Allusions in Antigone
The Background for Act IV & Ode IV
Tantalos and Niobe
“How often I have heard the story of
Niobe, Tantalos’ wretched daughter,
how the stone clung fast about her,
ivy-close: and they say the rain falls
endlessly and sifting soft snow; her
tears never done. I feel the loneliness
of her death in mine.”
--Antigone, Scene IV, p. 225
Tantalos and Niobe
• Tantalos was a son of Zeus
• He was a favorite of the gods
• Tantalos did the unthinkable:
–He killed his son Pelops
–He chopped up Pelops and cooked
–He served Pelops to the gods
• The gods were not amused.
Tantalos and Niobe
• Tantalos was punished: forced to
stand in a pool in Hades
–Unable to lower his face to the
water to drink
–Unable to reach the copious fruit
over his head
• His punishment is the source of
the word tantalize
Tantalos and Niobe
• Niobe was Tantalos’ daughter
• She was married to a king of Thebes
and became very wealthy
• She was also the mother of seven
beautiful daughters and seven
handsome sons
• She demanded to be worshipped by
the people of Thebes
Tantalos and Niobe
• The people of Thebes worshipped
Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis
• Leto was not pleased with Niobe’s
pride, and so she sent her children to
kill all of Niobe’s children
Tantalos and Niobe
• Niobe was so anguished that she sat
very still, like a stone, with tears
• She eventually turned into a stone,
motionless, but still wet with tears
“O tomb, vaulted bride-bed in eternal
rock, soon I shall be with my own
again where Persephone welcomes
the thin ghosts underground.”
--Antigone, Scene IV, page 227
• Persephone was the daughter of
Ceres, goddess of grain
• Hades, god of the Underworld, had
kidnapped Persephone to marry her
• Ceres spent months searching for her
daughter instead of making grain
• Ceres heard that Persephone was in
the Underworld and asked for her
daughter to be returned
• Zeus agreed to order Persephone’s
return as long as Persephone did not
eat the food of the Underworld
• Persephone, in hunger, had eaten a
few pomegranate seeds
• A compromise was reached:
–For each seed she ate (some say
six, some say four) Persephone
would stay one month with Hades
out of the year
–Ceres, during those months,
mourns her daughter’s time away
and refuses to help grain grow
“All Danae’s beauty was locked away in
a brazen cell where sunlight could not
come: A small room, still as any
grave, enclosed her. Yet she was a
princess too, and Zeus in a rain of
gold poured love upon her.”
--Chorus, Ode IV, p.228-229
• Danae was the beautiful daughter of
Acrisius, king of Argos
• Acrisius was told the Oracle of Delphi
that he would have no sons, but
Danae would have a son who would
kill him
• Acrisius would not kill his daughter for
love and fear of the gods
• He built a house of bronze for Danae
and sunk it into the ground with a tiny
window for some light and air
• Zeus visited Danae in the form of a
golden rain
• Danae secretly gave birth to a son,
• Acrisius placed Danae and Perseus
in a box and dropped it in the sea
• The two were rescued.
• Perseus later became the killer of
Dryas’ Son and Dionysos
“And Dryas’ son also, that furious king,
bore the god’s prisoning anger for his
pride: Sealed up by Dionysos in deaf
stone, his madness died among the
echoes. So at last he learned what
dreadful power his tongue had
mocked: for he had profaned revels,
and fired the wrath of the nine
Implacable sisters that love the sound
of the flute.” –Chorus, Ode IV, p. 229
Dryas’ Son and Dionysos
What can we infer from this excerpt?
Who is Dionysos?
What was Dryas’ son guilty of?
How does this relate to Antigone?