Antigone – the Use of the Classical Tragedy Concept of Hamartia
In Sophocles‘ Antigone, it is evident that the author incorporated the concepts used in classical tragedies in relation to the downfall of the heroine, Antigone. These factors being; hamartia, hubris, and fate clearly demonstrate how Antigone providing a proper burial for Polynices put her against Creon and her provocation against his power. Throughout the play there are various instances where Antigone displays such factors and ultimately they contribute, to a great extent, her demise. The use of the classical tragedy concept of hamartia is largely demonstrated through the character of Antigone.
In the play, Antigone’s brothers Polyneices and Eteocles begin a struggle for power against one another. Their father, Oedipus, was king and after his death it was agreed that his two sons would share the throne. Eteocles, the eldest son, did not let Polyneices take the throne when his turn arrived, thus creating a battle among the two. This resulted in the death of both brothers. Creon, Antigone’s uncle, then claimed the throne and decided to honor Etecoles and give him a proper burial fit for a king.
Polyneices, on the other hand, was unworthy in Creon’s eyes of such an event and thought his body should lie on the fields for the birds and the dogs. Antigone was unable to fathom why Creon would think in such a manner. “Tis not my nature to join in hating, but in loving. ” (Antigone, p. 12) To Antigone, her brothers were equal and both loved by her, she could not bare the thought that Polyneices corpse would be left there to decompose. She decided that she would oppose Creon and give her brother the burial she believed he deserved.
At this point in the play it is evident that Antigone’s hamartia is revealed. She becomes disobedient of Creon which contributes to a great extent, her downfall. According to her beliefs, the divine law is greater than that of human law. Her flaw is not believing that the gods would want her to provide her brother with such an honor but rather the fact that she becomes defiant of Creon and his laws. When Creon heard that someone had opposed his law he was enraged. He quickly sends Antigone away with the guards to be put in a cave as he decides her fate.
Although Antigone’s flaw in this case is her disobedience towards Creon and his law, her hubris also contributed to her downfall. Sophocles does a remarkable job of employing the use of hubris in the play through Antigone’s character. Her hubris is shown on many occasions which eventually leads to her demise. When she decides to follow the divine law and perform a deed which she believes the gods would want, she is demonstrating her overwhelming pride. This is very evident when she accepts death because she knew that she had committed a good deed.
Antigone proves that she does not regret her decision to provide Polyneices with a suitable burial rather than leaving his dead body to rot in the fields. She knew that she was doing the right thing and that the gods would want her to bury her brother. Creon was not a factor in her decision and therefore her hubris was obvious when she acknowledged her sentence and was not overwhelmed with the news. “See me, citizens of my fatherland, setting forth on my last way, looking my last on the sunlight that is for me no more? ” (Antigone, p. 8) The guards then escort her to a cave where she would live her last days. As her death is approaching Creon receives a message that Antigone has actually hung herself. This occurred when she came to the realization that she would never be able to get married or have children. “? And yet I honoured thee, as the wise will deem, rightly. Never, had been a mother of children, or if a husband had been moldering in death, would I have taken this task upon me in the city’s despite? ” (Antigone, p. 20) To a great extent Antigone’s hubris played a large part in her downfall which ultimately lead to her death. ? For when a house hath once been shaken from heaven, there the curse fails never more, passing from life to life of the race? ” (Antigone, p. 14) Oedipus, Antigone’s father, had a curse put upon him because he married his mother and killed his father. It was fate that at some point this curse would by some means affect Antigone. At the beginning of the play while talking with her sister, Antigone herself states both her motivation to bury her brother and her fate. “? whose disobeys in aught, his doom is death by stoning before all the folk.
Thou knowest it now; and thou wilt soon show whether thou wilt soon show whether thou art nobly bred, or the base daughter of a noble-line. ” (Antigone, p. 3). Antigone would rather follow the divine law and die than to live by Creon’s law and suffer internally knowing that she left her brother unburied. It was fate that Antigone would die if she buried her brother but she never once regretted it. To an extent fate played a significant role in her demise considering that she could not tamper with it since it was her destiny.
Through the use of hamartia, hubris, and fate, all devices of the tragic mode, Sophocles created an excellent play. The use of the devices proves that the three factors played a significant role in the downfall of the tragic heroine. He employed these devices through the use of the protagonist, Antigone which created an emotional and dramatic play for the audience. While reflecting on the play, one would question if it was it noble of Antigone to follow divine law, or if she should have obeyed Creon’s orders.