In the play, “Antigone,” written by Sophocles, catharsis is used by multiple characters. Catharsis is defined as the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music; otherwise known as trying to get the audience to have pity or terror in the characters. Some examples of catharsis in the play are when Antigone buried Polyneices, when the guards are taking her off to be killed, andwhen Haemon commits suicide.
In the play, the main character, Antigone, uses catharsis better than any of the other characters. “But the unhappy corpse of Polyneices / he has proclaimed to all the citizens, / they say, no man may hide / in a grave nor mourn in funeral, / but leave unwept, unburied, a dainty treasure / for the birds that see him, for their feast’s delight.” In this quote, Antigone is trying to get Creon, the king, to feel pity for her. Antigone had two brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, who both were killed. Creon had ordered a proper burial for Eteocles, but had said that Polyneices was to be left outside city limits. She wanted Polyneices to have a proper burial, which she showed in that quote. Antigone showed catharsis towards the audience once she buried Polyneices, as well as she shows it when she is being taken to go be killed.
While Antigone is being taken off to go be killed, the guard asked her if there was anything he could do to help her. Antigone tried to give him her gold ring, but he refused. Therefore, she had him write a letter in his notebook in case they were to search his pockets. Before Antigone could tell the guard who the letter was to go to, she was taken to go be killed. The guards do not know who the people they take to go be killed are, such as Antigone. Everyone in the town of Thebes knows Antigone, as she is Creon’s niece, and Haemon’s fiance. If the guard and Antigone could have just had a few more minutes together, he would have knows who she was and possibly felt pity towards her such as the audience. In spite of Antigone being killed for burying her brother, Haemon use catharsis himself when he kills himself. In the play, the chorus and the messenger have a conversation:
CHORUS: But who is the murderer? Who is the murdered? Tell us.
MESSENGER: Haemon is dead; the hand that shed his blood was his very own.
CHORUS: Truly his own hand? Or his father’s?
MESSENGER: His own hand, in his anger against his father for a murder.
This conversation between these two characters make the audience feel pity towards Haemon for killing himself. Haemon committed suicide because he is so distraught over his fiance, Antigone, death. His father, Creon, had ordered Antigone to be killed even though his son was in love with her.
Catharsis is a very important part of theatre. It gets the audience’s emotions going towards the characters in the play. The main character in the play, Antigone, went against the king’s orders and buried her brother, Polyneices. Antigone also used catharsis by making the guard feel pity towards her in her letter she had him write while she was being taken off to be killed. Finally, Haemon, Creon’s son, killed himself in spite of the pain he felt because of the death of his fiance, Antigone. Catharsis can be a good and bad thing, and can be used in everyday life, not just theatre; everyone has used catharsis once in their life whether is was meant to be used or not.