Historical Analysis of Antigone
Crystal Green Dram 105 Dr. Rodda October 7, 2010 Sophocles’ Antigone Sophocles’ Antigone brings to life the underlying culture flaws in the Greek city-states by showing how the idea of filial piety and divine law undermine each other and were used as a means to justify the ends. Athenian citizens enjoyed a wide range of powers of self-governance: citizens elected military leaders and held judicial authority. Every male citizen enjoyed these rights. Women were not considered citizens; they were the wards of their closest living male relative.
In Antigone, Sophocles clearly defines Antigone as the exact opposite of what any Athenian woman was expected to behave; obedient to man and state. Sophocles fashioned King Creon with an undoubtedly deadly dictatorial style of leadership, symbolic of Greek governance, which is the ultimate antithesis of Athenian values and ideals. In the opening, Ismene says to Antigone, “No, no, we must remember we were born women, not meant to strive with men. ” The impact of gender on the consequences Antigone suffered is prevalent in this city-state.
Greek women were considered property. They were there to devote their lives to domestic chores and to serve their male head of household. Sophocles offers a new role for women with his clever depiction of Antigone. Antigone was a woman who portrayed everything a woman was not expected to be. She is a princess clearly in defiance of state, defiance of filial piety, but her defiance was met with acceptance among the city-states because Creon’s rule went against everything the Greeks built their belief system upon: divine law and filial piety.
Sophocles brought together the two extreme, polar opposite forces to compare and contrast the ideals of filial piety and a king’s right to rule under divine law. When Creon’s son confronts him about his decision to kill Antigone, he tells Creon no one in the state deems Antigone a criminal and his judgment was unjust even in the view of the Gods. Even the chorus was telling Creon to listen to his son. Creon refused to listen to anyone. He proclaimed his law is just because he is a man although his rule is supposed to be Divinity.
He continuously ridiculed his son for being swayed by a woman. ”You’re a woman’s toy! ” Creon completely ignored his filial obligations to his son, and daughter-in-law, and remained solidified in his rule to have Antigone put to death for disobeying his non-divine law. The Greeks believed under Divine Law the deceased should be buried in a certain manner and returned to the Gods. Creon’s edict clearly is in conflict with this ideal as he strictly forbids the burial of Polyneices. The king was someone who ruled through the Gods, not an actual God himself.
His only defense was he was a man, a ruler who is more intelligent than he? Antigone has Creon’s son, and the Gods, speaking to Creon about his unjust judgment, but still Creon insist his judgment was final. Creon is supposed to be ruling through divinity and Antigone is rebelling with divine purpose, but yet they are set against each other. How can both be operating under divine law and filial piety, as they proclaim, if both are taking actions against each other? The chorus acted as a voice of the Gods offering wisdom from above as Creon rules his empire.
Creon defied the chorus often and adamantly proclaimed whatever he has said is law even if it conflicted with the chorus. Likewise, Antigone proclaims that her actions have divine purpose. She says she will be a criminal,” but a religious one. ” She is the daughter-in-law of the state. She undermines filial piety by going against the state, but says she is valid because the Gods are with her. This is putting religious beliefs above filial piety, but Antigone’s belief in filial piety is what causes this whole mess to begin with.
She just wanted to bury her brother, obligations to family loyalties, which happened to go against her father-in-laws wishes, thus defying the state; which is also against her belief in filial piety. When it can’t be proven the Gods have deemed her actions divine she proclaims she has a duty to her brother. When her actions are no longer justified by her obligation to be loyal to her family, she takes a divine stance on why her actions are justified. Antigone, a woman, with little virtue, by that Greek culture, makes the largest impact on the state.
The conflicts underlying Antigone is the conflict between human law which makes sense at the moment, and divine law, which is true for all time. Antigone acted upon the moment, a moment when her actions were just. Her defiance of the state sets in motion a series of events that test the bonds of filial piety and what it means to live under divine law. Haemon loved Antigone and wanted to marry her. When his father condemned her to death and would not see the error, he committed suicide. Upon learning about her son’s death, Creon’s wife commits suicide.
Creon was not loyal to his family and disobeyed divine law. Creon betrayed every facet of the foundation of Greek beliefs. The only facet he held loyal to was under-valuing the power of a woman. His inability to get past Antigone being a woman long enough to hear out his son, or the Gods, ultimately led to the state losing everything. Women were an undervalued part of the Greek city-states. If there was an issue with divine law that intruded upon the foundations of natural law or a citizen’s obligation to family, it was not heard of.
A government is ruled by man is the ultimate point in Antigone. Creon’s betrayal to both God and family leads to the fall of his hierarchy. Sophocles successfully intertwined the Greek beliefs of divine law, divine purpose and filial piety and showed how “It’s deadly for bad judgment to embrace a man. ” ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Filial Piety means the devotion and reverence to parents and family. [ 2 ]. Divine Law is that in the opinion of believers, a law that comes directly from the will their God and it is independent of the will of man; who cannot change it. [ 3 ].
Referenced in “Traditions and Encounters” by Jerry H Bentley. Vol. 1. [ 4 ]. Main character of the play Antigone [ 5 ]. Main character of the play Antigone [ 6 ]. The king rules by Divine Law and his citizens are governed by filial piety. [ 7 ]. Antigone’s sister. [ 8 ]. Background voices in the play symbolic of the Greek Gods. [ 9 ]. A quote from King Creon. [ 10 ]. Referenced in “Traditions and Encounters” By Jerry Bentley. Vol. 1 [ 11 ]. Antigone and Ismene’s Brother. [ 12 ]. Quote from Antigone. [ 13 ]. The son of King Creon and Antigone’s fiance. [ 14 ]. Quote from the Queen’s messenger