Antigone – A Tragic Hero
In the Greek play “Antigone,” Hegel states that Antigone commits suicide in prison due to defying the public law for devoting to family-love. Kreon, who is Antigone’s uncle, has inherited the throne and issued a royal edict banning the burial of her brother who is a traitor in Kreon’s perspective. According to Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, I think Antigone and not Kreon is the tragic hero because she self-consciously decides to act family-love on the divine law, which is any law that comes directly from the will of God, overpower human law, which is made by human beings, and enters into the conflict between the divine law and human law.
First, Antigone enters into the conflict between the law of King Kreon and the law of the gods, which leads to her death.
According to Greek belief, Kreon is a king who believes that he holds all the power to make his city grow strong, and puts in his place to punish someone who breaking the human law. However, Antigone believes that no matter what her brother did, divine law will ultimately overpower human law. As Antigone argues with Kreon, “It was not Zeus who made this proclamation no one knows when first they came to light” (Antigone, 84), Antigone believes that divine law is any law that comes directly from the will of God, in contrast to human law, which is made by human beings. So she self-consciously decides to break the rules due to divine overpower human law. What’s more, according to the paper, “Antigone: Divine Law Vs. Human Law,” “In Greek culture, the spirit of a body that is not buried by sundown on the day that it died cannot find rest but is doomed to walk the earth”.So she feels that she must commit acts of sisterly love towards her brother to bury her brother according to the Greek culture and divine law makes her feel painful if she does not bury her brother, as she spoke to her sister “This fate is in no way painful. But if /I let the son of my own mother lie /Dead and unburied, that would give me pain” (28-30). So Antigone believed that the family-love can also embody the divine law and adheres to the law of the Gods. In the fact that the two side of attitude between Antigone and Kreon share in both human and divine law lays the irreconcilably tragic nature of the conflict.
Second, her character causes her tragedy, which is her intensity of feeling and the single-mindedness of her devotion, and her readiness to defy the entire city. Based on her character she argues with her sister that “So be as you decide to be –but I will bury him, for me, it is noble to do this thing, then die. With loving ties to him, I will lie with him who is tied by love to me, I will commit a holy crime, for I must please those down below for a longer time” (Antigone, 61). She believes that it is noble to bury her brother even she will die, and her single-mindedness and persistence cause her tragedy. Although she represents a strong sense of righteousness and loyalty to the laws of god above the laws of man, it is questionable whether her actions are all in the name of doing what is right. What’s more, her words and actions lead to her tragedy according to her and Kreon’s dialogue in the royal house, Antigone says “now you have caught me, do you want something more than my dealth.my nature’s not to join in hate but to join in love”(Antigone, 86-87). Antigone’s intensity of feeling and courage makes her ignore her own life. So there is no denying that Antigone bravely defies Kreon’s decree in public and insists she obeyed the gods and committed acts of honor.
Third, her weak position and gender leads to her tragedy. Women are excluded from direct political activity, may not control and represent in a court of law, and women do not challenge men, especially in the all male areas of politics and public life. As editor’s notes on the text, “born as womenwar with men Ismene introduces the conflict of genders that is developed further in Kreon’s obsession with being defeated by a woman” (Antigone, 132), Antigone, who as a woman, has no rights and power to fight against the law in fifth-century Athens, and Kreon as a king does not allow someone to violate his rule, especially women. But Antigone still gathers her courage against Kreon’s rule regardless of her gender and position so that she ruffles Kreon’s feathers. In addition, as stated in the introduction to the play that, “In Antigone the conflict between the blood ties within the family, to which the women are particularly devoted, and the realm of political action that belongs to men is played our almost entirely on the human level” (Antigone, 17).In order to devote her family love, Antigone conflicts her position and human political action, which are controlled by men. Thus, Antigone ignores the fact political life is an area of male autonomy, freedom, and control, and women cannot fight with men in fifth-century Athens. In the end, Antigone’s tragedy rests in her refusal to cede on her divine law and against all prohibitions without any power and right. This insistence on her desire locates her in a line of tragic heroes. In addition, her intensity of feeling makes her ignore her weak position and gender so that leads to her tragedy.