Antigone: Free Will and Destiny
Antigone: The Influence of Free Will and Destiny Throughout Antigone, fate is responsible for many of the most devastating and critical events. The characters Antigone, Creon, Ismene, Haemon, and Tirasias experience many occasions that change their destiny, some events of which were predestined. It is frequently shown that fate and free will are intertwined. Each individual has a destiny, but it can be changed if they use their free will. Sophocle’s message is portrayed throughout the story through the actions of different characters. The individuals predestined fate and willingness to change it creates the series of events.
By the choice of their actions, many of the characters in Antigone controlled their destiny, and affected it in both beneficial and detrimental ways. Antigone and Creon were two individuals that changed their future and destroyed their chances at happiness in life. After the death of Polyneices, Antigone performed a burial that was seen as honorable. Although after the body was uncovered, the second burial she performed on her brother was seen as dishonorable. This was changed because the second burial was done in order to spite Creon and get glory for exposing his wrongdoings.
By performing the second burial Antigone’s honor was ruined and she was looked down upon for her actions (Sophocles, 71). Antigone, if she had only performed the first burial, would have been honored and not further punished by Creon for disobeying his laws. Later on Antigone also disrespects her family by showing disrespect to Ismene (Sophocles, 87). Further more, her destiny was changed when Antigone is hubristic to Creon. By personally attacking him instead of talking about the issue, she exacerbates the situation that leads to her demise.
Antigone talks about how she believes Creon will go to hell for what he has done (Sophocles, 82). Although Antigone controls most of her destiny, she is predestined to a bad end. As seen in a prior story told by Sophocles, in Oedipus the King Antigone’s father Oedipus is exiled from Thebes after it is realized that he is the murderer of Lauis. Past occurrences of the death of Antigone’s mother Jocasta, the destruction and exile of her father Oedipus, and murder of her brothers Polynices and Eteocles show that Antigone comes from a cursed family (Sophocles, 237). Similarly Creon greatly influences his destiny by the actions he takes.
After exiling Antigone to a cave in the mountains, the blind prophet Tirasias warns Creon. By challenging what Tirasias says, even though he has never been wrong in his prophecies to Thebes, Creon ignores the warnings. If Creon had listened to Tirasias, the spokesmen of the gods, he could have changed his destiny and those of his family members. In the end Creon ends up losing his son and wife after they kill themselves from the sadness caused by the tragic events that had occurred (Sophocles, 126). Creon altered his destiny by not listening to the warnings from more wise elders.
Creon’s fate was finally fixed when Tiresias speaks. “You, you have no business with the dead, nor do the gods above- this is violence you have forced upon the heavens. And so the avengers, the dark destroyers late but true to the mark, now lie in wait for you, the Furies sent by the gods and the god of death to strike you down with the pains that you perfected” (Sophocles, 115). This quote powerfully explains the consequences that Creon has bestowed upon himself. After this point, Creon is to be punished by the gods for his doings, and has fixed his fate.
Ismene, similar to Creon and Antigone, determined her fate by her actions; but unlike the other two characters she created a more desirable outcome. As the daughter of Oedipus she was likely to be predetermined to a bad ending because of her inclusion in a cursed family. This was true for Antigone, but her humble and nurturing actions changed everything. Ismene is very family focused and warm especially towards the people she cares about. Although Ismene refuses to help Antigone in the burial of their brother, she declared she would die along with Antigone (Sophocles, 87).
Her actions in this case were slightly irrational, but showed her dedication to family. She also shows her family focus when she shows Creon the damage that he would do to his family with his actions. Ismene speaks of how Creon would be robbing his son of a wife and destroying his family (Sophocles, 90). Even during a time of chaos and sadness (after losing her brothers and the arrest of Antigone) Ismene stays with the values she believes in which is respected by many individuals. Each individual in Antigone had a predetermined fate although by the ortrayal of his or her free will that fate may be changed. Creon, by displaying appalling acts such as enslaving Antigone despite warnings, showed he had the most free will. Tirasias, as the spokesmen of the gods, warns Creon about the consequences of his actions (Sophocles, 112). By ignoring Tirasias’s cautions, Creon portrays his free will. Creon is confident that through his determination he will be able to rule Thebes and create his own laws. Through these laws, Creon punishes Antigone, after she disobeys his rulings and buries her brother.
Antigone reveals her free will by choosing death as her fate and life for her sister Ismene. When Ismene proclaims she will die with Antigone, Antigone refutes it. Antigone says that they should not both die, especially for an act that only she committed and Ismene had no part in (Sophocles, 88). Ultimately, Haemon shows the least free will out of all the characters in Antigone. Even though he defends Antigone and fights for her life, he is not able to save her. In the end, Haemon has no control over his own destiny once Tiarsias has spoken to Creon.
The gods use Haemon as a way to punish Creon for him disobeying and for his inappropriate actions. Fate is commonly predetermined but can sometimes be controlled by the use of an individual’s free will. By the actions of Antigone, Creon, Ismene and other characters, Sophocles is portraying a valuable message to the readers. Sophocles believes that since we are mortal our power is limited. Therefore, people cannot be fully responsible for their actions. This is shown in Antigone through the predetermination of the character’s fate.
For instance Antigone, coming from a cursed family, was predestined to a bad ending despite her fight and free will. Gods and messengers of the gods have more power over destiny. Similarly Sophocles wants to portray the structure of a good government or society human law. It is shown that state law and divine law should agree; if they don’t, divine law should come first. When Creon believes he can create his own laws to rule Thebes, they end up defying divine law. Therefore in the end, divine law overpowers and Creon is punished for implementing his own laws.
By creating a law banning the burial of Polynices, conflicts are created (Sophocles, 73). This also shows the weakness of absolute monarchy, as Creon’s laws are not strong enough to hold, especially against divine law. Finally, Sophocles wants to show that the people most likely to be hubristic are the most powerful (Sophocles, 82). This is clearly seen throughout the book with Creon. Hubristic, meaning overly arrogant, greatly defines Creon in Antigone. He believes frequently that his laws and actions are superior to those of others in Thebes and the gods.
Throughout Antigone determined fate and free will are frequently intertwined. The series of events portrayed Sophocles’ message of the dangers and weaknesses of absolute monarchy. By exposing the consequences of Creon’s hubristic actions and Antigone’s use of free will, it was shown how they could change their fate. By the ending, it was also shown how fate could be predetermined and not always changed. In the end, fate determines many of the most detrimental and critical events in Antigone. Works Cited Sophocles. (n. d. ). Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays (R. Fagles, Trans. ). New York, USA: The Penguin Group.