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Episode 5
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Objective for this Page: To summarize and comment upon Episode 5, focusing on Creonís actions.

Summary

This section can be called a turning point of the play.  Tiresias is an old seer, who can see the future, and everybody in Thebes trusts him.  Creon is angry because of Antigone, his son, Haemon, and Ismene who had all gone against his will.  In the beginning of the section Creon was polite and respectful with Tiresias, but as soon as Tiresias reveals his own opinion that Creon is going against divine law, then Creon also got ugly with him and accused him and his whole breed of seers as being liars and profiteers. 

Tiresias couldnít stand this insult and prophesied that Creon would lose the rest of his family because of his stubbornness.  The Leader of the Chorus, who was standing with both Creon and Tiresias, reminds Creon about the experience and loyalty of Tiresias to Thebes, its people and the King.  Creon seems to be arguing with his inner self for a while.  At this point Creon appears to accept what Tiresias had said and gets ready to free Antigone and make arrangements for a proper burial for Polynices. 

Commentary

This section is a reversal in that Creon reverses himself.  It's very important in the play because it sets up THE reversal of fortune for Creon and Antigone and a recognition for Creon, who remains alive to make a recognition.  Despite hearing Antigone, Ismene, and Haemon argue for the divine law and love, Creon still wanted to punish Antigone for defying his decree. 

In the beginning of the section Creon praises Tiresias, but when he sees Tiresias was speaking against Creonís will, he reverses himself and sees a conspiracy where none is, accusing old Tiresias and all seers of working for money. Structurally, then, the scene parallels Haemon's episode with Creon in that it starts with pleasantries and ends in anger.  Tiresias has more authority than Haemon, though both end with a threat.  Haemon, perhaps, hints at his suicide (or attempted patricide, reminiscent of Oedipus), while the seer foretells Creon's downfall, the consequences of his morally blind (or corrupt) decree. Only the threat against his own family, coupled with further reasoning by the leader of the city's elders, is powerful enough to get Creon to  agree that he was wrong and ready himself to correct his mistakes  providing a proper burial process for Polynices and by freeing Antigone.

Study Questions

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If Tiresias can see the future, then why was he still unable to avoid tragedies in this family? 

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Knowing everything about Tiresiasís experience and loyalty to Thebes, why does Creon argue with Tiresias and insult him and all seers?

Assessment: Choose a study question and respond in a paragraph, citing evidence from the play to support your point(s).

Thanks to Mayur Patel and Jonathan Wills for contributing notes for this page.

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This instructional web was made in July, 2002, by Prof. Eric Hibbison, who is solely responsible for its content.