Antigone, by Sophocles – Quick Book Summary



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“There is no happiness where there is no wisdom; No wisdom but in submission to the gods.”

– Sophocles, Antigone


Dive into the heart of Sophocles’ tragic masterpiece, Antigone, with this concise summary. Exploring key themes, characters, and poignant moments, we’ll dissect this timeless piece and its enduring relevance, blending ancient Greek drama with contemporary considerations. Strap in for a journey back to Thebes and a close encounter with stubborn kings, defiant heroines, and divine dilemmas.

Book Information

Title: Antigone
Author: Sophocles
Genre: Tragedy
Publication Year: 441 BC

Brief Overview

Antigone, a tragedy by Sophocles, unfolds the conflict between divine law and human law, through the defiance of King Creon’s edict by his niece Antigone.


Author’s Background

Sophocles (497/6 BC-406/5 BC), a Greek tragedian, authored 123 plays, best known for his Theban plays: “Antigone,” “Oedipus Rex,” and “Oedipus at Colonus.”

Publication Context

Antigone was probably first performed in 441 BC at the Dionysia festival in Athens. It is the third of the Theban plays chronologically but was the first written by Sophocles.

Character Summary

Main Characters

  • Antigone – The protagonist, who defies King Creon’s law to honor her brother with a proper burial.
  • Creon – The King of Thebes, whose edict forbidding the burial of Polynices triggers the tragedy.
  • Ismene – Antigone’s sister, who refuses to help bury Polynices but later wants to share Antigone’s punishment.

Character Development

Antigone starts as a determined figure, showing unwavering faith in divine law, and remains so till her tragic end. Creon, initially stern and stubborn, undergoes a transformation realizing his hubris and mistakes.

Plot Summary


Antigone defies Creon’s law to bury her brother Polynices. Caught, she is sentenced to death, resulting in a series of tragic events including her own death, and those of Creon’s son Haemon and wife Eurydice.


The story takes place in the city-state of Thebes, ancient Greece.

Themes and Motifs

Key Themes

  • Conflict between divine law and human law
  • Pride and its destructive consequences
  • Duty towards family vs. duty towards the state

Motifs and Symbols

Death, represented by the unburied Polynices and Antigone’s live burial, is a recurring symbol pointing towards the tragedy that is imminent.

Takeaway Morals


Antigone’s tragic end emphasizes the perils of pride, stubbornness, and disrespect for divine laws.


The themes hold relevance in contemporary debates around individual rights, civil disobedience, and governmental authority.


Literary Devices

Sophocles effectively uses dramatic irony and foreshadowing to amplify the tragic effect.

Style and Tone

The tone is predominantly solemn and the style is grandiose, typical of ancient Greek tragedies.

Critical Reception

Initial Reception

Although the exact initial reception isn’t recorded, Sophocles’ work was highly esteemed in his time.

Current Standing

Today, Antigone is considered a seminal work in literature, studied for its complex characters, moral conflicts, and dramatic techniques.

Personal Response

Personal Opinion

Boy, did Sophocles know how to spin a yarn! The characters felt so real I half-expected Antigone to slide into my DMs to vent about her uncle. Yes, it’s tragic, but hey, Greek drama wasn’t known for happy endings.


If you enjoy tragedies that make you question societal norms, and you don’t mind shedding a few tears, Antigone’s your gal!

About the Author


Sophocles (c. 497/6-406/5 BC) was a respected figure in Athenian society besides being one of the greatest playwrights in ancient Greece.

Literary Career

Among his notable works are the Theban plays and Ajax. He significantly contributed to the development of drama, adding a third actor to the theatrical performance.

Book Details

Publication Details

Originally published: 441 BC; Publisher: Ancient Athens (presumed); Edition: First

Structural Details

Antigone, like most Greek dramas, doesn’t have a conventional structure of chapters. It’s written as a continuous play with different scenes.



This summary discussed the timeless themes, complex characters, and the dramatic plot of Antigone. We explored how Sophocles’ work resonates with contemporary dilemmas and remains a beloved tragedy.

Final Thoughts

Antigone is a masterclass in Greek tragedy, its poignant exploration of duty, pride, and divine law making it a must-read for lovers of classical literature.

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