Feminism in Antigone
Feminism in Antigone Although ancient Greece was a male-dominant society, Sophocles’ Antigone portrays women as being strong and capable of making wise decisions. Antigone, the tragic heroine, rejects the traditional role of women. As such, Sophocles punishes Ismene for embodying traditional attitude. Moreover, Creon is punished for misogyny. Sophocles, accordingly, uses characterization to promote feminist ideas. Sophocles introduces a female character in Antigone who is a strong believer and who demonstrates feminist logic.
This is Antigone, as she rejects the traditional role of women. Antigone disobeys her king Creon, in various ways causing her to be portrayed as a feminist. For instance, Antigone struggles trying to secure a respectable burial for her brother Polyneices. Knowing that the penalty for disobedience is to be stoned to death, Antigone states that “What Creon says is quite irrelevant [as] / [Polyneices] is [her] brother [and she] will bury him” (32). Antigone also sticks to her beliefs throughout the entire play and refuses to be labelled as a woman.
Even though Ismene tries to convince her to do otherwise, Antigone remains cheerful because she is “helping those [she] know(s) / [she] should help” (34). Moreover, once Antigone is caught for her actions, she refuses to give in and says that “[She] will suffer/Nothing worse than death in a good cause” (34). Antigone doesn’t mind the consequences as she sticks to what she thinks is right, and refuses to give in just because she is a woman. Sophocles also introduces a second female character who doesn’t have the same strength and courage as Antigone.
Sophocles not only portrays feminism through the tragic heroine Antigone, but also punishes a second female character for obeying the laws set by her king. This is Ismene, and she is punished for embodying a traditional attitude. Unlike Antigone, Ismene believes that everyone should “comply with their superior’s orders” (33) especially if a male is in power. Ismene questions if “life will be worth/Living… left all alone without [her]” (45). Unfortunately, her attitude causes her to lose her sister Antigone.
Additionally, Ismene also gets punished due to Antigone’s actions even after obeying her superior’s orders. As a result, Creon states that “[he will] execute them” (43). Moreover, Ismene is punished with the shame of the actions she has caused. She stood up to Antigone and partially blamed herself for their brother’s burial as she didn’t want to be left alone. Ismene therefore “bear(s) [her] share of blame” (45) and suffers from Antigone’s actions. Ismene wasn’t the only character who embodied a traditional attitude as Sophocles introduces a similar male character.
The famous playwright not only introduces characters who promote feminism, but he also punishes those who believe women are inferior. Creon believes that women should obey men’s orders and is eventually punished for misogyny. “[Creon] wish(es) [that he] weren’t alive” (65) as a result of having a misogynistic attitude. He is soon punished as he realizes that the death of his son Haemon and his wife Eurydice were all caused due to his misogynistic attitude and stubbornness towards the decisions he later regrets.
Furthermore, Creon is punished due to the fact that his set laws prohibited women to freely express their opinion and such resulted in him being the main victim of several deaths. Creon “invite(s) death” (65) and causes the citizens of Thebes to revolt against his foolish decisions resulting in his reputation as a king to diminish. Likewise, Creon believes that men are superior and were not created “to be shoved around by… women” (45). According to Creon, Men are therefore allowed to make decisions for women which cannot be contradicted. It is for this reason that he is punished for his actions.
If he would have allowed the right for women to express themselves just as equally as men, then Antigone’s wish would have been granted and such dilemma would not have occurred. Sophocles encourages feminism in his work Antigone. He does this in the role of Antigone who rejects the traditional role of women. Sophocles not only rewards feminism but also does the reverse as he punishes Ismene for being a stereotypical woman, as well as Creon for demonstrating hatred towards women. Therefore, Sophocles tries to convey that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.