
but still your army fights.
Why should more die over our personal quarrel?
Let you and I fight for the throne of Thebes.
If you win, I'll leave this land and let you rule.
If I kill you, I'll rule this house alone.
Brother, I commend your resolve
and agree to abide by your offer.
Let no one else be killed but you or I.
Eteocles and Polyneices each armed with a spear and a sword fight with each other. Eventually they kill each other at almost the same moment.
EXT. GARDEN IN THEBES - DAY
Ismene is sitting on a bench, and Antigone walks up to her.
Dear Ismene, what more can we suffer?
Have you heard the latest edict proclaimed?
I've heard nothing, Antigone,
since we lost our brothers by a double blow,
and the Argive army went away.
What is it that bothers you so?
Creon will give one of our brothers
an honorable tomb, but the other none at all.
Eteocles has been buried with full honors,
but Polyneices' body lies unburied,
and none may bury him nor mourn.
His corpse will be a feast for the vultures.
Creon gives such orders to you and me.
Anyone who dares attempt a funeral
will be stoned by the people of Thebes.
So that's what it is,
and soon you'll show if you are noble.
But sister, what can I do?
Think about sharing my work in this action.
Would you risk it?
What do you intend to do?
Will you pick up the corpse with me?
Do you mean to bury him against the law?
He's my brother and yours,
though you may wish he weren't.
I won't be disloyal to him.
This is hard, when Creon commanded against it.
He has no right to keep me from my brother.
Remember how our father destroyed his eyes
and then our mother took her life.
Now both our brothers are dead in one day.
Look at the two of us here alone.
We'll die miserably too if we break the law
and try to cross the royal power.
Remember we are women and don't fight men.
Since we are subjects of their strong power,
we must listen to these orders.
I shall ask of their spirits forgiveness,
for I am forced to obey the men in power.
A wild and futile action makes no sense to me.
I won't urge you.
Now even if you wanted to,
I wouldn't accept you as a partner.
Do what you want,
but I shall bury that man.
If I die for it, that is best.
I shall rest with the one I loved,
when I've committed the crime of piety.
For longer will I be with the dead
than with the living.
After death is forever.
You choose to live,
but dishonor the holy laws of the gods.
I'll do no dishonor,
but I can't act against the city.
That's your excuse.
I go to pile earth on the brother I love.
Sister, I'm afraid for you.
Don't worry about me.
Put your own life in order.
At least tell me your plan.
Keep it hidden, and I'll do so too.
No, denounce me and proclaim it to the world.
I'd hate you more if you're silent.
Your heart is hot for actions that chill the blood.
I know I please those whom I should please.
If you can, but you will try in vain.
When my strength fails, then I'll quit.
A hopeless task should never be attempted.
If that's what you say, I hate you,
and the dead will hate you forever too.
Leave me to my own folly
to suffer the worst that can happen,
but I'll not have a shameful death.
Go, Antigone, if you must;
but remember, even though your act is foolish,
you are loved by your loved ones.
Ismene hugs Antigone, and then Antigone goes off.
EXT. OUTSIDE THE MAIN THEBAN GATE - DAY
Antigone is placing some flowers on the corpse of Polyneices. Then she pours some libations and sprinkles dirt from an urn on the bloody corpse.
INT. THEBAN PALACE - DAY
Creon speaks to the THEBAN ELDERS.
Elders of Thebes, our city has suffered a storm,
but the gods have steadied us in safety.
When Laius died, I helped my sister rule
until Oedipus came to save our city.
Seeing his fate he blinded himself,
and once again I ruled in Thebes
until his two sons came of age.
Now they've killed each other in bitter strife,
and once again the sovereignty falls on me.
No one's soul and mind can be truly known
until he is tested in the practice of government.
When someone controls the state
and does not work for the best of all,
but locks up his tongue in fear,
I consider such a man the worst.
So I have sworn not to be silent
if I saw ruin not safety coming toward us.
I cannot count our city's enemy a friend of mine,
for only when our country is secure
is friendship even possible.
Such laws guard the greatness of our city.
Thus have I proclaimed to all
concerning the two sons of Oedipus:
Eteocles, who fell in our defense,
has been entombed with every honor;
but Polyneices, who came from exile
to destroy our city and drink his family's blood,
trying to enslave us by force of arms,
no one shall mourn nor honor with burial,
his corpse left to be devoured by birds and dogs.
I'll never honor the wicked and reject the just.
Whoever loves this city
will be rewarded in life and death.
Creon, you've made your judgment,
and your command is law.
Sentries have been posted to guard the body.
A SENTRY comes in.
Here comes one of them now.
My king, I'm not eager to give this report,
but the lot fell to me, and I must bear it.
What's the matter?
First let me say I didn't do it,
nor did I see who did.
Do what? Tell us.
Someone has buried the body.
Just now they sprinkled dirt on it and left.
Who has dared to do this?
I don't know.
There's no sign of a shovel or pick or wheels.
No tracks of any animal were found.
The body had a light coat of dust
as though a pious hand had scattered it.
Our company discussed the matter,
and I drew the lot to make the report.
As he spoke, I wondered
if this could be the work of the gods.
Keep quiet, before you make me mad.
Why would the gods cover him
who came to burn our temples?
Do you think the gods honor the wicked?
Yet I've heard some citizens
muttering against this edict,
shaking their heads in secret instead of obeying.
They must have bribed the guards to bury him.
Nothing is worse than money to waste states;
it perverts honesty to works of shame.
But those who got paid for this will have to pay.
You, sentry, must find the man who did this
and bring him here to me, or you will die.
Do I offend your hearing or your mind?
The criminal hurts your mind; I hurt your ears.
I'm not guilty, but you've misjudged me.
You may be clever about judging,
but you'll be sorry if you don't find the criminal.
Finding would be the best thing,
but I'm glad just to have escaped.
The sentry goes out.
EXT. OUTSIDE THEBAN GATE - DAY
The sentries remove the dirt from the corpse while suffering from the smell. Then they take a position upwind away from it in order to watch. Antigone approaches with a pitcher and an urn. Once again she pours a libation and sprinkles dirt on the corpse. The sentries come forward.
Stop that; don't you know it's forbidden?
Decent burial is not forbidden by the gods.
So do you admit you are ritually burying him?
I will not deny what is right.
Then you must come along with us to Creon.
I gladly go to challenge the one
who forbids us to do what is holy.
INT. THEBAN PALACE - DAY
Creon is on his throne, and the elders are present, when the sentry brings in Antigone.
Look, it is Antigone.
The daughter of Oedipus is under arrest.
She did it. Where is the king?
We caught this girl burying the body.
Is this the girl you caught? Where was she?
She was burying the dead body; I saw her.
You, Antigone, stop looking at the ground
and tell me whether you did this or not.
Yes, I admit it; I don't deny it.
Creon speaks to the sentry.
You're free to go;
the charge against you is dropped.
I thank the gods.
The sentry goes out.
Now you answer this question briefly.
Did you know there was a law forbidding this?
Of course I knew; it was publicly proclaimed.
And yet you dared to disobey the law?
Yes, for this law was not proclaimed by Zeus
nor by any other of the gods.
I don't believe your edicts are able
to override the laws of heaven.
Unwritten laws belong to all time,
and no one knows when they began.
If I transgressed these laws
out of fear of the arrogance of men,
how could I satisfy the gods?
I know I'm mortal and will die
regardless of your proclamations.
If I must die before my time,
that may be a blessing.
To one who lives in sorrow as I do,
death can be a gain.
To me death is just a small pain.
But to leave my brother's body unburied
would be a bitter grief for me.
If you think my act is foolish,
it may be because a fool sees folly.
She is as stubborn as her father
and will not yield to trouble.
The rigid are the first to break.
An unruly horse can be curbed to obey.
How can you, a slave, be so proud?
She was brought up to be insolent,
and now that she's defied the law she boasts.
If her triumph goes unpunished,
she is the man here not me.
Even if she were more than my niece,
she would not escape a dreadful death.
Nor will her sister Ismene;
she must have had a hand in it.
Go bring her here; I just saw her raving.
A guard goes out.
Even traitors who plot in secret
eventually betray themselves.
but hateful are the criminals
who when caught glory in their crimes.
Now that you have caught me,
will you do more than kill me?
No, that will be satisfactory.
Then why delay?
Everything you've said I hate.
And you hate what I say.
How could I have won any greater honor
than by burying my brother?
Everyone here would give their approval
if fear did not seal their lips.
But as a king blessed with power
you can do and say whatever you wish.
None of these Thebans agrees with you.
Yes, they do, but they control their tongues.
Aren't you ashamed to act without their help?
I'm not ashamed to honor my brother.
But he killed another brother of yours.
Honor to one outrages the other.
Eteocles will not believe himself dishonored.
It was his brother, not a slave, who died.
But one who attacked the land he defended?
The gods' laws are equal for the dead.
Do the just like having the unjust as equals?
Who knows what is holy in the next world?
Even there an enemy is not a friend.
My nature is not to hate but to love.
Then go to the dead and love them.
While I live, no woman will rule me.
Ismene comes in while crying.
Look how Ismene comes weeping.
You viper hiding in my own house
sucking my blood in secret,
while I raised two subversives.
Do you confess your part in this burial?
If she will recognize my right to say it,
I will share in the action and the blame.
No, that would not be just.
You did not want to do it,
and I never let you.
In your trouble, Antigone,
I'm not ashamed to stand by you.
The dead know who did it.
I can't love a friend whose love is only words.
Don't reject me, sister.
Let me die with you and honor the dead.
No, you shall not die with me nor claim the deed.
My death will be enough.
When you are gone, what happiness can I find?
Ask Creon; he's the one you care about.
What do you gain by taunting me?
I don't; it hurts me to taunt you.
Tell me how I can help you?
Protect yourself; I don't envy you.
Then I won't share your fate.
That's because you chose life, and I chose death.
At least I warned you.
Some approve your way; others prefer mine.
Yet I am blamed and ruined too.
Have courage and live.
I died long ago
when I gave myself to help the dead.
One of these girls has just lost her senses;
the other has always been a fool.
We cannot always reason clearly
when suffering confuses and clouds our mind.
You choose confusion when you join her wrong.
How could I live without my sister?
Don't mention her; she is dead.
Then will you kill your son's chosen bride?
Yes. He can plow other furrows.
He'll never find such an enduring love.
I don't choose wicked wives for my sons.
Poor Haemon, whose father wrongs him!
Let me hear no more of that marriage!
Will you take your son's bride away from him?
Death will put a stop to that marriage.
Are you determined that she must die?
Yes, and you have concurred in my sentence.
Take them inside;
they are women now and have no liberty.
The bold may try to escape
when they see death approaching.
Antigone and Ismene go out under guard.
Blessed is the life that knows no evil,
for the gods can strike down an entire family.
Not much is left now for the house of Laius.
But here comes Haemon, your son.
Has his heart been made heavy
by the sentence passed on his bride Antigone?
Haemon comes in.
We'll soon know better than seers could tell us.
My son, Antigone has been condemned to death.
Do you come here in anger for her fate?
or do you love me and support my action?
Father, I am your son and follow your path.
A marriage is not more important
than being guided by your wisdom.
Yes, Haemon, this should be the law for you.
Always obey your father's will.
Do not be lured by pleasure
to unseat your reason for a woman.
No wound is worse than a wicked wife.
Turn from this girl as an enemy
and let her find a husband in the world below.
I've found her openly rebelling.
Therefore I will have her killed.
If I permit disloyalty in my own house,
disorder will soon break out elsewhere.
I must be as just with my family
as I am with the whole state.
I cannot pardon violation of my laws
by one who would dictate to the ruler.
For the ruler of the city must be obeyed
in everything great or small, right or wrong;
but disobedience is the worst evil,
for it is what ruins the state,
confuses the people, and breaks up allies.
Most find contentment and safety in obeying.
Thus we must support the law
and not let ourselves be beaten by a woman.
I am old, but I think you've spoken wisely.
Father, the gods gave us reason, best of all.
I'm not skilled in showing
where you've spoken wrongly.
Yet it's my duty to notice what people say,
for they're frightened of you and say little.
Murmurs in secret lament for her,
saying no woman ever less deserved
to die so shamefully
for actions so admirable.
For she would not let her brother's body
lie unburied to be eaten by dogs or birds.
Does not such a woman deserve a reward?
I've heard this rumor spreading quietly.
Father, I value your welfare above all.
Don't think your word alone must be correct.
Whoever believes that only he is right
may be found empty when he is tested.
The wise are not ashamed to learn
and take care not to be too rigid.
Let go of your resentment;
allow yourself to change.
Though I'm younger, my advice may be sound.
If your son has spoken well, pay attention.
And Haemon, benefit from his words.
You both have spoken reasonably.
At my age am I to be taught how to behave
by one as young as he?
I urge you not to do wrong.
Judge me by my actions not my age.
Have you done well to honor a rebel?
I don't respect those who do wrong.
You don't think she is sick with that disease?
The citizens deny it.
Does Thebes order me how to rule?
Now you speak like one who is immature.
Am I to rule by another's judgment?
No city belongs to one man.
Custom gives it to the ruler.
You'd rule a desert well.
He seems to be on the woman's side.
... if you are a woman. I care about you.
You're not ashamed to quarrel with your father?
I must when I see you acting unjustly.
Am I unjust to respect my position?
You trample on religious obligations.
It's infamous to yield to a woman!
But I don't yield to something shameful.
Everything you say is for her.
And for you and me and the gods.
You shall not marry her in this life.
If she dies, it will not be alone.
Has it come to this?
Do you threaten me?
It's no threat, but your decree is useless.
You'll regret trying to teach me wisdom.
If you weren't my father,
I'd call you mad.
Don't flatter me, you woman's slave.
You like to make speeches,
but you don't listen.
Oh? By the gods you'll pay for taunting me.
Creon turns to a guard.
Bring out that hated thing.
She shall die now
in front of him, her bridegroom.
No, you don't, not in front of me.
You will never see my face again.
Rage on to anyone who will listen.
Haemon goes out.
He's gone, propelled by his anger.
The young in agony can be fierce.
Let him go and do more than man can do.
These two girls are doomed.
Do you intend to execute them both?
No, you're right, not the innocent one.
But the other? How is she to die?
Antigone comes in under guard.
Take her and hide her in a cave
with just enough food to appease the gods
so the city will not be stained with guilt.
Hades, the only god she worships,
may hear her prayers and save her,
or else she'll learn at last too late
it's useless work to worship the dead.
There let her choose death or a buried life
exiled from light and life in her tomb.
Now I'm moved and can't control my tears
when I see the bride Antigone
at the door of death.
Thebans, you see me go on my last journey
to live in a place for corpses still an alien.
Unwed and without a friend I go where
I'll no longer see the holy light of the sun.
Losing a husband I might find another;
I could have other children;
but parents and brothers can never be replaced.
Whose help can I call upon
when for piety I'm called impious.
If my judge is wrong,
may his fate be no worse than mine.
Still she rages on.
The guards will regret it
if they don't get moving.
With that word I come close to death.
You can't hope to be freed now;
Your doom is decreed.
Now they snatch me away without pity.
You elders, look at the last of your royal house
and the one who dooms me to suffer
for having respected the laws of heaven.
Away with her!
Two guards take Antigone out.
Terrible is the power of fate
which no one can escape by wealth or war.
Blind TEIRESIAS comes in guided by a BOY.
Teiresias, what news brings you here?
I'll tell you, and pay attention to the prophet.
I've always listened to your counsel.
Thus you keep Thebes on a steady course.
I admit your advice has been helpful.
But now you stand on the brink of ruin.
I shudder at your words. What is it?
Bad omens from the gods are all around.
Your edict brings suffering on the city,
for every altar has been defiled
as birds and dogs have brought the carrion
from the corpse of fallen Polyneices.
So, my son, consider what has happened.
Everyone makes errors but once made
whoever gives up one's inflexible position
and corrects the wrong is not unwise.
Stubborn self-will brings on folly.
Give the fallen the honor he deserves.
Why do you kill the dead a second time?
You've confused this world and the next
by burying the living
while leaving the dead unburied.
I speak for your own good, and I'm right.
Learning from a wise counselor is not painful
when the advice he gives is valuable.
Old man, your arrows miss me.
I've used the trade of seers;
money is all they're after.
I tell you that man shall not be buried
even if eagles bore his carrion to Zeus.
Even that pollution would not convince me
to let his body be buried,
for no mortal can defile the gods.
When clever prophets plead a shameful case,
I know they're hoping to profit.
Do people understand or even consider--
What? Surely some platitude is coming.
How much more value prudence has than wealth.
... and how lack of it is the worst.
Yet you are sick with that same disease.
I refrain from taunting a seer.
But you did, when you said I lied.
All the seers are mercenaries.
And all the tyrants lust after wealth.
Do you realize you're talking to a king?
I know it, for I helped you save Thebes.
You're a wise seer, but you love evil deeds.
You'll goad me to reveal my secret.
Do so, but don't speak for profit.
There's no profit in my words for you.
How can you earn your pay?
I won't change.
Then know this:
before a few days pass
you will give as payment to the dead
your own dead flesh and blood.
For you put a living soul in a dark tomb,
imprisoning her without pity,
while a corpse belonging to the world below
you keep unpurified, unburied, unrevered.
You've offended the gods of the dead,
and now avengers are coming after you.
Do you still think I've been bribed?
Soon the wailing will be in your house.
Hatred of you shakes the city.
You called me a bowman; I send my shafts
and now you'll feel the wound.
Boy, take me home now,
and let him rage at younger men
and learn to calm his tongue
and keep a finer temper than now he does.
The boy leads Teiresias out.
Look, he goes. What terrible prophecies!
Since my hair first turned gray,
his words have been true for Thebes.
I know it too, and it bothers me.
It's hard to yield;
but to stand against him
and bring a curse upon my pride is bitter.
You must listen to him and take his advice.
What should I do? Tell me, and I'll obey.
Go free the girl from her cave
and make a tomb for the unburied dead.
Is that your advice? that I should yield?
Yes, as soon as possible.
The gods swiftly ruin the misguided.
It's hard to change,
but I let go of my resolve and obey.
I can't fight against it anymore.
Go yourself; don't leave it to anyone else.
I'll go at once. Guards, to your work.
Bring your axes and go quickly.
I imprisoned her, and I will set her free.
My heart feels misgivings;
it's better not to break established laws.
Creon and the guards go out quickly.
EXT. THE CAVE OUTSIDE THEBES - DAY
The large boulders blocking the opening of the cave have been moved enough for one person to pass through, as the guards and Creon approach.
Look, someone has already gotten in.
Oh, my love!
That is Haemon's voice I hear.
Let me go in first.
Bring a torch in after me.
Creon climbs through the narrow opening.
INT. CAVE - MOSTLY DARK
Haemon has discovered Antigone hanging by her veil and uses his sword to cut her down.
O gods, this should have been my wife!
If it hadn't been for my father--
Haemon then notices Creon in the cave coming toward him soon followed by a guard with a torch.
My son, my son, what have you done?
What have I done?!
It's what you've done.
What are you thinking of?
What has driven you out of your mind?
Son, come away now; I beg you.
Haemon glares at Creon in fury and then spits in his face. He looks down for his sword, but as he picks it up, Creon retreats. Haemon swings his sword at Creon but cannot reach him. As Creon gets near the entrance to the cave, the guard with the torch comes in between them. Haemon seeing the guard protecting Creon stabs himself in the stomach, then stumbles back to the body of Antigone; falling he embraces her body with his remaining strength until blood spills out of his mouth onto her cheek, as he dies. The guard with the torch and Creon slowly approach the two dead bodies.
Hades, who receives all in death,
you have destroyed me now.
This is my guilt;
it's clear I killed you both.
This screenplay has been published in the book 4 SCREENPLAYS. For ordering information, please click here.