Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Yo, Antigone

Nikiforos Lytras, Antigone in front of the dead Polyneices
(image from Wikipedia) 
Time for another pseudo-script. This time, we're reading Sophocles's Antigone, the story of a king and a young woman whose battle of values - duty to the state versus duty to the gods - leads to a bloody end.

Antigone: Have you heard what uncle Kreon just announced?

Ismene: Since our brothers Polyneikes and Eteokles killed themselves in battle? No. I’ve kind of been concentrating on that, you know, the bloodbath. But you seem pretty mad about something.

Antigone: Pretty mad? Yeah, you could say that. Uncle Kreon has allowed faithful Eteokles a proper burial but ordered that Polyneikes be abandoned to the vultures. Can you believe that? Anyone who offers Polyneikes a proper burial will get stoned!

Ismene: California stoned? Like, with Doritos?

Antigone: No, Theban stoned. Like, with pain.  

Ismene: Bummer.

Antigone: No, opportunity – to do the right thing!

Ismene: But it’s a man’s world, sister! We can’t defy whoever’s in charge. 

Antigone: But the gods are in charge, not men. And I will serve them, alone apparently. 

Ismene: Well at least tell me what you’re planning. Of course I’ll keep it a secret.

Antigone: Shout it from the rooftops for all I care!

Ismene: See? That’s what I’ve been saying all along. You’re such a drama queen. You don’t care about Polyneikes; you want to be the star of your own reality show.

Narrator: Antigone departs in a huff. A chorus of elders enters singing in celebration for the Theban victory over the invading Argives and commemorating the victory of Kreon, who has seized the throne and (once more) proclaimed himself king.

Kreon: The ship of our state has survived some vicious waves, but we remain afloat. And now, as your captain, I will steer our course to calm waters. But first let me remind you: to faithful Eteokles, we all shall offer our love and respect. But to his brother Polyneikes, who stood with the seven against Thebes, there shall be no rest. We leave his body to the dogs. And anyone who has a problem with that can die with him.

Narrator: A guard races in with bad news.

Guard: First, I didn’t do it.

Kreon: Do what?

Guard: And second, I have no idea who did do it.

Kreon: Do what?!?

Guard: Um, honor Polyneikes with funeral rites.

Kreon: Honor Polyneikes?

Guard: I know, right? And imagine how I feel, being the poor sap who has to tell you!

Chorus Leader: Say, King, before we blame the guards, might we not consider the possibility that the gods did this?

Kreon: Gods? Gods buried that traitor? Like the gods have nothing else to do but climb down from Mount Olympus and meddle with… OK, I see your point. But still, no, this wasn’t about gods; this was about money. As in, someone paid the sentries off and did this dirty deed. So you, Guard, tell your men: Someone had better come clean and deliver the scoundrel who disobeyed me, or else!

Guard: You… you seem sad, my lord.

Kreon: And you seem like a guy begging to get speared.

Guard: I see your point.

Narrator: The guard departs and the Theban elders sing about the plight of humankind who, for all of our talents has yet to conquer death, and who, despite all our laws and best intentions, is easily corrupted. Later the guard returns, bringing Antigone before the king.

Guard: I’m back, and I brought a friend! This is the woman you’re after; she’s the one we caught burying the rebel Polyneikes.

Kreon: Antigone, is this true?

Antigone: You’re damned right it is.

Kreon: OK, Guard, you’re forgiven. Now, Antigone, perhaps you didn’t know that I’d made some remarks on this topic – offered some, shall we say, helpful hints about how we should treat the traitorous Polyneikes.

Antigone: Oh, I heard about your law, Mr. Man, but I also heard about the laws of the gods. And those laws don’t allow us to leave corpses out to rot.

Kreon: Now that’s just insolence, pure and simple. Of course that’s your nature, I suppose. And for that, you’ve got to die. And your sister too. She probably helped.

Antigone: Oh, fearful king, oh dreadful king: Am I supposed to beg your forgiveness now? Not gonna happen! I’m not afraid to say the truth, yo. We all know you’re wrong. Right?

Narrator: Everyone stares in silence.

Antigone: Typical. Anyway. I’m not afraid to die for what I know to be right.

Kreon: That can be arranged!

Narrator: Ismene returns.

Ismene: I helped! I was happy to help bury Polyneikes. Heck, it was my idea from the beginning! So I’m happy to die with my sister.

Antigone: Hold on there, sister. You had nothing to do with this. Don’t try to take credit now for my bravery.

Kreon: Curse me sideways; of course it had to be two women.

Ismene: And might I add, Antigone is engaged to your son Haimon. Are you sure you want her to die?

Kreon: Oh, Haimon will be OK. There are always other fields to plow.

Everyone other than Kreon: Ewwwww.

Narrator: The Theban elders sing about the ways in which gods curse the children of those who commit evil, reminding their listeners that no evil deeds go unpunished. At this point Haimon arrives.

Kreon: Haimon, my son! I’m guessing you’ve heard that the wedding is, shall we say, off.

Haimon: You’re my dad, and I respect your wishes.

Kreon: That’s my boy! That’s what I’m talking about! Why can’t everyone in Thebes be like you? Sure, some folks try to get out of line, to break the rules. But you’ve got to hold firm:

“That’s how you handle them, son. Never give ‘em an inch, and maintain discipline at all times. Remember that word: discipline.”

Haimon: Yes, father. And naturally I agree with everything you say. Let me just add, though, that sometimes a king can be too strict; sometimes a leader, with the best of intentions of course, can err by ignoring the will of the people. And the people of our city, they don’t want Antigone to die. They honor her dedication. So – and again, while I totally agree with you – might you not just consider changing your mind?

Kreon: And why don’t you change your skirt! You’re acting just like a woman – or worse, the slave to a woman. Well, I won’t allow any woman or slave to dictate to me! You, guards, bring Antigone to me for summary execution. We’ll end this farce once and for all.

Haimon: I’m outta here.

Chorus Leader: King, is it possible, just possible that you’re taking this a bit too far?

Kreon: Nope, just about far enough. So here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna lock Antigone up in a cave. Let her virtue save her then. Or not, for all I care. Either way, we’ll leave her with some food, so that if she dies, it’s not my fault but rather the will of the gods.

Narrator: The Theban elders sing about the power of love, how it leads us sometimes to madness and hate. Then Kreon’s men bring Antigone to meet her fate.

Antigone: Can you believe this? I’m dressed for a wedding, only to be sent to my death. And all of you are happy to watch it happen.

Chorus Leader: Well, Antigone, you can take some pleasure knowing that you, unlike the rest of us you dismiss as sheep, go to your death willingly.

Antigone: Yeah, but my death will live on as a constant reminder to you all, reminding you to wake up, sheeple!

Chorus Leader: Just remember, this isn’t really about courage. Ultimately you’re paying the price for the sins of your parents.

Antigone: The whole Oedipus thing.

Chorus Leader: Yeah.

Antigone: And the whole brother-was-a-traitor-thing.

Chorus Leader: Yeah.

Antigone: And you know what’s crazy? I could avoid this whole mess! If my husband were dead, or my child, I could just get married or pop out another kid. But I can’t replace my brother with another one, like by going to a store and getting a spare. He’s the one brother I had; I had to honor him! And for that I must die. Where’s the justice in that?

Narrator: While Antigone is entombed, the Theban elders sing about other miserable folks who died in caves, noting how none could escape their fate. Then Tiresias, a blind prophet, enters the scene.

Tiresias: King, you’ve got to call this thing off. You can’t entomb Antigone. The gods won’t allow it! Already they are refusing our offerings. And it’s all because of your stubbornness!

Kreon: Oh, Tiresias, go peddle your prophecies somewhere else. I’m not buying.  

Tiresias: I’m not selling; I’m telling. Stay on this path and your children will pay the price.

Narrator: Tiresias departs.

Chorus Leader: Wow.

Kreon: Yeah, wow.

Chorus Leader: So you’re going to give in?

Kreon: Um, yeah. That guy really freaked me out.

Narrator: The Theban elders call for Dionysus to heal Thebes. Then a Messenger arrives and delivers bad news to Kreon’s wife, Eurydike.

Messenger: Yeah, so your son’s dead. See, King Kreon went to bury Polyneikes at last, after clearing away the dogs and vultures tearing at his corpse. Then they went to free Antigone from the cave where she’d been entombed. But too late. She’d hanged herself. And when Haimon saw what had happened, he tried to kill the king and then ended up stabbing himself, spurting his blood all over his bride. So now Antigone and Haimon are married, sort of. In Hades, yes, but married all the same. And dead.

Narrator: Eurydike departs without saying a word.

Chorus Leader: Well that was… unexpected.

Narrator: Kreon returns, bearing the corpse of his son.

Kreon: Well, I guess I’ve learned my lesson.

Messenger: Not quite.

Kreon: Um…

Messenger: Yeah, your wife just killed herself. But she did leave you a parting curse. So, there’s that.

Kreon: Wow. Those gods don’t mess around.

No comments: