Antigone – Greek Playwright Sophocle
Emmanuel Roberts English 112 Spring 2010 Research Paper Antigone Introduction Greek playwright Sophocles wrote the last play in the Theban Trilogy, Antigone, around 442n B. C. The Theban Trilogy consists of Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the king); Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, but the play considered the last of the three was, ironically, written first. Only seven of Sophocles’ one hundred twenty three tragedies have survived to the modern era with the trilogy surviving the ages intact. These three plays are perhaps the most famous of the seven, with Antigone performed most often.
Antigone tells the story of the title character, daughter of Oedipus (the former king Theban who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother, and who renounced his kingdom upon discovering his action) and her fight to bury her brother Polyneices against the edict of her uncle, Creon, the new king of Thebes. It is a story that pits the law of the gods “unwritten law” against the law of humankind, family ties against civic duty, and man against women. Many playwrights in Ancient Greece used mythological stories to comment on social and political concern of their time.
This is what Sophocles may have intended when he wrote Antigone. Based on the legends of Oedipus, Sophocles may have been trying to send a message to the Athenian General, Pericles, about the danger of authoritarian rule Antigone as a Tragic Hero In Sophocles’ Antigone, the question of who the tragic hero actually is has been the subject of a debate for years. It is unlikely for there to be two tragic characters in a Greek tragedy, and there can be only one in the play Antigone. The king Creon possesses some of the qualities that constitutes tragic character, but does not have all of the necessary traits.
Antigone, however, contains all of the aspects that are required for her to be the main character. According to Aristotle’s Poetics there are four major traits, which are required of the tragic character. The character must be a good and upstanding person. The character must focus on becoming a better person, must be believable, and must be consistent in his or her behavior (Barnes, Jonathan. Princeton 1984). Due to the fact that Antigone represents these four character guidelines as well as several other protagonist traits, she can definitely be defined as the tragic hero.
In order for Antigone to be the tragic character, she first must be a good and upstanding person. Antigone is indeed a good-hearted person and has committed no crime up to her decision to give her brother, Polyneices, a proper burial. There is no doubt that Antigone is upstanding and a person of important in Thebes. Aristotle stated that the aspect of a good person was first and most important when creating a tragic character. The fact that Antigone is a woman makes no difference, because Aristotle expressly said, “Even a woman may be good though the woman may be said to be an inferior being”.
Aristotle’s second rule for determining a tragic character is that the person must aim at property. The character must work towards becoming a better person. Antigone illustrates these second guidelines by her effort to clear her conscious and bring honor to her family by giving Polyneices a decent burial. By taking this responsibility, and by denying Ismene’s involvement in her crime, Antigone shows that she has acquired a greater courage within herself than she had possessed before (Miami Herald 1999). In no way does Creon comply with Aristotle’s second guideline.
Throughout the play, he does not allow himself to see the point of view from other people, such as when Haimon tries to reason with him, and he neglects the blind prophet, Tiresias, when he warns Creon of his actions. The last two expectations of a tragic character are intertwined. According to Aristotle, the character must be true to life and be consistent in behavior and actions. He states that these two areas are “a distinct thing from goodness and propriety. ” Following these two guidelines, Antigone is a believable person with realistic thoughts and emotions.
She is also very consistent in her behavior, and does not demonstrate a dynamic personality. Throughout the entire play, Antigone stands by her beliefs and keeps her attitude constant. Besides the four major outlining rules regarding the tragic character in a Greek drama, Aristotle states several other guidelines that the protagonist should adhere to. Arguably the most important of these is the aspect of hamartia, the character’s fatal flaw, which brings about his or her downfall. Antigone’s flaw was her headstrong behavior and her stubbornness, which ultimately brought about her demise and the demise of those around her.
Her stubbornness of course, is what forces Antigone to rashly take matters in to her own hands, and take the body of Polyneices. She did not realize until she was about to die, that she had possibly acted foolishly. Antigone shared her flaw with Creon, who seemed to have an even more obstinate personality. It can be argued that it was Creon’s stubbornness that brought about the demise of his family, but this cannot justify Creon as the tragic character because he does not meet other necessary requirements.
To bring up the last point that defines Antigone as the true tragic character in Sophocles’ play, the protagonist must face a conflict in principles, and must rely on his self in order to solve the conflict. At the beginning of the play, Antigone immediately faces a problem; she must decide whether or not her morals are worth risking her life for. She is forced to decide between honoring the gods and her family and displaying loyalty to the state. The entire play is centered on this conflict between morals and Antigone final decision.
A very confusing aspect of Sophocles’ play, Antigone, is discovering who the true tragic character actually is. To do this, one only has to understand the rules and guidelines for Greek tragedy, which Aristotle specified in his Poetics. When Aristotle’s strict guidelines are applied to both Creon and Antigone, it becomes apparent that there can only be one tragic hero. Creon fulfills some of the aspects required of a tragic character, but is immediately eliminated as the true main character because he fails to fall into the other important categories.
Because she does fulfill all of the requirements, it is safe to assume that Antigone is the true tragic hero in the play. Downfall of Antigone In the play “Antigone”, pride caused the downfall of both Creon and Antigone. Creon’s pride took the form of hubris; in Greek tragedies, hubris referred to arrogant pride. It often led to flawed character into conflict with the gods; the gods then seek retribution, which leads to the characters’ downfall. Antigone’s pride was expressed through her action and in respecting her family and honoring the gods. Her pride did not place her into conflict with the gods, but it too led to her downfall.
Although pride brings the downfall to both Creon and Antigone, it is Antigone who we truly respect. Antigone’s pride was not self-serving like Creon’s, but it still led to her downfall. She believed in the laws of the heavens and that “we have a duty to the dead. ” With these beliefs, she chose to bury her brother, even though she knew perfectly well that she would be condemned to death, as a result of disobeying King Creon’s order. She believed that her actions were honorable and that there was no shame in burying her brother, even though he was a traitor and attacked the city of Thebes for “There is no shame in honoring my brother. When Antigone was caught in the act of burying her brother, she was not frightened at all and she did not deny the deed claiming, “I do admit it, I do not deny it. ” She believed that her actions were forthright and felt pride in doing so, for “I have given my brother burial, what more could I wish? ” as a result of her pride, action against Creon’s words she was sentence to death, her ultimate punishment. We respect Antigone more just as the gods and most of the people of Thebes support her.
She earns respect as she can tell the difference between right and wrong, claiming “I know my duty, where my true duty lies” and also because when she has done something wrong, she does not deny it. Her loyalty towards her family and her courage also gains respect. The fact that she could beer death, but not bear leaving her brother unburied was honorable, she claims “this punishment will not be any pain. Only if I had my mother’s son lie there unburied, then I could have not borne it. ” The gods supported Antigone, as her actions against Creon’s law were considered honorable.
Evilness of Creon People do not accept responsibility for their irresponsible act. Some people try to blame others for their acts. For example, in the play Antigone by Sophocles, some characters try to justify their actions by saying that it was for the good of society. The cruel king of Thebes, Creon, has all the responsibility for the deaths of this nice, Antigone, and his son Haimon. Antigone, Oedipus daughter, was cruelly killed by Creon. In a rage Creon was sentencing Antigone to death, “I will carry her far away out there in the wilderness, and lock her living in a vault of stones. Creon wanted to keep her alive, but suffer in a cave where nobody could visit her. Creon just wanted to torment Antigone for something he knew was right to do. Creon orders the guards to, “Take her go! You know your orders: take her to the vault and leave her alone there. And if she lives or dies that’s her affair not ours: our hands are clean. ” Creon did not want to dirty his hand in front of society by killing Antigone in the public, and instead he is going to lock up in a vault. Antigone has no choice either she would die of sadness, loneliness, or Antigone would kill herself to be with her family.
Creon should admit responsibility for the death of Antigone not only hers, but Haimon’s death. Haimon son of Creon killed himself for Antigone. Creon did not kill Haimon but his actions toward Antigone did, “Haimon. Haimon is dead: and the hand that killed him is own hand. ” Haimon killed himself, but had a reason for his death. Haimon felt his dad had done monsterus things to his own family. Haimon killed himself because “he was, driven mad by the murder his father had done. ” Creon killed Haimon because he had no reason to live if his queen did not live any more. Haimon was disgusted by all the deaths his own father had caused.
There are those who think that Creon is not responsible for the deaths of his relatives that he was only doing this for the good of society. This counterclaim is wrong because Creon is trying to do everything to protect society from all rebels, and instead he caused the deaths of Antigone and Haimon. He did not admit any of the responsibility for the death of these two young lives. People should admit their errors and be responsible so that people would not get harmed. Relevance of the play’s ending. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton generations ago.
In the Greek tragedy Antigone, written by Sophocles, there was a character named Creon, the antagonist, who was the king of Thebes. Thebes was an autocratic state where Creon had absolute power. Throughout the course of the play, Creon abused his privilege of absolute power; and this caused him to suffer greatly, even though he was warned by a few people of his bad deeds. What Sophocles commented on absolute power was that one should not abuse it. If it was abused, he or she had to expect bad consequences. This was indicated by what happened to Creon when he abused his power. (Theory & Event 12. 1 (2009))
Element of Melodrama The most popular form of the 19th Century, melodrama is a sort of literary mongrel. Elements of melodrama had existed in 18th Century forms like sentimental comedy, domestic tragedy, neoclassic tragedy and even pantomime. The most important characteristic of melodrama was the strict observance of poetic justice in conformance with the morals of the day: good was always rewarded and evil always punished. The world of melodrama is one in which deeds and characters are separated by clear-cut distinctions. The characters are not so much archetypes in the neoclassic sense as stock characters.
Originally a play embellished with music, melodrama followed a fairly narrow contextual scheme. In the French version the chorus practically disappears ; the grand odes, which express the collective emotion of a dramatic group of elders, are ruined by being delivered in weak melodrama by a single female voice; recitative and vocal melody are abandoned, and the result is a succession of dramatic scenes, which, with their long speeches, tend to become exceedingly monotonous, being unrelieved by the lyric color, movement, and variety of tone, which the Greeks considered essential to a great tragedy. American Journal of Philology 130. 1 (2009) catharsis and the play In literature, catharsis takes on a slightly different meaning. Aristotle first used the term to apply to literature in his work Poetics to discuss how drama can affect the individual viewer (the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy winter 2008 Edition). Good drama helps the viewer identify with the experiences, especially sorrowful ones, of characters in a play. Drama can evoke powerful emotions, and people who watch it and are moved leave the theater cleans, refreshed, and purified in emotional experience.
Aristotle further claims that having expressed some of their emotions, the audience has a sense of relief that helps them handle daily living in calmer fashion. This is directly antithetical to Plato’s claim that drama and poetry could produce ill effects on viewers and readers, leading them to act more extremely. Aristotle instead contends that catharsis through drama leads to a more rational mind since the extremes of emotion are tapped and felt in a safe setting. Many of us have had the experience of having a good weep during a film, or more often a good laugh.
We may look to plays, films and books as a means of safe expression of deep emotion. In a society where men’s tears are still looked upon by some sectors of the society as being unmanly, a cathartic moment when watching a film, a little choking up or even a tear or two are often viewed as acceptable. Catharsis, though, is not limited to creating Kleenex moments. In fact, many narratives depend upon personal identification with a character in some fashion or another.
Watching or reading a comic film or book respectively can also provoke emotional response, especially when the audience identifies with a character. Narratives may fail when people can’t “get” the characters, and can’t relate the characters in any way to their own existence. Emotional involvement (of any kind) by readers or audiences with characters or circumstances can lead to deeper appreciation of the narrative. There’s also the occasional moment in very short narratives where people experience catharsis.
The Modern day Relevance This play has modern day relevance, for example, near the end of Antigone, Creon is warned by Teiresias and he told him that he was making a big mistake by killing Antigone. However, Bush’s decision to go to war lost America allies and this shows his lack of leadership. Bush makes us think he isn’t lying to us just like when Creon says “I won’t be a leader who lies to his people” (line 798). They both believe in war and in our modern day we are in the middle of a war right now.
She did not disobey him and the state saw this as well and people did not agree with what he was doing to her. Bush parallels each other in many ways. This quote parallels our modern day and a good example is the 2000 Presidential Election. This is exactly what Bush is saying to the American people when he decided to go to war. Creon’s ideas are very similar to those of our modern day President Bush. When Creon found out that someone had betrayed him and buried Polyneices he was very angry and stated, “find me the perpetrator of this burial” (line 383).
Bush needs to correct his wrongs before he makes a huge mistake just like Creon did and before it is too late. The question is what would have happened if Creon would have listened to Haimon and the people? Would things be different in the United States if Bush had listened to the people as well? Creon was not a good leader because he lost everything by making one small decision. He ordered the United States Army to find the man who did the crime just as Creon ordered the Sentry to find out who buried Polyneices.
Walsh, Keri uses Sophocles’ play to dramatize the transition from one ethical order to another from the “natural ethical community” of the family to the “community, the superior law whose validity is openly apparent. ” Bibliography Antonello, P. and R. Farneti. “Antigone’s Claim: A Conversation with Judith Butler. ” Theory & Event 12. 1 (2009) Barnes, Jonathan. “The Complete Work of Aristotle, ed. ” (Princeton 1984) Hawthorne, Kevin “THE CHORUS AS RHETORICAL AUDIENCE: A SOPHOKLEAN AGO PATTERN. American Journal of Philology 130. 1 (2009): 25-46. Rehm, Rush “Sophocles and Alcibiades: Athenian Politics in Ancient Greek Literature. ” Rev. of Comparative Drama 43. 3 (2009): 402-405 Shields, Christopher, “Aristotle’s Psychology”, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (winter 2008 Edition). SUE, REISINGER. “THIS ANTIGONE STAGE STAR IS A REAL-LIFE TRAGIC HERO. ” Miami Herald 19 Oct. 1999 Walsh, Keri “Antigone Now. ” Mosaic: a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 41. 3 (2008): 1-13.