Antigone in Galway

Tmp510179235499868160Anne Enright at the London Review of Books:

It is tempting to see Antigone as a play not just about the mourning female voice, or about kinship and the law, but about the political use of the body after death. Creon, the ruler of Thebes, dishonours the body of his nephew to serve as a warning to other potential enemies of the state. One brother, Eteocles, has been buried ‘in accordance with justice and law’, the other, Polynices, ‘is to lie unwept and unburied’ – this according to their sister Antigone, who has already decided at the play’s opening to ignore Creon’s edict and bury the corpse. And so she does. When asked to deny the crime, she says, in Anne Carson’s 2012 translation of Sophocles: ‘I did the deed I do not deny it.’ She does not seek to justify her actions within the terms of Creon’s law: she negates the law by handing it back to him, intact – ‘If you call that law.’

Antigone later says she is being punished for ‘an act of perfect piety’, but that act is also perfectly wordless in the play. The speeches she makes to her sister Ismene and to Creon are before and after the fact. She is a woman who breaks an unjust law. We can ask if she does this from inside or outside the legal or linguistic system of the play, or of the state, but it is good to bear in mind that Antigone does not bury her brother with words, but with dust.

more here.