Antigone – Paper 13
Greek drama was written in such a way that the characters are the pivotal aspect of the play. The main characters in Sophocles’ epic play, Antigone, are both very strong personalities, which naturally leads to conflict. Antigone and King Creon both have very intense beliefs and roles in this play that oppose each other, and although there is a family tie, will lead to an imminent tragedy. Antigone is a young women who believes in the loyalty of her family and fears no one and nothing. She is willing to give up her bright future and her life and disobey the edict of her uncle and bury her deceased brother.
Antigone displays her heroic characteristics through her fearlessness, loyalty, perseverance, and is therefore the tragic heroine of this epic masterpiece. It is a pure understatement to say that the character of Antigone is fearless and loyal to her beliefs. As a young girl with a bright future ahead of her, any other woman would keep the death of her brother in the past if it threatened their own future marriage and long life. Her loyalty is shown from the beginning of the play, where she immediately proclaims to her sister, Ismene, that she will give her brother a proper burial, even though death is threatened for anyone that does.
Antigone illustrates her strong beliefs to Ismene when she says, “… But I will bury him; and if I must die,/ I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down/ With him in death, and I shall be as dear/ To him as he to me. ” (Sophocles Prologue) In this Greek era, there was an unwritten holy law that if one was not given a proper burial, they would never pass through to heaven, and would instead be forced to live in the wretched underworld. Strong family morals cannot allow Antigone to knowingly let her brother rot outside the gates of Thebes.
Her loyalty to her family and values is shown through her dedication to properly burying Polyneices. Her fearlessness is shown throughout the entire course of her short life. Many young women, especially in this time period, would not have the guts to stand up to a man, especially the King, who is also her uncle. Throughout the plot, after Antigone committed the crime, King Creon tried to give her opportunities so that she could live the rest of her life. She would not give in and would not surrender because, as King, Creon proclaimed that if anyone buried Polyneices, they would be publicly killed.
Antigone committed the “crime” knowing that death would be imminent. Antigone proclaims to Creon: “And dearest Polyneices—/ dearest indeed/ To me, since it was my hand/ That washed him clean and poured the ritual wine:/ And my reward is death before my time! / And yet, as men’s hearts know, I have done no wrong,/ I have not sinned before God. Or if I have,/ I shall know the truth in death. But if the guilt/ Lies upon Creon who judged me, then, I pray,/ May his punishment equal my own. (Sophocles Scene IV) Her fearlessness is something that people keep questioning and expecting to break. Creon, when speaking to Haimon, his son and Antigone’s husband to be, expresses that he wants to leave her a stone cave and only provide her with food. He expects that she will surrender and express her remorse, or that the Gods will save her before her death so that he comes out free of guilt. Ismene, her polar opposite, is shocked that Antigone would go to the extent of an imminent public death just to bury their brother, who can be considered a traitor to their beloved city.
Her sister acts as a foil to Antigone, because Ismene highlights the loyalty and fearlessness that she herself does not hold. Over the course of the play, Antigone does not make any major changes in her morals, values, or behavior. From the prologue until her death, she was intent on sticking to what she believed in, which is the loyalty of family and the opposition of their mistreatment. There were many times where the audience, and other characters in the play, were unsure of what Antigone would do. Ismene was unsure if she would actually go through with the forbidden burial of Polyneices.
After the crime was committed, Creon expected Antigone to apologize and feel remorse for burying her deceased brother. However, the entire play, there are multiple occasions where Antigone asks to die. At one point Antigone expresses to Ismene and Creon, “… I belong to Death. ” (Sophocles Scene II) This brave young woman went into the entire conflict completely aware of what the consequences would be. She never once expected her uncle, King Creon, to take pity upon her and take back the edict forbidding the burial of Polyneices.
There is no question that Antigone is the tragic heroine of Sophocles’ plot. A tragic hero is best defined as a person of high power, such as a king or queen, who has a tragic flaw that leads to their downfall and causes the conflict of the play. Antigone is the tragic heroine of Antigone, and Creon can also be considered a tragic hero because of his role in the plot. The young woman is a person of power, since she is in line to be queen. For many, Antigone’s tragic flaw should not be considered a flaw at all.
She is unbelievably loyal to her beliefs and family and that is what starts the entire conflict of the play. If Antigone had not insisted upon burying Polyneices, she would be planning her wedding to Haimon and there would never have been any issues. The tragic flaw of Antigone caused many repercussions. The deaths of Haimon, Eurydice, and Antigone herself are all the results of Creon’s edict and Antigone’s rebellion. Another tragic flaw of the tragic heroine is something that she herself could have never helped.
Her family is struck with this misfortune of unluckiness and tragedy. If it wasn’t for the incest of Oedipus and Jocasta, the parents of Antigone, Ismene, Polyneices and Eteocles, Oedipus would have never gouged his eyes out and given over a shared kingship to his sons. If they hadn’t of been greedy and unable to share the kingship, then there would have been no edict forbidding the burial of Polyneices. Therefore, being a kin of Oedipus’ family, Antigone fell into a trap and was destined to fall into a tragedy. The antistrophe, which represents society and their views, expresses: I have seen this gathering sorrow from time long past/ Loom upon Oedipus’ children: generation from generation/ Takes the compulsive rage of the enemy god. / So lately this last flower of Oedipus’ line/ Drank the sunlight! but now a passionate word/ And a handful of dust have closed up all its beauty. ” (Sophocles Ode II) Society was conflicted in what to think about the entire conflict in the city of Thebes. It brought upon a theme of moral law versus civil law. No one knew what to think or who to side with because everyone was right, yet everyone was wrong.
Antigone is a perfect example of a tragic heroine and exemplifies every aspect of the definition. Antigone can be compared to any brave woman who decides to fight for what she believes in but she can best be compared to a twentieth century woman soldier in any branch of the armed forces. It can be said that any soldier has the characteristics of loyal and fearless, however, it takes a lot of guts for a woman to step out on the front lines and fight for her country. Even though women have gained a great deal of respect in modern culture, there is still a strong feeling of sexism.
Many people do not expect women to enlist in the armed forces and they face a lot of criticism, when they should get praised. Antigone was treated the same way. She was the only one brave enough to do what everyone knew was right. Society was conflicted because they knew she was morally sound, but the actual law said something else. In the twenty first century, people know that it takes a strong women to give her life up for the country, but ridicule is still common and there is often a preconceived notion of masculinity in any woman that does serve.
Antigone went into the forbidden burial completely aware of her fate and the impending, inevitable death. Soldiers, especially women, are also aware of the dangers ahead of them when they enlist and they are also conscious of the fact that often they are leaving a husband and children behind. It is a strong possibility, especially with the increased technology in warfare, that lives are changed by combat, and this is not hidden from those who choose to fight for the country.
Overall, Antigone is an exemplary woman who should have been praised for her loyalty to her morals and family as well as her fearlessness in the cause. The character of Ismene acts as a foil to her sister because of the opposite characteristics. King Creon and Antigone are extremely similar in their manner because they are both very stuck in their ways and therefore are both the tragic heroes of Sophocles’ play. Antigone does not make a huge change in character throughout the plot, because one of her overbearing traits is that she is relentless and does not give in to oppose her beliefs.
Lastly, Antigone can be compared to any soldier, and in particular, a woman soldier, in combat because of the preconceived notion of danger and death when going into warfare. The ridicule and criticisms they face, when they should be thanked and praised, is similar to the situation Antigone faces with Theban society. Antigone is a strong character who understands what matters in life and is willing to give up her promising future to follow her morals. Works Cited Sophocles. Antigone. The Oedipus Cycle. Ed. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. New York. Harcourt Brace, 1977. 186-245. Print.