The Burial at Thebes is a famous translation written by Seamus Heaney, the Nobel prize winning writer. In this book the author offers his translation of Sophocles’ Antigone where he indicates the centenary of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and adds his own beliefs and thoughts to revive this ancient fairytale of love and self-esteem.
The fact that it corresponds to the reality is beyond any possible doubts. The author drew the line between an individual and the greater societal good. What is more, it is not just about certain suggestions of the author but also obvious facts and evidence provided by him.
The appealing name, The Burial at Thebes, discovers the main theme of the work which is Death; it is presented everywhere in this play. We cannot but state it to have a reasonable background. The point is that while analyzing the discussion play, it is impossible to omit the fact that is mainly based on the principles of relation to the Death. Among Antigone’s immediate family members only her younger sister Ismene is alive.
It is quite weird; nevertheless, we need to understand that all the details matter a lot when researching any kind of work. As for the mother, she killed herself when she found that she’d married her son, and they have children. Such a noticeable detail is also of great importance due to leading the plot to a certain way out. The main idea of the play is formed on the basics of little details which direct the main stream of the events. The father, Oedipus, also died, but before the death, he predicted that his two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, would kill each other. The point is that during the main occasions happening to the heroes of the play we cannot forget about the need of combining all together in order to clarify the reason of why it all appeared to be brought to life.
Concerning the theme of two brothers, it is necessary to take into account the fact that they argued with each other on the matter of throne of Thebes, and as the result they killed one another. We can vividly see how the rivalry and willingness to conquer the power cause a real tragedy among such close people.
Because of tremendous craving for the right to rule, two brothers emerged to be the murderers of each other. Regarding the statement mentioned above, we have to be aware because greedy temper has quite destructive consequences. The death and tragedy could end that time, but King Creon decided to bury Eteocles with honor; yet, Polyneices was buried with no signs of honor. Speaking about such a specific fact, it becomes clear that the King had not the same attitude towards both of his sons. The thing is that the honor demonstrated towards Eteocles and disrespect towards Polyneices made him the one manifesting his personal identity as the King.
Having discovered that one brother will be desecrated, Ismene said, “And now this last thing happens. / The doom in our blood comes back…" Blaming fate, the blood, she says "It's not a woman's place" to defy King Creon, and that, "I'll be ruled by Creon's word. / Anything else is madness” (Heaney). As the answer, Antigone replied: “I will bury him myself. / And if death comes, so be it. / There'll be glory in it. / … The gods will be proud of me". Ismene says, "The land of the living, sister, / Is neither here nor there. / We enter it and we leave it” (Heany). Concerning these citations, we need to keep in mind deep sense of each word while attempting to finally understand the idea of death. The quotations help us clarify the reason of why certain things happened.
As the result, the King decided to send Antigone to a cave, where she would die of starvation. What is more, her lover, Heamon, the son of King Creon, tried to justify her, but everything he did was in vain. His attempts were pointless and did not change anything seriously. The King understood his mistake when Antigone was found hanged in the cave. Heamon stabbed himself when he found her body. The author expressed his thoughts:
"Love leads the good astray,
Plays havoc in heart and home;
You, love, here and now
In this tormented house
Are letting madness loose."(Heaney)
In the end, King Creon blamed himself and wished only death. It was obvious, due to certain occasions, what influenced his thinking and viewpoints in general. That is clear from his words, “Take me, hide me, blindfold me for these / And keep your distance. Everything I've touched / I have destroyed. I've nobody to turn to…” (Heaney). According to this statement, we can obviously scan the problem of the King that forces him to wait for the end. There is no hope for the better, and only sorrow is hidden behind his words.
The idea of living which is discovered in The Burial at Thebes gives usclear understanding thatlife in Ancient Greece was unequal and wrong. There was no equality between different categories of people. They were divided into different social groups, from prisoners to royal families. These groups did not have almost anything in common, and, that is why the problem of so-called separated stages of social classes existed. Moreover, they all needed to live their life according to their social status. Low class group of people did not have the right to get treatment and good attitude compared to the upper class people. They reused all things after upper class people. It may be concluded that even at that time the problem of social belonging was rather a serious question to solve. It had quite deep roots, and appeared to be impossible to fight somehow against it.
The main topic in Sophocles’ Antigone is the tragic expression of human conflict. It is the obvious fact, and we have to agree with it due to many details of works providing the evidence. The Burial at Thebes displays the contemporary conflicts. In Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes, the main hero defies the law of the state commenting what she sees as the higher law. The Antigone’s actions were moral in nature; the thing is that she did everything how she felt it should be done.
There was nothing trivial in her decisions and deeds. What is more, all the decisions were mainly based on her intuitive thinking. When moral law stays opposite to what we consider to be moral laws, we always need to stand up for the values and thoughts we believe in order to be truthful with ourselves. Sophocles built his play on the contrast between the ideas of duty and obedience. The main idea is that people should be the law obedient. The Antigone’s methods of keeping the truth are considered as unethical in terms of moral law. The conclusion concerning the main idea of the play is considered to be reliable because of various proofs we can find within the work.
We can also claim that Antigone has made right and respectable decision to observe the higher law. It is a characteristic of the background of Greek tragedy. The author made the emphasis on the religious beliefs, the same as on the Greek culture as a whole.
The King Creon is the main person in Thebes, who creates laws, but he himself should answer to the authority of gods. To the Creon’s decision to burry two brothers in different way, Antigone replied that, “religion dictates the burial of the dead” (Heaney). Her actions were not selfish or evil, she just struggled for justice. She did not want to abuse or to irritate the King. Antigone had the right to bury her brother even if it would cost her life. She felt that the law of the land was unfair and she could not let the soul of her brother suffer.
Furthermore, her actions were ethical. Antigone’s moral values were more important for her personally than her life. She was ready to die in order to prove her rightness. Antigone was strongly convinced that her deed would be rewarded after the death. It was all about her insisting on her decision. Moreover, she thought that her reward would last much longer than her earthly life. The only person who shared her idea was Ismene.
An important element of this play, especially in our age of excessive feminism, is strong chauvinism showed by Creon. He finally understood the rightness of Antigone, and, as the result, he suffered a lot. During the whole play the Chorus asked the questions and also helped to develop the plot and the ideas of the play. It is obvious that Antigone made the right decision because she got support of the gods. The fundamental idea lies in the importance to stay religious. The central conflict of the play makes it more comprehensible to the audience.