And discuss with me, go away from the forbidden place
And speak where it is lawful for
all to speak. Until then, abstain. (166-69)
The Chorus is kind of
like a walking, talking rules-and-regulations sign. But at the sacred grove
it’s not just “no dogs” and “no bonfires,” nobody is allowed to be there at all. So the fact that Oedipus is
ready to set up camp there makes the Chorus pretty nervous.
ANTIGONE. Father, we ought to do as the townsmen do,
Yielding to what we must and hearkening. (171-72)
Listen to Antigone,
Oedipus. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Or when in Athens, do as the
Athenians do and get the heck out of the sacred grove. There’s a reason that
the Chorus tiptoes around calling the Furies “the Friendlies;” they’re scared
out of their minds that if they make the Furies mad, they will be pulverized.
ISMENE. First they strove among themselves how to leave the
To Creon and not defile the city. (367-68)
Polyneices and Eteocles, would normally be in line to inherit their father’s
throne. The problem is that he committed a grave sin, impregnating his mother
and producing Polyneices and Eteocles. So since their very existence is against
the rules, their taking the throne might cause some big trouble for Thebes.
ISMENE. Should your tomb suffer misfortune, it will bring a
heavy burden for them.
[. . .]
For this reason they wish to place you near
Their land, but not so that you would hold sway over even
Rules and more rules
in ancient Greece, amirite? Ismene explains that Creon wants Oedipus to come
back home to die because he’s afraid that if Oedipus’ tomb is disturbed, it’ll
be on him for kicking him out in the first place. So to avoid any consequences
for breaking the rules, he wants to get Oedipus buried right where he can see
OEDIPUS. This is how it is for me: I was driven away from my
By my own seed. It is not possible for me
Ever to return again, since I am a patricide. (599-601)
that, even though his crime was unintentional, he did indeed kill his father
(that’s what a patricide is; someone who kills their father). Whether
intentional or not, it’s definitely
against the rules, so he must never go back home or he could cause the gods to
destroy his home.
OEDIPUS. Do you have my daughter?
CREON. Yes, and I will have this one here in no long time!
OEDIPUS. Oh strangers, what will you do? Will you betray me
And not drive out the impious one from this land? (821-24)
Oedipus calls Creon
“impious” which basically means that he doesn’t respect the gods. Creon has
kidnapped Ismene and is in the process of kidnapping Antigone, going against
the king of Athens…which is kind of like going against the gods. Law is all
tied up with religious rules in this society.
ANTIGONE. You begot him! Therefore, even should he commit
Against you the most impious acts of the most evil men, oh
It is not sanctioned by law for you to retaliate against him with evil. (1189-91)
Oedipus is really
ticked off at Polyneices because he kicked him out of Thebes after the last
family tragedy. He refuses to talk to him, but Antigone reminds him that that,
too, is against the rules. She’s a little bit of a party pooper in that sense,
but she’s got a point. No matter what happens, Oedipus is Polyneices’ dad and
they’ll never be able to change that fact.
OEDIPUS. Therefore, my curses overpower your suppliant seat
And throne—if indeed Justice, spoken of long ago,
Sit wish Zeus, along with the ancient laws. (1380-82)
Justice, Zeus, and
“the ancient laws” all sit together ruling over mortals’ lives, according to
Oedipus. This means that, even though the rules seem really unfair, he truly
believes that there is justice and power contained in them. It’s interesting to
see someone who has suffered so much because of the rules believe in them so
CHORUS. If it be sanctioned by law for me
[. . .]
I pray that the beast may go to the pure ground
So that the stranger may set out
For the plains of the dead below. (1556-77)
The Chorus prays that
Oedipus can stay in the sacred grove and finally find peace through death. But
for this theme we’re really interested in that first line, “If it be sanctioned
by law for me.” The Chorus isn’t exactly sure that it’s even allowed to pray
for what it’s praying for, so it inserts a caveat to make sure it’s covered.
You certainly don't want to risk upsetting the gods—they might just destroy
your whole city.
THESEUS. Oh children, to me that one forbade
That anyone of mortals should approach
Those places or speak
At the sacred grave which that one possesses. (1760-63)
Oedipus created a new
rule on his way out, which is fitting since his life was pretty much governed
by all sorts of rules. He decreed that no one should ever know where he was
buried, because by keeping it a secret it will be a sacred, power-giving place.
That seems to satisfy Antigone, who is also into following rules as we’ll see
in her play.