What Is the Irony in "Antigone"?

Sophocles employs irony throughout "Antigone," a tragedy that deals with the repercussions of a war between Oedipus' sons Polyneices and Eteocles. Cosmic irony is prevalent throughout the play, but Sophocles also deploys verbal and dramatic irony in a way that unearths the manner in which the characters' ignorance and pride lead to their downfall.

An Ironic Fate

The sage Teiresias warns Creon that leaving the body of his nephew Polyneices unburied or punishing Antigone for burying him will anger the gods. Creon remains adamant in his decision, and fails to change his mind in time to save the life of his niece, son or wife. This is a type of cosmic irony, in which the gods and fates punish Creon for going against their wishes.

Snide Remarks

Antigone makes her disapproval of her uncle Creon apparent early in the play; he refuses to give her brother Polyneices a proper burial. So when she calls him "good Creon" while discussing the situation with her sister Ismene, she is deploying verbal irony, or speaking in direct opposition to her true feelings.

The Known, Unknown

Antigone gives voice to her plans to bury Polyneices early in the play, so the audience would be aware that she is the culprit. Thus, Sophocles makes us of dramatic irony when Creon announces grave plans for the person who buried Polyneices. The audience is aware of Antigone's role in the burial, but Creon is not.