Antigone – Monologue (Guard)

A monologue from the play by Sophocles

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904.


My liege, I will not say that I come breathless from speed, or that I have plied a nimble foot; for often did my thoughts make me pause,

and wheel round in my path, to return. My mind was holding large discourse with me: “Fool, why goest thou to certain doom?”

“Wretch, tarrying again? And if Creon hears this from another, must not thou smart for it?” So debating,

I went on my way with lagging steps, and thus a short road was made long. At last, however, it carried the day that I should come hither–to thee;

and, though my tale be naught, yet will I tell it; for I come with a good grip on one hope–that I can suffer nothing but is my fate. 

The corpse–some one hath just given it burial, and gone away–after sprinkling thirsty dust on the flesh with such other rites as piety enjoins.

I know not what living man hath dared this deed; no stroke of pickaxe was seen there, no earth thrown up by mattock;

the ground was hard and dry, unbroken, without track of wheels; the doer was one who had left no trace.

And when the first day-watchman showed it to us, sore wonder fell on all. The dead man was veiled from us;

not shut within a tomb, but lightly strewn with dust, as by the hand of one who shunned a curse.

And no sign met the eye as though any beast of prey or any dog had come nigh to him, or torn him. 

Then evil words flew fast and loud among us, guard accusing guard; and it would e’en have come to blows at last,

nor was there any to hinder. Every man was the culprit, and no one was convicted, but all disclaimed knowledge of the deed. 

And we were ready to take red-hot iron in our hands–to walk through fire–to make oath by the gods that we had not done the deed–that we were not privy to the planning or the doing. 

At last, when all our searching was fruitless, one spake, who made us all bend our faces on the earth in fear;

for we saw not how we could gainsay him, or escape mischance if we obeyed. His counsel was that this deed must be reported to thee, and not hidden. 

And this seemed best; and the lot doomed my hapless self to win this prize.

So here I stand–as unwelcome as unwilling, well I wot; for no man delights in the bearer of bad news.

Read the play here

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