Change of Narration: Example
Excerpts from "Antigone" by Sophocles
[Background of the play: The city-state of Thebes faces a simultaneous onslaught at all seven of its gates by a coalition of seven armies, one of which is led by Polynices, the brother of Eteocles, the king of Thebes. As it happens, after dispatching six generals with defence forces to six gates, Eteocles is forced to take the remaining part of the army and confront the enemy at the seventh gate at which the leader of the invading army happened to be Polynices! The complete attack is thwarted, but at heavy cost. Among other losses, both Eteocles and Polynices fall at the gate to the swords of each other.
They are survived by two sisters, Antigone and Ismene, and a maternal uncle, Creon, who now assumes the crown and unleashes a despotic rule. Among other decrees, he orders the burial of Eteocles with full state honours, proclaims Polynices guilty of treason and, as such, banished from Theban citizenship and orders his corpse to be left in the open with those of other foreign invaders, announcing death penalty for violation of this order. At this backdrop, the play "Antigone" starts.]
[Background of this conversation: Antigone does admit Polynices to be guilty of treason, but considers rights of citizenship inviolate under all circumstances and cannot stand his dead brother not to be given a burial. After a brief discussion on this issue with her sister, she goes alone and buries the corpse of Polynices. She is, however, spotted in the act, arrested and brought before the king, Creon.]
Creon. You, you bending your head to the ground, do you confess or do you deny having done this?
Creon asked Antigone, who was bending her head to the ground, whether she confessed or denied having done that.
[Note 'asked', 'was bending', 'this' changing to 'that', no 'question mark'.]
Antigone. I both confess I did it, and I do not deny that I did not.
Antigone confessed and haughtily declared her firm intention not to deny it.
[Part of this one is open to the choice of the interpreter.]
Creon. (To the messenger) You may take yourself off where you please, free from the heavy charge. (To Antigone) But do you tell me not at length, but briefly, did you know the proclamation forbidding this?
Creon released the messenger from the heavy charge to go wherever he pleased. Next, he commanded Antigone to pronounce whether she had known the proclamation forbidding that.
[Note the pun and sarcasm in 'heavy charge'.]
Antigone. I knew it. And why should I not(?) for it was plain.
Antigone admitted that she knew it and wondered why should she not, for it had been plain.
[Note 'admitted', 'wondered', 'had been'.]
Creon. And have you dared then to transgress these laws?
Creon asked if she then (i.e. knowingly) had dared to transgress those laws.
[Note 'had dared', 'those'.]
Antigone. For it was not Jove who heralded these commands, nor Justice, that dwells with the gods below the earth, who established these laws among men; nor did I think your proclamations had so much power so as being a mortal to transgress the unwritten and immovable laws of the gods.
Antigone explained that it was not Jove (Jupiter, the supreme god) who had heralded those commands, nor Justice, that dwells with the gods below the earth, who had established these laws among men; nor did she think that his proclamations had so much power so as to enable a mortal to transgress the unwritten and immovable laws of the gods.
[Note 'had not been', 'had heralded', but 'dwells'.]
... ... For I knew I must die (and why not?), even though you had not proclaimed it, and if I die before my day I account it gain; for whosoever lives like me in many sorrows, how does not he by death obtain advantage?
... ... [She told him that,] for she had known that she must die (and why not?), even though he had not proclaimed it, and if she died before her day she accounted it as a gain; for whosoever lives like her in many sorrows, how does he not by death obtain an advantage?
[Note: 'must' remains 'must', 'lives' and 'does' also remain unchanged.]
Thus to me, at least, to meet with this fate, the sorrow is nothing; but if I had suffered him who was born of my mother to lie in death an unburied corpse, in that case I would have sorrowed : in this I sorrow not.
Thus to her, at least, she remarked, to meet with this fate, the sorrow was nothing; but if she had suffered him who had been born of her mother to lie in death an unburied corpse, in that case she would have sorrowed: in this she sorrowed not.
[Note: 'would have' has no further option to go back in time, and the last 'this' also remains unchanged!]
But if I seem to you now to happen to do what is foolish, I merely incur the imputation of folly from a fool.
She commented that, if she still seemed to Creon to happen to do what was foolish, she merely incurred the imputation of folly from a fool.
Chorus. The spirit of the daughter shows itself stern from a stern father, and she knows not to yield to misfortune.
The chorus remarked that the spirit of the daughter showed itself stern from a stern father, and she knew not to yield to misfortune.
[Note: Greek drama typically used to have a motley group of 'people', called the chorus, often on the stage itself for sundry purposes like singing contextual songs in interludes, putting forward bits of quick information which would otherwise require long twists in the plot and, often most important for political themes, to keep the spectators informed of the prevalent 'public opinion'!]
[Note: Another excerpt - after a small omission in between - will be found in the Assignment.]
- Bhaskar Dasgupta