There has been much talk about Sophocles’ “Antigone” over the years. The play by Sophocles has been subject to many criticisms that delve into mainly the decisions behind actions exhibited in the play. In this review, “Antigone” will be broken up into sections. These sections are characteristics that like many of the characteristics of a Shakespearean tragedy. This review is mainly compromised of those characteristics that are alike, with some references those that are unalike.
The scholarly critical articles that are addressed show diverse views in order to display the different levels of which this play was conceived of nd how these views tied into the development of the story. Exciting Force Tragedies like any good tale have some type of exciting force that brings all the conflicts to light. In the case of Antigone, it is the discussion of the burial of Antigone’s brother, Polynices. Antigone is willing to do whatever is necessary to do right and have a proper burial for her brother. The true conflict arises when we realize that by burying her brother, Antigone is bringing trouble to herself.
The question we begin to ask ourselves is whether or not she is justified in her decision to ake it upon herself to complete the burial. Bennett and Tyrell elaborate on the ancient procedures for burials in order to show the conflicting views on who should justly proceed over funeral proceedings. On one hand Antigone seems to be doing the right thing by her brother by proceeding with his funeral, however when you add in the knowledge of the time when this would have occurred then you realize that she might not have been so right after all.
Antigone is following the procedures that should be done to a body when the person dies, but by doing so, she is mpeding on the role of men and their authority in society. According to Bennett and Tyrell, “By tending to the dead, the duty and obligation of kinship, sex, and family, Antigone unavoidably ‘intrudes’ upon the public sphere of the polis. ” (453) Antigone enters into an area where there is an unclear distinction between the two. It could be considered that is the right of Antigone to proceed with the burial given that she as women is the sex traditionally responsible for the burial of the dead during the archaic times.
It was the only time that they could have an influence on social and political life. Bennett and Tyrell, 454-455) Unfortunately, this was a right that was taken away over time. With this fact then it was true that Antigone had no right to proceed with the burial until you consider that Antigone and Ismene were the closest families left. With no one left around to proceed in the burial, the duty should have been placed onto the two sisters. Even Creon with his role of being the uncle/great uncle of Antigone and her siblings it can be considered that he was not the next closest kin of the family.
Antigone also wants to do right by the gods by completing a roper burial. The obsessive need to be faithful to the gods is most likely tied to the fact that Antigone’s family been cursed by the gods. Antigone probably even realizes that she is going to die anyway, but feels as though this is a just cause, one good enough to die for. Even with all this evidence pointing otherwise it is still a fact that Antigone had no right to proceed with the burial. Creon, although he was wrong in the way that he treated the body, he was just acting in a way that was right for that time in restricting women’s participation in burials. (Bennett and
Tyrell, 456) With all this, Antigone comes off as a person who goes against already established customs of society, thus making her much more enjoyable to watch. Made for Antigone was made to entertain. Graham Johnson explores the uses of satire in Antigone by showing that the satire was used to make the audience started thinking. When Creon prohibits Polyneices from being buried that is when all the family struggles that had been buried become unearthed. Creon was not always making decisions like these. According to Johnson, “[Creon] had frequently listened to the wisdom of Tiresias, the lind prophet, when making decisions. (74)
Which may explain that the one time he makes a decision on his own goes completely south. Even traitors are supposed to be able to be buried even if it is outside of the city of Athens, but Creon declares that Polyneices may not be buried at all. Creon stays stubborn about this throughout the play, something that can be related to other tyrants which Creon was becoming. This is shown to exhibit how Sophocles looks down upon tyrants. Haemon even begged his father to change his mind, but he continued to go through with his plans and only changed his ind after the fact.
At that point, it was too late and Creon ended up losing his son. It was only after this that Creon is able to go into being a more virtuous ruler. (Johnson G. , 75) Creon wasn’t the only one who was mocked. Antigone was given an extreme personality in order for her to be amusing. She is so fixated burying her brother in the proper way that she is unable to focus on anything including her own life. The way she is portrayed is as unpredictable and unstable. Hamartia Antigone brought all of the misfortunes to her with her fatal flaw, also called Hamartia.
Although Hamartia is a term that ties o Greek tragedy, the definition ties to Shakespearean tragedy. Words like ‘fault, failure, guilt’ all of which are used to define Hamartia, are all things that Antigone demonstrates throughout the play. The fault is that she is not allowed to bury her brother’s body. The failure is in her attempts to bury her brother. The guilt is knowing that she can never properly bury her brother’s body. Throughout the play, Antigone pays no mind to anyone around her. At first glance, it seems as though she is loyal to family, but in reality, she has only shown any compassion towards those who are already.
The animosity between Antigone and Creon can be acceptable since they are two opposing forces but what about Ismene? In one line of the play Antigone said: “Look, I am the last of your royal line. ” Such powerful words until you remember that Ismene is still alive during this time. It is as if the existence of Ismene means nothing. In reality, Ismene played a greater role than at first glance. Ismene may have been more of an unheroic character rather than a hero, but she still had an impact on the story. In the very beginning of the play, Ismene and Antigone are plotting to bury their brother’s body.
According to Kirkpatrick, “It is important to note that Ismene not only suggests violating Creon’s decree in secret, she also unhesitatingly offers to assist Antigone in this duplicity. ” (407) Ismene decides to help her sister but is brushed off. To Ismene, it is important that when they bury their brother that they do so in secret, which is exactly what she did. If you recall, Antigone has no knowledge of what was done at night when Creon brought her in the next day. She neither confirms nor denies the things she is accused of. The play would have proceeded much differently if the first burial had not been done.
Something in the Hero that outweighs other things So, what is it about Antigone that makes us root for her despite her having many flaws? Is it her lack of fear in the face of death? Is it because she is the hero of the story? One thing that is considered a constant in tragedies is that the hero is considered a great man in the context of the story. However, Antigone has not done anything that would be considered great in her life. She is just considered part of the royal line. Even though she has not done anything in her life that would be deemed as heroic, it would be enough if she had just heroic qualities.
Instead of heroic qualities, she does heroic actions. Even with all of these flaws, we tend to overlook them. According to Lines, “The flaw of hubris is easy to spot in Oedipus, but Antigone’s brilliance is so dazzling that we overlook her flaw. ” (par. 18) We want to root for the person that we consider being fighting for a just cause with the forces fighting against her in every way. Everyone loves the underdog, and Antigone is just that. A child born to a warped family line against her will and also born a woman. At first glance, she just seems as someone who is fighting a fight that is ay ahead of her time.
Antigone is someone who follows her voice and does not allow others to persuade her to change her actions. Whereas, Creon does what is to be expected of him. He does not try to rock the boat. He has just gotten into the role of king and intends to keep it by maintaining happiness among the polis. In retrospect, when you look deeper, Antigone is actually looking backward. In Lines’ article, she fails to realize that her actions actually speak of the past, something of which was addressed by Bennett and Tyrell. Antigone has the ability to attract and repel.
Something you do not see very often in a ‘hero’. According to Verkerk, “[Antigone] invites death into life and in doing so removes herself from the regular movement of life. ” Even knowing that she is moving from the ‘normal’ path, Antigone still insists on moving forward with her actions. Even though Antigone’s need to bury her brother is borderline on the edge of insanity, it also ends up showing her humanity. The driving force behind that humanity being shown is her commitment to family. In all ways that Antigone is talked about, you sense her commitment to her family from her father to her brother.
So in some way when Line talks about Ismene and how she is forgotten by Antigone, she fails to bring up the fact that Ismene is not of importance at the moment. What matters is Polynices who is dead and cannot defend himself. Ismene is alive and is able to protect herself. The living can do for themselves is what Antigone’ demonstrates in her actions. Since Antigone already knows that she will die for her actions she begins to see herself as a speaker for the dead. That willingness to accept death as her fate for fighting what she believes in is another important ability she has. Death of Hero
A tragedy tends to end with the hero either dying or the conflict reaching a resolution. In Antigone, both things occurred. Antigone hung herself and Creon finally decided to bury Polynices properly. Throughout the entire play, there is a continuous conflict between the two (Antigone and Creon). They both believe that what they are doing is right and that the other is wrong. However, as Meltzer points out, they are both right in their stances of Antigone being for family and Creon being for the state. With both of their cause being such opposites, it is impossible for them to see from the other’s point of view.
In Antigone’s eyes, by the point of her brother’s death, she feels as if she has no place to go anymore. When her father died she felt she had no home but went back to stop her brother’s fron fighting. She was expecting that to be her new home. But with the death of her brothers, she has lost the last men in her life (Antigone cares not for Haemon so he does not count). With all the lingering social norms being pushed upon her, Antigone begins to want to escape. The place she intended to escape to was death to be with her family. Her desire was not death but to be rejoined with family.
If she was to marry Haemon, she would have had to join a new family and leave her old family behind. Her attachment to the men in her family extends from even before Antigone began. During the time that Antigone was part of, unmarried women were not allowed to be close to men unless they were apart of the family. So in turn, the only men she was around being her father and brothers. Next, tie into the fact that Oedipus was very close to his daughters. He did things that broke what was considered the social norm such as allowing the daughters to eat with him. Antigone when she was older also traveled with her father in exile.
As a result, the loyalty to her brother ended up becoming very obsessive. Greek tragedies came long before Shakespearean tragedies though they do before many similarities. There are differences in the fact that in Shakespearean tragedies were not allowed to talk about the government and if they did it was very minimum. In Shakespearean tragedies, it would not allow such blatant negative representation of government. The plays were very highly censored. The traits that were passed on were the ones that made the greatest impact on the story as a whole in order to bring out the tragedy.