The play opens in semi-darkness (the sun has not yet risen). Last night the sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polyneices killed each other - one defending, one leading the attack on the city of Thebes. Their sisters Antigone and Ismene are discovered oustside the palace, where Antigone tells Ismene the news that only Eteocles is to be buried properly. Polyneices is to be left out on the battlefield as food for the crows and dogs. Their uncle Creon (new ruler since the death of Eteocles) has decreed that anyone caught burying him will be put to death. Antigone says she will bury him anyway - Ismene refuses to help her sister, because she feels that it's not fitting for a girl to defy authority.

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