Antigone – Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is arguably the birthplace of democracy, a society built on principles of equal rights and privileges. Ironically equality did not exist in this democracy because women could not vote. Woman had no say in government because they were not considered citizens. Women were treated as inferior to men, subjected to stay at home, marry and bear sons. This was a much maculated society. Sophocles lived from 497-406 B. C. E in Ancient Greece during this form of democracy. His plays reflect the ancient Greek society such as gods, kings, and woman.
In the tragedy Antigone the male gender have a dominate role in society symbolizing power and dominance whereas women are believed to be beautiful and submissive. Sophocles in his tragedy demonstrates the imbalance of genders and the consequences of men who abuse their power and women who step out of the boundaries society place them in. The play Antigone resolves around two main characters Creon and Antigone. In the ancient Greek society Creon the king would always get his way. His law would be the law of the land.
Antigone would be a wife, submissive to her husband and obediently taking orders from any male figures. Sophocles steps out of the norm in this tragedy. Sophocles did not just develop a play where a king was being question of his laws but he made the deviant a woman. Creon felt he had to make a law to enforce that anyone who went against Thebes would be harshly punished for it; meaning Eteocles will be honored and Polyneices will be dishonored. Polyneices body will not get a proper burial, instead it would rot in the open field and be eaten by vultures.
Antigone states “Isn’t a man’s right to burial decreed by divine justice? I don’t consider your pronouncements so important that they can just overrule the unwritten laws of heaven. “(p. 17) She questioned the laws of the land arguing they were unjust and not the way of the Gods: this example is very similar to feminism in the sense that Antigone is fighting for rights. Creon is demonstrating his power and dominance by firmly stating loyal to his law. ? Antigone looks at the connection between the government, the orders and power expressed by King Creon, and a deviant.
As previously stated women have no rights or say in the government therefore making Antigone a rebellious character. “Antigone represents a strong-willed young woman who stands up to harsh power but ultimately suffers in the end. People often forget in this setup the deeply traditional roots of Antigone’s actions, her sense of family values—values that formed an integral part of ? fth-century Athenian political, cultural, and religious life. ” Antigone is justified in her actions to bury her brother Polynices but her stubbornness will lead to her demise. Antigone may have been fair in her actions but she still broke the laws.
She disobeys the laws and speaks out against the kings. She is not representing a good image of a proper woman. Do not neglect the fact that she is a woman of upper status: even so she still has no rights and should be submissive. Antigone should ideally be more like her sister Ismene. Ismene represents the model woman. Ismene is considered the “good girl” of the family. She is what every man wants; she has beauty, is reasonable and understands her place in the household. Ismene have these great qualities and yet she does not have the courage that Antigone has.
She follows Creon’s law and attempts to discourage Antigone from her act of rebellion even though she wants to honor her brother as well. The two sisters are contrast of each other. Antigone does not have the physical beauty that Ismene has nor is she as obedient. Arguably Ismene is passive, but during the time of Sophocles she fits perfectly in society. Creon can be described as a power driven man. The first thing Creon does in Antigone is declare a harsh but understandable law. He proclaims that while the body of Eteocles will be buried with dignity, the corpse of Polyneices will be left to rot on the field of battle.
Anyone who attempts to honor Polyneices’s body with burial will be sentenced to death. Though it is not the best law it is an understandable one because Polyneices is considered a traitor. He allied with other city-states and attacked his hometown. Creon is viewed as cruel because for making this law, but this law though unreasonable will not be his down fall. Creon makes matters worse by refusing to surrender when Antigone questions him on his immoral decision and warns him by saying “the people also disagree with your law but they just will not speak out against you. ” (p. 9) He rejects the laws of the gods in favor to rationalize his man made law evan after he is told a majority of citizens agree with Antigone. He states “Then get you down thither, and love, if you must love, the dead! No woman, while I live, shall order me. “(P. 20) His stubborn loyalty to the laws he made turns out to be his own tragic flaw. Creon’s actions reflect his greed of power. The greed in power can also been seen in another scene such as the conversation between Creon and his son, Hemon. Creon believes his son is wise and well educated but deters him away when Hemon tries to explain how the citizens do not agree with the law.
Hermon say “You are a monarch of an empty land” meaning he is ruling a land in which no one agrees. (p. 28) It is understandable for a man no matter his reasoning to ignore a woman. Sadly it still occurs in today’s society; men find it harder to take orders from a woman because they believe they are dominant of the genders. In the last example it was his own son who warned him the view on his law. Creon argues “Is the city not held by the one who rules it?. ”(p. 28) Creon’s ego is set on ruling his way. The making of an unreasonable law and the breaking of the law do not prove to be the tragedy in the play.
It is the stubbornness and unwillingness to cooperate with society that leads to their down fall. Antigone was destined for failure with her pride and determination. While being taking to the cave by the guards she state that her death will validate or strengthen her moral and religious views. She believed her death would hinder Creon’s life and she was correct. Creon would come to his senses and understand he cannot go against the kingdom; it would hurt his public image. Creon’s negligence caused him to be too late, his fate was already set. Creon was physically ok but in the end emotionally damaged.
Antigone’s death caused a chain reaction. Hemon killed himself because his wife to be took her own life and Eurydice, the mother of Hemon and wife of Creon, took her own life after she heard that her son was dead. Antigone’s determination drove her to rebel. She stepped out of the norm that society has placed on her and by doing so she forfeited the opportunities of marriage, maternity, and royal gain. Antigone should have fought more on the issue of man defying law of the gods rather than spiting Creon. Creon’s obsession with power lead to his defeat.
It is Antigone’s morals, which drive her to betray the laws of man, in order to honor the laws of God. Knowing and comprehending the consequences of defying Creon’s ruling do not restrain the intensity of Antigone’s self will, yet it feeds her hunger to achieve her principles. Losing sight of her future, Antigone allows her stubbornness to consume her life, taking with it, the prospect of marriage, motherhood and friendship. As the story continues, we find that Antigone focuses more on the need to establish her human ethics in spite of Creon, rather than proving the incorrectness of man defying god’s laws