Antigone by Sophocles
Antigone, a play written by Sophocles, became a classic due to its timeless subject matter. In this play, the Greek dramatist reflected mainly on civil disobedience. Antigone believes in individual rights over state rights. Creon, however, strongly believes in putting state over religion. The play not only revolves on these two political and religious issues, but it also deals with the battle of the sexes. The play is about a strong-willed woman, Antigone, defying the laws of a proud king, Creon.
Antigone is torn between her devotion to the gods, her brother Polynices, and her loyalty to the king. Creon, ruler of Thebes, issued the order to leave the traitor Polynices’ body unburied. He must be left unburied, his corpse carrion for the birds and dogs to tear, an obscenity for the citizens to behold! (229-31) Antigone was not about to simply obey Creon’s absurd decree. She felt that her personal responsibility was to the gods and her family rather than the king. She then asked Ismene, her sister, to assist her with the burial, but was denied any help.
Ismene justified her decision by telling Antigone that they were already punished and that there was no need to make matters worse for the two of them by defying Creon’s law. Oh my sister, think- think how our own father died, hated, his reputation in ruins, driven on by the crimes he brought to light himself to gouge out his eyes with his own hands- then motherhis mother and wife, both in one, mutilating her life in the twisted noose- and last, our two brothers dead in a single day, both shedding there won blood, poor suffering boys, battling out their common destiny hand-to-hand. 60-69) I, for one, I’ll beg the dead to forgive me I’m forced, I have no choiceI must obey the ones who stand in power.
Why rush to extremes? It’s madness, madness. 78-81) Antigone was disappointed at first, but decided that she will bury Polynices with or without Ismene’s help. You have your excuses. I am on my way, I’ll raise a mound for him, for my dear brother. (95-96) Creon was warned about a plan to bury Polynices and later found the culprit, Antigone. He issued a death sentence for her defying action. Creon informed his son, Haemon, of his fiancee’s deceit. Haemon, however, defended his beloved fiancee.
He told his father that the whole city was on her side, but everybody was afraid to speak out against him. Creon then accused Haemon of “being a woman’s accomplice”(836), “fighting on her side, the woman’s side. “(828) Creon continued to threaten him with witnessing the execution of Antigone. She was to “die, now here, in front of his eyes, beside her groom! “(853-54). Haemon countered him with a threat of his own that he would never set eyes on him again if he continues this violence. Creon was appalled with his son. For that, Antigone was to die a very agonizing death.
She was to be taken: down some wild, desolate path never trod by men, and wall her up alive n a rocky vault, and set out short rations, just a gesture of piety. (870-73) After the guards had taken Antigone away, the prophet Tiresias came to warn Creon of the dire consequences he would endure if he does not release Antigone soon. Tiresias told Creon of his dreams in which he would lose the people he loves if he continues to be stubborn and stupid. Creon admitted that the prophecies troubled him greatly. He ordered the release of Antigone and traveled to the rocky vault, but was too late.
He found her: hanged by the neck in a fine noose, strangled in her veils– and the boy, is hands slung around her waist, clinging to her, wailing for his bride, dead and down below, for his father’s crimes and the bed of his marriage blighted by misfortune. (1347-52) When Haemon saw his father he attacked him with his sword, but missed and instead drove the sword in to his own heart. Creon witnessed all this and realized that he had brought it on himself. Back at the palace, his wife Eurydice heard the news and ended up killing herself. Creon begged to be free of this guilt by demanding his own death.
He finally admitted to being a “rash, indiscriminate fool! (1460) Creon’s lack of respect for the gods and Tiresias lead to his downfall. His qualities of stubbornness, one-sidedness and authoritativeness did not serve him well as a leader. Antigone on the other hand possessed qualities everyone admires. She was defiant, strong-willed, rebellious, brave, loyal, and stubborn. Stubbornness became her downfall. Antigone believed that the laws of the gods were of greater importance than the rules of the state. Creon, however, believed that since he was the king, his word is the law and no one should dare defy him.
Besides the political and religious content, Antigone deals with the battle of the sexes as well. Creon continually brings up that women are subservient to all men. He advised his son of: never letting some woman triumph over us. Better to fall from power, if fall we must, at the hands of a man- never be rated inferior to a woman, never. (758-61) Both were so proud and stubborn that it cost Antigone her own life and Creon his loved one’s death. I found this play very interesting. Even though it was produced centuries ago, we could still easily relate with the themes it depicted.
It encourages people of the modern world to stand up for what they believe in. It teaches us to be more open-minded and we learn that there are no set rules. We do not always have to do what we are told. We just need to be aware of the consequences of our actions. Antigone also places an emphasis on being proud. It is important to have pride for the reason of restoring one’s own self-esteem. However, having too much of it (hubris) can lead to destruction. Admitting that you are wrong is not a bad thing. It can prevent a lot of heartache.