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This episode centers on the clash between Creon, the lawmaker and king, and Antigone, his niece, the arch rebel and lawbreaker. Creon and Antigone face each other, and he asks her again why she tried to bury her brother. Antigone argues that she owed it to him, as she had promised him a proper burial. Creon declares that Polynices was a rebel and a traitor. He then tells her that it is her sacred obligation to obey the law because she is a king's daughter. Antigone declares she would break the law even if she were a scullery maid. Creon asks her if she hopes to be spared the death penalty because she belongs to the royal family. Antigone, however, is not concerned with dying, only with burying her brother. Creon recognizes the pride of Oedipus in Antigone. In a long, eloquent speech, Creon launches into the history of their family. He explains how they seemed to have a passion for torment and suffering, rather than for happiness. He speaks of the cruel destiny of Oedipus, who put out his eyes and took Antigone to serve as his guide on the road.
Creon is proud to be a king without an ugly past. He justifies his right to enforce law and order. He is not romantic and looks on his kingship as a tradesman would his work. He speaks mockingly of Oedipus' terrible past, marrying his own mother without knowing it. He then warns that "kings have other things to do rather than to surrender themselves to their private feelings."
Creon tells Antigone that she must forget everything and go forward with her plans to marry Haemon. He orders her to her room. Antigone says that she knows where she is going. Creon asks her to stop playing games, but it is not a game to Antigone. She is determined to cover her brother's uncovered body with mud. Creon wants to know what good it would do. He asks Antigone if she believes in religious burials and speaks scornfully of the rituals. He hates the hypocrisy of religion as practiced by the bureaucrats. Antigone is calm and unmoved. Creon insists that he has denied burial to Polynices to fulfill the duty of a king. Antigone tells her uncle to carry forward with his duty.
Creon is upset with Antigone and wishes to know if she is doing this in order to turn the people against him. He feels she is a trapped animal, and he wishes he could save her. He calls her, "Prideful Antigone! Little Oedipus!" In anger, he threatens to torture her if she does not submit to his wishes. In spite of the pain she knows she will feel, she is not afraid.
Creon claims that Antigone has cast him as the villain of this 'little play'. He twists her arm in frustration. Antigone calls him 'a loathsome man'. Creon tells her that he did not aspire to be the king; it was thrust on him, and he is doing his best. Antigone has no sympathy for him. She tells him to call the guards, since there is a deadlock in their argument; neither is willing to change or compromise. Creon is deeply disturbed and says, "I shall have to have you killed. And I don't want to". He is afraid of his own decision and begs her to have pity on him by changing her mind. The rebellious and determined Antigone is not about to budge. She pities Creon for his weak spirit, for she is emotionally and morally strong.
Finally, Creon says that both her brothers were wild, rotten boys. Furthermore, Creon confides that the bodies of the two brothers were so mangled that he could not recognize them. He calls them "two carcasses". Antigone is shocked by this revelation, and Creon again tries to change her mind. He again urges her to give up and seek happiness in love and life. He advises her to marry Haemon, for "life is a treasure". Although Antigone is now more subdued and somewhat sad, she continues to fight back. Creon is sick at heart over not being able to change the mind of the stubborn Antigone.
Ismene enters and says she will die with Antigone. Antigone tells her sister that she does not deserve to die; "you chose life and I chose death". The scene ends with Creon calling the guards to take Antigone away.