In Poetics, Aristotle explains tragedy as a kind of imitation of a certain magnitude, using direct action instead of narration to achieve its desired affect. It is of an extremely serious nature. The tragedy is also complete, with a structure that unifies all of its parts. It is meant to produce a catharsis of the audience, meant to produce the emotions of pity and fear and to purge them of these emotions and helping them better understand the ways of the gods and men.
The tragedy is also in a language in both verse and song. Aristotle’s definition is clearly applicable to both Herman Melville’s Billy Budd and the famous Greek tragedy Antigone by Sophocles. Antigone is definitely a good example of a Greek tragedy. It contains all of the elements of Greek tragedy as defined by Aristotle. Billy Budd has also been interpreted by some critics as a Greek tragedy. This seems true in that it contains many of the requirements in a Greek tragedy. However, as we look closer, there are many factors that are not found in Billy Budd that are required in a Greek tragedy.
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There are flaws in the theory. Analysis of the Billy Budd has shown that enough of these flaws are evident to interpret Billy Budd as not a Greek tragedy. There are differences in the character, structure, theme, magnitude, tragic heroes, plot, as well as focus. However, it can be argued that these differences can also be similarities. It can be explained as a variant.
An interpretation has been a key issue in these two works. The two works have been interpreted in many different ways. Each way could lead to a different comparison of these two works. Therefore, the reader must decide which interpretation is most “correct” and conclude whether the similarities are sufficient to call Billy Budd a Greek tragedy.
Aristotle states that “For Tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality. Now character determines men’s qualities, but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse. Dramatic action, therefore, is not with a view to the representation of character: character comes in as subsidiary to the actions. Hence the incidents and the plot are the ends of a tragedy; and the end is the chief thing of all.
Without action there cannot be a tragedy; there may be one without character . . . The plot then is the first principle, and, as it were, the soul of a tragedy: Character holds the second place.” (1, VI) Aristotle is stating that imitation is the representation of an object or action as ought to be. In both Billy Budd and Antigone, this occurs. Both involve a situation as the plot as it could be. The actions of the characters are influenced by their character and thought as well as the actions of others.
These actions are put into a chain of events which is called the plot. In Aristotle’s words, “Hence, the Plot is the imitation of the action- for by plot I here mean the arrangement of the incidents.” (1, VI) In turn, they each represent a situation that does not occur in life to illustrate a point directed toward the audience. The audience is left to decide questions the author or playwright poses.
The plot in Antigone is a situation after Oedipus, the king of Thebes, exiled himself. His two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles were proclaimed as the rulers of Thebes. They agreed that each would rule in alternate years. However, after the first year, Eteocles refused to give up the rule of Thebes. Polyneices joined the forces of Adrastus, the king of Argos to attack Thebes. The attack broke the duel of the two brothers. The result was the destruction of each other.
Thus, Creon, their uncle, was given the kingship and assumed the throne. Creon gave Eteocles a hero’s honors at his funeral. However, Creon declared that the body of Polyneices was not to be buried. Any person that tried to give last rites to Polyneices would be put to death. Antigone, the sister of Polyneices and Eteocles, is distraught that her brother Polyneices be denied burial. (In Greek thought, the denial of burial was very important.
This will be discussed in detail later) Antigone was determined to give the body of Polyneices a proper burial no matter what the cost. Despite the pleading of her sister, Ismene to not go against the decree of Creon, Antigone goes about and ultimately does perform last rites on her brother, Polyneices. Antigone proudly admits that it was indeed her that went against his decree and buried her brother. Antigone tells Creon that she is prepared to die even though she was obeying a high law than Creon’s.
Now Creon must decide what to do. His decision is influenced by several factors. One is that Antigone is betrothed to his son, Haemon. His son is very much in love with Antigone. He persuades his father to not punish Antigone. Another influence is that of the citizens of Thebes. The citizens also tell Creon to release Antigone. “Creon. And is this girl, not a criminal’? Haemon. The city with a single voice denies it.’” (2, 734-735) The final influence is from the blind prophet Teiresias.
Teiresias urges Creon not to punish Antigone and warns him that the gods have been offended by the unburied body of Polyneices. He also warns Creon that the death of his son would result if Creon does not change his mind. Creon, becoming frightened at the possible death of his son, reluctantly decides to release Antigone and give Polyneices a proper burial. However, the happy ending is denied as the audience learns that Antigone committed suicide in her jail cell and Creon’s son, Haemon has followed Antigone in death.
To further Creon’s suffering, his wife, Eurydice commits suicide as well. Creon acknowledges that the whole chain of tragic events was a result of his wrongdoing. He wanders off into self-exile and prays that his own death will come soon.
The plot of Billy Budd is similar. The story is of a young “handsome sailor” (3, 8) named Billy Budd. He is impressed by the British fleet a British merchant ship. Billy becomes a well-liked man by the crew from his cheerful countenance and innocence and also after a fight with Red Whiskers that earns the respect of the other crew members. However, Billy is not as well-liked by the mast of arms, John Claggart. Claggart is a man that Melville describes as being a man “. . . in whom was the mania of an evil nature, not engendered by vicious training or corrupting books or licentious living but born with him and innate, in short a depravity according to nature’” (3,38).
After several incidents, Claggart’s hate and envy of Billy erupts. Billy is warned several times by Dansker, a veteran sailor. Unfortunately, Billy is too naive and innocent to understand or believe his warnings. Claggart brings to the captain of the ship that Billy Budd is involved in a mutiny on the ship. Mutiny is a major issue at the time when the play is set because two mutinies have occurred just months before. However, is fond of Billy and is considering giving him a promotion among other things.
He distrusts Claggart and decides to solve the situation quickly by bringing Billy into his room for questioning. After Claggart repeats his story, Billy’s “tragic flaw” prevails. Billy is too upset to speak and in an outburst of emotion accidentally kills Claggart with one blow. Vere is then put into an awkward position. He must decide whether or not to execute Billy. He calls a drumhead court. His decision is also under many influences. Many of the officers on the ship including the chaplain and doctor as well as the members of the drumhead court feel that Billy should not be executed.
The other influence is that not executing Billy could bring about a mutiny on his ship. An execution would be a good way to stop a possible mutiny. Finally, his sense of duty brings him to influence the court to reluctantly execute Billy. Billy is promptly executed the next day. Later, during a battle, Vere is wounded and after several days dies murmuring “Billy Budd, Billy Budd.” (3, 76)
There are many similarities between these two plots. The actions that each character makes can be easily related. The most obvious is the decision to execute a person that is influenced by many factors. In Billy Budd, Captain Vere is forced to decide whether or not to execute Billy. In Antigone, King Creon must decide whether or not to punish Antigone. In each case, the person to be punished has done something that is wrong in terms of the laws that are in place.
However, it is also true that the act that is defined as wrong in terms of the law can also be considered right. They can be considered right in the moral law. It follows that in each work, everyone around the “decision-maker” tries to persuade him to decide in favor of the law-breaker. A similarity also follows in that both Captain Vere and King Creon regret their action in the past.
This is shown by the self-exile of King Creon. King Creon also says, “Lead me away, a rash, a misguided man, Whose blindness has killed a wife and son. O where can I look? What strength can I find? On me has fallen a doom greater than I can bear.” (2, 1339-1343) Captain Vere’s regret is shown by his last words of “Billy Budd, Billy Budd.” (3, 76)
Another difference is in the laws that are in place. The laws in Billy Budd were not set by Captain Vere. They were set by the Parliament in England. Vere was under the command of high authority. On the other side of the coin, the laws in Antigone were set by King Creon. He had no high power to listen to. He was the highest power in Thebes.
He could have easily changed his mind on the issue, which he did later on. Another difference is that one of the characters: Antigone, broke the law on purpose while Billy broke the law by accident. Antigone was ready to accept death. She was willing to die for a cause that she felt was right. On the other hand, Billy did not want to die. He committed an offense, murder, not on purpose but on accident. He did not mean to kill Claggart. Antigone meant to go against Creon’s decree.
In Antigone, Creon did in fact change his mind to release Antigone and bury her brother, Polyneices in the end even though it was too late. He was frightened by the possible death of his son. However, in Billy Budd, Captain Vere decides to hang Billy despite all of the opposition that was posed against him. However, in Billy Budd, Vere’s opposition is not as strong because going against the captain could be regarded as an act of insolence or mutiny. It could be speculated that if the doctor and the chaplain had spoken for Billy that the execution of Billy could have been avoided.
Another difference is that Captain Vere in Billy Budd felt that in his mind that Billy should not be executed. This is evident when Captain Vere says, “struck dead by an angel of God! Yet the angel must hang!” (3,51) Vere was forced to go against his own judgment in executing Billy. In Antigone, Creon was totally against the idea of releasing Antigone and giving Polyneices a proper burial. He was only influenced by others to change his mind.
In direct relation to the plot is the theme. The theme is defined as a unifying or dominant idea or motif as in a work of art. In Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, Aristotle says that each action is directed towards a common theme. Each action is a part of the theme of the work. Together all of the actions: the plot unifies the theme. Also, the theme usually demonstrates a change in the protagonist’s fortune. As stated before, interpretation is the key to these works. Depending on which interpretation is followed a different theme could be created.
One interpretation of Billy Budd is that it is a recreation of the story of Christ. Billy is the Christ figure, being the peacemaker on the ship. He was also accused of being the leader of a rebellious group planning a mutiny just as Jesus was accused of being the kind of the Jews. They both suffer a similar demise as each is subjected to a similar execution. It is also said that as Billy died, ” At the same moment it chanced that the vapory fleece hanging low in the East was shot through with a soft glory as of the fleece of the Lamb of God seen in a mystical vision, and simultaneously . . .
Billy ascended, and, ascending, took the full rose of the dawn.” Claggart is symbolized as Lucifer. He is an evil man as described by Melville. He is compared to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. However, instead of temptation, Claggart is out for the death of Billy. Captain Vere is symbolic of God. He is portrayed by Melville as the father figure of Billy (Jesus). From this interpretation, one theme can be there is a constant struggle between good and evil in the world.
All of the actions in the play point toward this. Some examples include the existence of the Claggart figure and Billy Budd. They coexist all on the little world aboard the ship. They both fight each other. In this case, the battle was started by evil: Claggart. Vere is the person that is in between and must decide between good and evil.
In a different interpretation, fate could be an important theme. Fate is something that cannot be avoided no matter what happens. In Billy Budd, it is fated that Claggart is evil. This is said by Melville as a possible explanation for his hate for Billy and the overall evil nature. Melville says that this is due to “natural depravity.” He was born evil and would never be anything but evil. It is fate. Another example is that it is fated that Billy kills Claggart.
Vere calls Billy, “Fated boy . . . what have you done!” (3, 59) This is followed by the fated decision that Vere had to make. If Billy had not had the problem of stuttering he could have made an adequate defense of himself. He could have brought Dansker as a witness and been acquitted quite easily. Vere could have waited for the admiral to come. He could have easily listened to the words of his crew. Even after his death, Vere could have blamed Claggart’s death on another man. However, Vere is a righteous man. He believes in the stern discipline.
Vere is described as: “never tolerating an infraction of discipline.” (3,16) He is generally regarded as a reliable and honest man. If the story had not taken place in a time of war, Billy would have most certainly survived. It is the fate that Claggart hated Billy, a fate that Billy killed Claggart, and fate that Vere decided to execute him. Fate is what changes Billy’s life greatly.
At the beginning of the novel, Billy was riding aboard The Rights of Man. He was enjoying his freedom when the fated sole impressment of Billy occurred. Even though on the ship he enjoyed popularity among the crew, one person brings his fall. Fate leads him ultimately to his death after killing Claggart.
Another theme is that of which is more important: moral law or civil law? Should man do what he thinks is right or go by the laws that he created? It could also be suggested that a theme could be law and order can cause the destruction of lives. This is backed by the example of Vere. Vere sacrificed the life of his best man and “son” in order to retain law and order on his ship. He later lost his life in battle for law and order as well.
This can parallel with Antigone. In one interpretation, the same theme of law and order causing the destruction of lives is found invariant form. Instead, the theme is the battle between society and tyranny. In Antigone, society is telling Creon to release Antigone and give her brother a proper burial. However, the looming shadow of tyranny takes over that of society. Creon, as the king, can do whatever he wants. His decision to punish Antigone becomes a decision he regrets.
Fate is also a very prominent theme in Antigone. Fate is what had gotten the family of Oedipus where we begin this play. Fate is why Oedipus had killed his father, marry his mother, and then find out all about it. Fate had made Oedipus’ sons kill each other and make Creon the new king of Thebes. Antigone’s fate was to die trying to honor her dead brother and be loyal to her family. In the first paragraph of the play it reads, “My darling sister Ismene, we have had a fine inheritance from Oedipus.
God has gone through the whole range of sufferings and piled them all on us, grief upon grief.” (2, 1-5) This shows the fate that Antigone and Ismene have inherited from their father. Creon’s fate is also that of losing his family. The one chance that he had was too late. He could have prevented all of this from happening, if only he had not acted so much as a king and been so untrusting of his people. If he had followed the suggestions of his people, none of it would have happened.
Fate is also what changed Creon’s life. In the beginning, he was enjoying a great kingship. The defeat of the king of Argos just occurred and he was enjoying a good time. However, his fated decree against the burial of Polyneices leads to his ultimate fall and the death of both his wife and son.
The similarity in the themes and also how the themes are created are very prominent. Each action in both of these works was a part of creating the themes in both Antigone and Billy Budd. However, there are also many differences in the themes depending on how the works are interpreted.
Aristotle states that tragedy is of high seriousness. Tragedy deals with the most complex issues of man. Both of these works deal with universal issues. In Antigone, Sophocles gives the audience several important issues to dwell on. Sophocles along with many writers of Greek tragedy tried to project moral views through their work. C.M. Bowra said that “The central idea of a Sophoclean tragedy is that through suffering man learns to be modest before the gods . . .
When [the characters] are finally forced to see the truth, we know that the gods have prevailed and that men must accept their own insignificance.” (4,24) This is very true in Antigone when Teiresias tells Creon that the Gods are angered because he would not allow the burial of Polyneices, it was a message to the audience to listen to the Gods. In the end, Creon is forced to suffer and he does in fact learn to be “be modest before the gods.”
Antigone also shows the consequences of individual responsibility. Creon suffers the consequences of individual responsibility. He holds the sole responsibility for the death of his son, wife, and Antigone. If he had heeded to the persuasions of any of the people around him he would not have suffered such a terrible outcome.
The seriousness is also apparent in Billy Budd. Melville brings many issues into the minds of his readers. He poses many questions in his digressions that the reader can think about. An example could be the suggestion that the paradox of evil and good can coexist in the world.
He also asks us how to explain the natural evil of Claggart. He also asks about repression in society. Melville brings up the topic of how innocence and naivete can bring about one’s fall. He suggests a large range of topics that gives the reader a lot of insight into life itself.
Both Billy Budd and Antigone are examples where the authors try to give the audience something to think about. It gives them ideas to wonder at. It gives them questions that cannot be answered. It gives them a new fold of understanding life.
The issue of the tragic hero is also very controversial. Many critics think that Billy Budd, Billy is the tragic hero. Billy has the qualities of a tragic hero. He is a hero that is blemished by a single “fatal flaw.” This flaw brings his downfall. He is definitely the protagonist in Billy Budd. He is compared to Hercules: “With his tanned complexion and sound build he resembles Hercules, one of the flawless Greek Gods of mythology.”
In Antigone, there has been much controversy on who the tragic hero is. The two characters: Antigone and Creon both suffer a fate that is filled with sorrow and death. It is argued that Antigone possesses all aspects of the tragic hero. She has a high social position, not overly good or bad, tenacious in her actions, arouses pity in the audience, and has a single flaw that brings about her own demise and the demise of others around them.
However, there is a problem with Billy Budd being the tragic hero. Billy lacks the necessary attributes of a tragic hero. He doesn’t have the stature and tragic sense of awareness which makes a
Religion plays a big role in both works. In Antigone, the issue of the proper burial of Polyneices is a main part of the play. This is because according to Greek religious beliefs, a soul could not make it into its place in the underworld immediately if the proper rites of burial were performed. In Greek thought, the denial of burial was a great sacrilege. Obviously, Antigone is a very religious person. To her, denying her brother of burial was a great offense.
She would do anything to allow her brother to journey to the underworld. It is also said by Teiresias that the Gods are angered because Creon ” . . . impiously have kept upon the earth Unburied and unblest one who belongs.” (2, 1070-1071) Through this denial, would come the death of Cleon’s son and also, in the end, his wife.
This is paralleled by the enormous amount of Biblical allusions in Melville’s Billy Budd. Even though Melville was a religious skeptic, his friend Hawthorne said that he neither believed nor be comfortable in his disbelief, and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. This could be a showing of his religious side. The very interpretation of Billy Budd as a recreation of the Bible is also very interesting. The only problem is that there are flaws in this interpretation.
The addition of Billy’s “fatal flaw” is a problem faced when comparing Billy to Jesus. There’s also a problem in that Billy is so innocent that he cannot possibly comprehend that it is evil in the world. Claggart doesn’t have enough motivation to be evil. It is only explained that Claggart could be naturally evil. This is a problem because he had no motivation that can be explained for him to be so evil. Vere is also a problem. Vere acts in a way that is against his own judgment.
This is unlike the God that he symbolizes. Therefore, Melville could have not meant Billy Budd to be a retelling of the Bible. However, there is also religion in Billy Budd in that of the chaplain trying to instill Billy with the fear of death. The plentifulness of the Biblical allusions is also interesting. Melville uses many examples such as Adam before the fall to describe the main characters as well as events that take place such as the death of Billy Budd.
There is also a difference in how religion is portrayed. In Antigone, religion is very much a part of everything in the play. The very conflict is based upon an issue of religion. It is also said that in Greece, the common thought was that laws should have no power over religion. This could be a justification for Antigone’s actions against Creon’s decrees.
In Billy Budd, there really is no major issue that has to do with religion. The chaplain’s efforts in instilling fear are futile. This is because Billy is too naive to understand. The whole character of Billy is totally different from that of Antigone. Billy does not have the extremely religious nature that Antigone has. He doesn’t understand many of the issues of religion itself.
The structure of the two works is also an area of comparison. In a typical Greek tragedy, there are five parts. In the Prologue, the background of the story is established. It is the opening scene of the tragedy. In the Parodos, there lies the entrance o the chorus. The chorus usually chants a lyric that has something to do with the theme of the play.
Then there are several Episodes and Stasimons. The Episodes are where the plot is developed through action and dialogue between the actors. The stasimon is again a part in which the chorus takes place. They usually come at the end of an episode. Finally, the exodos is the last part of the tragedy. It is the final action after the last stasimon. It includes the final exit of all of the players.
Antigone follows this structure very closely. The prologue introduces the main characters of Antigone and Ismene and later, Creon and Haemon. In the five episodes and stasimon, the plot is developed. Finally, the climax of the play is in the exodos where we learn that Haemon in Antigone has both committed suicides. This is followed by the death of Creon’s wife, Queen Eurydice. Finally, the king, heartbroken, wanders away as the chorus muses.
Billy Budd has a different, yet similar structure. The first part of the book is divided into thirds. Each third is devoted mostly to one main character. The first third is devoted to Billy Budd, the 2nd to Claggart, and the 3rd to Captain Vere. In these parts, the introduction of each character takes place along with the descriptions of each.
The plot is also developed in these parts in the meanwhile. Finally, the climax comes as Billy kills Claggart and suspense prevails as Vere persuades the court to execute Billy. However, then Melville adds something to the end of his novel making it seem more real in a sense. He tells about the death of Vere and also about the legend that continues about Billy Budd. The structures are the same and yet different. Both are able to unify the parts in order to make it complete. They both have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The last part of an Aristotelian tragedy is catharsis. In each tragedy, the aim is to bring pity to its audience. The aim of tragedy is to around in the audience the sensations of pity and fear, and to purge them of these emotions so that they leave feeling cleansed and understanding the ways of gods and men. It is also brought through the status of the central character.
The central character is usually someone that the audience can identify with. Therefore, the fate of this character will bring emotions to the audience. They feel as if this could also happen to them. They are living in the play and feeling the emotions the character is feeling.
In Antigone, this is very true. This is through the use of Antigone. In Greek times, the feeling of religion above the laws is universal. Therefore, the audience could very much relate to the protagonist: Antigone. The misfortune this character goes through can be felt by the audience. They can relate to the problem she faces. The pride that she feels about her brother and the act that she has performed can be related to. Any person would do the same as Antigone does in this case. The consequences she faces bring feelings of pity and fear into the minds of the audience.
The same can be true for Billy. Melville makes Billy a more “relatable” character. His flaw makes him more human in a way. He is not perfect. Therefore, the audience can relate to him. They feel pity as they see such an innocent man get into a terrible situation. The audience feels afraid of the system of justice that they helped create. It brings up many questions in the minds of the audience.
Both Billy Budd and Antigone, produce a sense of pity and fear to the audience. They both finally release their feelings at the end of the tragedy when a feeling of tranquility is brought. Pity and fear is relinquished as the characters finish their fate. Billy becomes a legend and Cleon goes into self-exile.
Both Billy Budd and Antigone are in many ways similar. The possibilities are endless. Depending on how each is interpreted a whole new comparison can be made. It can be concluded through this analysis that Billy Budd lacks many of the qualities that are included in Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. The tragic hero: Billy lacks many of the qualities needed in a tragic hero.
He does have a fatal flaw, but he lacks the magnitude and stature of a tragic hero. The other factors are in plot, theme, and character. All in all, while Billy Budd has many of the qualities that are in a Greek tragedy, it lacks many of them as well.
Theater played a large role in ancient Greek society. The citizens were meant to learn from the mistakes made in tragedies. They should have learned what not to be like as a citizen or a human. In the classic tragedy Antigone, the third and final play in Sophocles+s Oedipus Cycle, there are two main characters, Antigone and Creon. They are both strong-willed and stubborn people.
By their resistance to change, they both seal each other’s fate. Antigone is passionate… Creon is full of rage. They are both so similar that they can not see eye to eye. Although they may seem quite different, Creon and Antigone share many similarities throughout the play.
Antigone and Creon are both very independent people. Antigone is willing to act on her own for something she believes in. In the first scene Antigone pleas with her sister, Ismene, to help her. When Ismene refuses she is furious but is resolved to continue with her plan, in defiance of Creon+s decree.
Go away, Ismene: I shall be hating you soon, and the dead will too, For your words are hateful. Leave me to my foolish plan: I am not afraid of the danger; if it means death, It will not be the worst of deaths – death without honor.
Even facing the penalty of death, she risks her life for what she believes. By herself, she manages to sneak past the guards watching over the corpse of Polyneices and gives him a crude but proper burial.
Creon is also very independently minded, and he refuses to accept the opinions of anyone but himself. When his son Haimon confronts him, he refuses to listen, claiming that Haimon is a “girl struck fool, (216)” and that he has been corrupted by Antigone. Even when faced with Teresias+s prophecy, he refuses to believe the truth.
He claims that Tortuous has been bribed and that he |sold out!X (227) He is finally forced to listen when Choragos reminds him of Teresias+s perfect record. Eventually,he is persuaded to reverse his decision, persuaded that it is the will of the gods, gives Polyneices a proper burial, and is on his way to free Antigone, but it is too late.
Creon and Antigone and they are both very strong in their views. Creon is devoted to his laws, while Antigone is loyal to her beliefs. Creon refuses to give in and alter his law. He labels those who dare act against him as traitors, and his justice is quick and cruel.
|This girl is guilty of a double insolence, Breaking the given laws and boasting of it. Who is the man here, She or I, if this crime goes unpunished? Sister+s child, or more than sister+s child, Or closer yet in the d – she and her sister Win bitter death for this!X (204)
He is willing to kill his own family in the name of the law. Antigone is a traitor for giving burial to her dead brother Polyneices, but Ismene is sentenced as well, merely by association. He is so devoted to his own laws that he fails to see that he is disobeying the law of the gods.
Antigone, however, puts the laws of the gods ahead of the laws of the state. She gives her brother a proper burial, and therefore allows him passage into Hades, in opposition to Creon+s decree. This shows her shortsightedness is because she only does what she thinks the gods want. Instead of abiding by the law that Creon decreed. Creon is also short-sighted because he refuses to believe any other opinions or laws than his own.
Creon and Antigone are both so loyal which can also make them very extreme. Creon is an extremist in reason. He thinks his law is the most important. Antigone is an extremist of passion. Creon is unwilling to put god’s law above his law. He is u unwilling to listen to the passionate pleas of his son to let Antigone live. He instead puts his laws first, and states that if he lets Antigone live after she has broken his law, “How shall I earn the world’s obedience?”
His extreme will later lead to his son’s death because he thinks his son has been corrupted by Antigone. Antigone is equally as extreme and she will not listen to the reasoning of her sister Ismene. Ismene reminds her of the problems and dangers she is undertaking when she goes out t to bury Polyneices. Antigone will not listen though, and this ends up killing her as well.
Because Creon and Antigone are very extreme in their ways this can also make them cruel and foolish people. Creon is quite cruel to everyone around him. He never once listens to anyone, but instead, e acts foolishly and hurts everyone. When he is talking to his son Haimon, he retorts that Haimon is “a fool” and that he is, “Taken in by a woman!” These words and his father’s attitude hurts Haimon and he becomes filled with rage towards his foolish father. Antigone is also cruel and foolish. Especially to her sister Ismene. Ismene tries to help Antigone at the start of the play. When she tries to tell.
Antigone not to risk everything to please the gods. Antigone won’t listen though, She just tells her “Go away Ismene. I will be hating you soon”, in a striking example of her cruelty. Ismene and Antigone have been caring sisters until suddenly Antigone abandons her because she does not agree to help bury their
brother. Creon also is cruel to his old friend and prophet, Teiresias. Teiresias comes to warn him that if he does not free Antigone that bad things will happen, but Creon doesn’t believe him. He claims that Teiresias has “sold out” as a prophet and shows how foolish he is not to trust a long-standing friend who has never been wrong.
Creon and Antigone are both plagued by hubris. Creon wants to stand by the law he has made. Antigone is willing to risk it all to stand by the law of the gods and what is right. Creon’s stubbornness is clear when his old friend and prophet Teiresias. Tells him to free Antigone. Creon stubbornly refuses and remarks to the old wise man, “Bribes are baser then any baseness” Creon does not even listen to Teiresias, who made him king in the first place. He is so stubborn that he refuses to listen to calming that Teiresias had been corrupted by money and so his pride hampers his good judgment.
He is so concentrated on everyone being corrupted that he does not even listen to common sense. His son, Haimon tries to come to tell him that he should not sentence Antigone to death. Creon is outraged by his son siding with her. He tells Haimon that he is a “Fool, adolescent fool! Taken in by a woman!” Haimon responds to this by saying that he is “perverse” Creon, even more outraged, calls him a “Girls struck fool” Haimon storms off with a loathing hatred for his father’s arrogant pride and stubbornness.
Antigone has equal hubris herself. She is so passionate about burying her brother that she will not listen to reason. Full of arrogance and indignation, she will not listen to the words of her sister. Ismene warned her of the dangers of burying their brother Polyneices but Antigone will not listen. She calls Ismene a “traitor” for not coming to help her and Ismene shakily replies “I am so afraid of you”. Antigone, instead of listening to the common sense of her sister, snaps back that “You need not be: you have yourself to consider, after all”.
Later in the story, Antigone is arrested for burying her brother and Ismene comes crawling back to her. Ismene breaks the conversation between Antigone and Creon by admitting, “I am guilty if she let me say so”. Antigone will not let her and retorts coldly, “No, Ismene. you have no right to say so. You would not help me, and I will not have you help me” This reveals clearly how arrogant and stubborn Antigone can be. Even after her sister wants to share in her punishment and crawls back to her. She will not accept it to her own demise.
Creon and Antigone are both remarkably similar people. Ironically, they are both so much the same that they can not see it. The flaws they share make neither of them willing to listen to the other. Many of their traits are identical, but their opinion s are so different that they can’t stand each other. Sophocles did an excellent job in portraying the two vast extremes of the spectrum, passion, and reason. This story hopefully proves to people that neither extreme passion nor extreme reason, but rather be in the middle and achieve arete.
The main theme for Antigone is that people sometimes have to learn the hard way from their mistakes. This theme is expressed in the final four lines of the play. They read, There is no happiness where there is no wisdom; No wisdom but in submission to the gods. Big words are always punished, And proud men in old age learn to be wise. These lines are an important part of the play.
They symbolize Creon’s bad decisions, his defiance of the gods, the punishment he went through because of his edict, and the wisdom he gained because of all his mistakes. “There is no happiness where there is no wisdom” demonstrates how Creon not using wisdom in his decisions affected him. By declaring that Polyneices could not have a proper burial, he went against the gods and the other citizens of Thebes’s beliefs. This was not a wise decision on his part, and because of it, he lost his wife, his son, and his happiness.
This is what is expressed in the line, “No wisdom but in submission to the gods.” The edict and decisions that Creon made demonstrated that his law was more important than the laws of the gods. His defiance of the laws eventually made him believe, by talking to Teiresias, that something bad would happen to him, so he gave in to his decision. When he gave into the gods he gained wisdom and learned that his actions would be punished.
Creon’s edict is considered his big words. In the third line, it says, “Big words are always punished.” Creon’s edict was punished by his loss of happiness. In Ancient Greece, life was full of complicated questions centered on the expanding field of science. Freedom of religion was encouraged to be exercised in the city-states and man was focused on more than the Gods or heavenly concerns. As a result, many new ideals and beliefs surfaced.
These new ideas and beliefs, though good in intentions, often conflicted with One another and created complex moral dilemmas. Such was the case in Sophocles’s play. According to Richard Jebb, “It is the only instance in which a Greek play has for its central theme a practical problem of conduct, involving issues, moral and political, which might be discussed on similar grounds in any age and in any country of the world.”
Perhaps personal experience is the reason why so many people can relate to this story. After all, the theme of the story is personal conflict, with two stubborn people at a standstill because of their unwillingness to compromise. The conflict between the laws of the gods and those of the humans, with Antigone and Creon representing the opposite sides.
Sophocles paints these two title characters are remarkably similar, and he invokes the readers’ sympathy toward them both. However, it is Creon, and not Antigone, who is the “hero” of the story, because his character suffers a tragic downfall. The primary conflict arises when Creon declares that no one is allowed to bury the body of Polynices, one of Antigone’s brothers who was slain in battle. Antigone, who cares for her brother very much, wants to see him properly laid to rest so that his spirit can find peace.
Unfortunately, doing so will mean certain death, as Creon’s orders are not to be disobeyed. Antigone believes that Creon’s law is wrong and that Polynices, although a traitor to the city of Thebes, should be buried. She finds it immoral of Creon to forbid such an action. While trying to convince her sister Ismene to help bury him, Antigone says, “The time in which I must please those that are dead is longer than I must please those of this world. For there I shall lie forever.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) Creon, on the other hand, is a new king who wants to make sure he becomes a respected and somewhat feared ruler.
He does not want to begin his reign by issuing a decree and then rescinding it the moment a conflict arises. There are many similarities between Creon and Antigone. Perhaps the most common characteristic is that both characters are very stubborn. Neither one can back down once the lines have been drawn, even though it means certain destruction.
While questioning Antigone about the burial, Creon asks, “And did you dare to disobey that law?” To which Antigone answers “yes.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) This naturally infuriates Creon to the point where he says, “I swear I am no man and she the man if she can win this and not pay for it.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) Both sides are committed to their own reasoning and are unable to listen to other points of view.
Sophocles sympathizes with both Creon and Antigone. However, the play is more directed at Creon’s woes than Antigone’s. This is mainly shown by the number of lines devoted to Creon compared to that of Antigone so his problems are the most magnified. It seems as though Antigone is simply the last tragedy to Oedipus’ tale, while Creon and his family are an entirely different one.
Therefore, not as much attention is devoted to Antigone’s problems, while Sophocles instead makes the reader focus on Creon. This is again demonstrated by the sheer amount of lines Creon has. It is impossible for the reader to ignore Creon’s problems. The emotional climax of the readers’ sympathy towards Creon is when the second messenger tells him what had happened right before Eurydice’s (his wife) death.
Eurydice had, “cried in agony recalling the noble fate of Megareus, who died before all this, and then for the fate of this son; and in the end, she cursed [Creon] for the evil [Creon] had done in killing her sons.” (Sophocles, Antigone ) This bestowed all guilt upon Creon, making him responsible for actions in which he ignorantly played a part. Creon shows many heroic characteristics. A hero is a person who must survive many downfalls, and Creon has suffered many setbacks.
To Aristotle, a hero is a “man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous…” Creon meets all of these requirements. He is obviously not entirely good or just, and he does make mistakes. His greatest error is issuing the decree forbidding anyone from giving Polynices a proper funeral.
However, he does not do this entirely out of spite or anger, but instead to protect his country. Creon is of the belief that laws are necessary to retain order, even if this means going against one’s family. Creon regards the family almost exclusively in one aspect; for him, it is an institution related to the state as the gymnasium to the stadium; it is a little state, in which a man may prove that he is fit to govern a larger one.”
Even though Antigone is his niece, he must rule with an iron hand, and therefore cannot allow her to “escape the utmost sentence: death.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ). As a hero, Creon suffers a tragic downfall. It does not appear that Antigone suffers as much as Creon, because Sophocles had decided to portray Creon as the hero instead of Antigone. James Hogan asks three questions to determine who is the hero: Who is the main character?
Who dominates the action? Whose suffering is the primary subject? The answer to all three of these is Creon. Creon is obviously the main character because all events seem to revolve around him. William Calder has pointed out that “Sophocles wrote no Haimon-Antigone scene…such a scene would have shifted the emphasis of the whole from the figure whom Sophocles intended to be central: hence a Haimon-Creon scene.” Calder also gives evidence as to how Creon dominates the entire play.
Finally, Creon’s suffering is the primary subject because Sophocles explains Creon’s anguish in great detail. Creon, after finding out Eurydice is dead, exclaims, “I am distracted with fear. Why does not someone strike a two-edged sword right through me? I am dissolved in an agony of misery.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) This suffering is the price Creon has to pay for making the wrong decision. Prior to his revelation that Teiresias provided him with, he had erroneously decided that moral laws were not as important as his own laws, and consequently suffered greatly.
To Creon, protecting his country comes before anything else. According to Creon, Polynices is, “a returned exile, who sought to burn with the fire from top to bottom his native city, and the gods of his own people; who sought to taste the blood he shared with us, and lead the rest of us to slavery.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) Polynices is a traitor who deserves none of the respect the people of Thebes have to give. Creon’s decree is simply an error of judgment, but it is perfectly understandable for him to do so.
“An Athenian strategos is a time of war held extraordinary judicial power and could put to death without trial any man under his command whose conduct he considered treasonous,” according to Calder. After all, Creon is the king, and the laws that he makes are meant to be obeyed. Even if they are of questionable moral judgment.
It is Creon’s interactions with Antigone that show the central issue: the conflict between moral laws and human laws. In the end, moral law supersedes human law, and Creon suffers as a result. Creon’s tragic suffering is what turns him into the hero. Sophocles thereby forces the reader to feel sympathy toward him. While feeling this sympathy, the reader also learns not to make the same mistakes Creon did, to avoid being stubborn and unwilling to compromise. Those characteristics have been shown to signify great suffering and destruction.
In Sophocles’ play Antigone, Kreon, the warrior King may overrule Antigone, a mere woman’s, struggle for political power, but can he match Antigone’s resistance in a fight for political authority? Political power in a state rises from the presence of a force that exerts dominance. The public’s need for self-preservation allows for obedience to the one who holds that power in the fear of the consequences of disobedience.
Political authority, however, results from a belief of the moral correctness of a situation. Laws are obeyed not because there is no alternative but because it is morally just. In order to make a judgment of both Kreon’s decrees and Antigone’s rebelliousness, we must understand how both characters draw their justifications from each definition.
Kreon, a General during the First Peloponnesian War, is the epitome of power. When he is handed the throne and heralded as the King of Thebes however, he stumbles because political power and military power are completely different games. Kings may not make good warriors and warriors may not make good kings because one is not the prerequisite of the other. Kreon may be a king but he thinks like a soldier. In an army, obedience is praised and questioning of an order is non-existent.
Soldiers obey without a question orders from their General and for that they are valued. In battle, generals must make decisions that serve the greater good for the general populous: sacrificing lives to protect the state and its people. The soldiers are considered as a unit and there is little room for individual voices and even less room for dissent and such is the way Kreon wants to rule Thebes. To establish his power, he wants to use Antigone’s death as a harbinger to others who might break his law.
By the social construct of the times, Kreon is as powerful as one could be shy of being a God. But where does his power come from? Political power is an empty thing when you have no one to exert it over. This means that Kreon’s power comes from the people: he only has as much power as the people are willing to give him.
Political power, as we’ve established is blunt and forceful. The obedience of the people is established through fear of punishment. Kreon rules by inducing fear because that’s the only way he knows how. His subjects obey him out of fear of the consequences of disobedience and not because what he says is always just.
This fosters an environment where one would be willing to abandon their moral compass to save their own skin. The sentry would turn Antigone in to save his own skin rather than follow what he believes is right if it meant risking his life. The chorus also echoes the sentiment that to risk death because of what you believe is foolish.
But while Thebes is not a democracy like Athens, a king needs the support of his people. Kreon’s son, Haimon appeals to Kreon on the basis of power – he suggests that public opinion of Antigone’s ruling is against Kreon, and alienating the people will only lead to his own demise. Haimon tries to convince his father to find a balance by letting go of some political power and showing some political authority.
The trees that bend in the face of the wind, Haimon explains, are those that survive the storm. Haimon who believes wisdom supreme and that “second [opinions] are valuable” urges his father to listen to others. For, he argues “whenever a man supposes that he alone has intelligence or expression or feelings,/ he exposes himself and shows his emptiness.”
Kreon, uncomprehending his son’s wisdom, believes that Haimon is trying to undermine his power as King. His blindness to see his own faults until it is too late leads to his eventual undoing.
Without the love or respect of his people, Kreon holds little to no political authority. As defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, authority is the “power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior”. In this way, political authority is much more powerful than political power in gathering support.
One could argue that a King could use his position to carry out laws that would influence his people’s behavior. But what about thoughts and opinions? That begs the question; to what extent is Kreon’s power limited? In other words, where does his authority come from and how far can it go?
Kreon believes the state is supreme and that it is his duty to be a tough ruler to show his loyalty to Thebes. He summons the people to bless him as they did the king before him and announces to the public that “the state will thrive through [his principles]”.
Therefore, since he represents Thebes as its king, his will is sovereign. He explains the decree against burying Polyneices to the elders, and they agree that “law and usage, as I see it,/ are totally at your disposal/ to apply both to the dead and to us survivors”. It is important to note that although they agree with his decree, they are hesitant to enforce it, telling Kreon to let the younger guards do the “dirty work”.
Ismene also warns Antigone that the burial is against the king’s law but Antigone reasons that the Divine Laws of the Gods hold more authority than a mere mortal King’s. It is not so much important as what she believes in, but the fact that she rejects the authority of Kreon in favor of her own belief. This act of defiance shows that Antigone is not afraid of Kreon’s so-called political power as King and stands on her own authority to challenge Kreon’s views.
She questions “What divine and just law [has she] evaded?” proclaiming that Kreon’s laws are not laws made in heaven and therefore she does not have to obey them if she believes they are unjust. Her willingness to die to do her duty to Polyneices is a testament to her belief and symbolic of her authority. She believes in her death than doing what is right to her and the right use of her individual power.
It is no surprise that Kreon sees Antigone as a threat to his political authority. He claims that “[he is] no man-/she is a man, she’s the king/if she gets away with this”. This is a fascinating reversal of power that may seem paradoxical at first: to claim that Antigone is more of a threat than a man would be. As a woman living in Thebes on time, Antigone’s social status is no higher than a slave’s.
Even Ismene pleads for her sister to be sensible for “ are women, born unfit to battle man;/and are subjects, while Kreon is King”. But it is in her worthlessness that the dilemma arises. If he gives in to her, he will be shamed. First, as she is his niece, doing so would seem like an act of favoritism. Secondly, she is a mere woman, and yielding to her would make him seem weak.
There is something undeniably fresh about Antigone’s tragedy. As with many cases in Ancient Greek tragedies, the characters blame the prophecies for their misfortune and use it to excuse their actions. Antigone however, admits to her actions and therefore sets her own life in stone, quite literally. Although the chorus and many others call her foolish for asking for her own death, it is the only true brave act in the entire play and is also the only true example of a moment of political authority.
Antigone’s resistance to Kreon’s authority is an act of political heroism. Antigone says no to all she finds offensive and in this sense, she is more powerful than the ruler beholden to his throne. Her staunch belief in what she believes is right proves to be more powerful than a ruler that depends on his throne to make his arguments.
Antigone has more power of the mind, that is to say, she thinks for herself and therefore says her mind with more certainty and more authority. Despite all his titles of power, Kreon finds himself helpless, unable to act on his own. To have authority you must believe in what you are saying and it’s not hard to see whose resolve lasted the test of time.
Although Kreon is inexperienced asking, what’s important to remember is that he is not a villain. In fact, Kreon values peace, stability, and unity and he also knows that a fair ruler should rule with judgment from others.
But most things are much easier said than done. Kreon has and always will put the state first, believing that “the state is safe. / [and when] she is steady, then we can steer./[and then] we can love. Kreon ill-thinks that he will lose his supporters and leadership and bring chaos if he gives in to the people.
But those of us with the advantage of hindsight and greater knowledge know that to give citizens of the state the freedom to express individual thoughts, ideas, and opinions and have them heard to the best of the state’s ability is imperative to the stability and success in its unity. The fatal error in Kreon’s judgment is that he doesn’t see that the only way to hold political power over the people is to root it in political authority.
It may not come as a surprise that Plato rejected Kreon, a military man, for the power of the throne. Plato believed that only those who have higher knowledge should rule over others. As portrayed in his infamous cave-analogy, it is the philosopher that goes to seek the truth and finds it. Thus, Plato’s ideal king is a philosopher-king. He creates Kreon’s character using traits of a Machiavellian: one who approaches politics as an art of power.
As Machiavelli once said ‘it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both’ and believed that ‘politics have no relation to morals’. The chief architect of his own demise, Kreon sacrifices morals to achieve power through a reign of fear. Plato paints Kreon in a negative light as an example of abuse of power because he believes that politics should be an art of justice.
The infuriating notion of the concept of justice is that there is no right or wrong. Kreon is not trying to become a dictator nor is Antigone trying to overthrow the State. Each is only doing what they think is right. The underpinning conflict between Antigone and Kreon lies in their opposing beliefs on how one should rule. Had Kreon slackened the reins on his hold of political power or had Antigone showed political authority in a different manner, their objectives might have reached a compromise.
Antigone, stubborn until the end, literally hangs for her beliefs, and Kreon, scared of losing his political power and authority if he gives in, ends up losing everything. In the play’s final verdict, it seems as if Kreon’s political power does manage to trump Antigone’s vie for political authority. But what we have left to ponder over is if Kreon came out on top then why is he left a broken man? If his laws are supreme then why is he the one left with bruises?
Self, Family, City Though the choices that Antigone and Creon face in Sophocles’ Antigone differ, their decisions often end up pitted against each other’s, inviting comparison. Since I am juxtaposing the characters’ degrees of rightness, I believe that the rightness of the reasoning, not just their ultimate stances, should be examined. The entirety of his or her argument, not just the conclusion, must be taken into account. I’ll also note that my perspective of rightness could and does conflict with that of the gods in Antigone and Sophocles.
This combined with her fixation on the curse makes it seem blatantly obvious to me that she is using her brother’s death and disrespectful treatment as an “in” with the gods. Antigone wants to be redeemed in the afterlife through her act of burying Polyneices. This is especially clear when she decides that she will bury him and die before she has even appealed to Creon. The only route she can see is one that results in her death. Not until she is directly confronted by her uncle does she attempt to dissuade him from dishonoring Polyneices.
Even then, she seems to be simply defending her own actions rather than accusing him of being wrong, as she so adamantly has done with Ismene. He needs to implore her to “Speak!” (166, 442), and when she does, she is flippant and prideful. Antigone only engages in real dialogue with him when he forces her to. This could be interpreted as her simply understanding his position and accepting it, but I find that unlikely.
She clearly fundamentally disagrees with him and his interpretation of the gods, but instead of trying to persuade him to recant his decree and bury her brother, she capitalizes on the position she’s in and thrusts herself into martyrdom. Even by the gods’ standards, this does not seem to be justice or “rightness”. Her surface level loyalty to her family may initially appeal, but I find it insincere and not right when I explore it more closely.
Antigone, written by Sophocles, is one of the three dramatic plays with a tragic ending. There are many themes in this play, however, in order to understand this play in depth, there are three major themes the reader must identify. These themes are hubris, or better known as pride, Antigone’s gender, and Individual versus State; Conscience versus Law; Moral or Divine Law versus Human Law. These three themes are not only interrelated but also fit in, throughout the course of the play.
Pride and its effects are a central part of Antigone. It is a trait despised by the gods, who bring suffering to the proud, but to the Greek mind, pride is also an inextricable part of greatness. Both Antigone and Creon are incredibly proud, making it impossible for either one of them to back down once they have taken a stand. Pride is part of what makes Antigone heroic.
Since most women in those days would not have the courage to stand up for what is right, pride makes Antigone “stand out from the crowd.” Creon is also very proud of who he is, which is why this conflict seems to follow wherever he is present. Pride is what causes Creon, as well as Antigone and Oedipus to fall. Creon becomes a tragic hero at the end of the play because of his hubris; he loses his son, wife, and what would have been future daughter-in-law. Pride is a complex and a concept in Greek tragedy; it is discussed in greater depth in Oedipus Rex.
The next theme is three conflicts that seem very closely related they are: Individual versus State; Conscience versus Law; Moral or Divine Law versus Human Law. These basic sets of pairings help to untangle some of the central issues of the play. Antigone follows her moral law, which is to bury her brother in order to respect him, which is the right thing to do in Antigone’s eyes. Creon follows human law, which is to punish Antigone for defying the king’s orders and burying Polyneices anyway.
Antigone is a Greek Tragedy written by Sophocles. Articles and Poyneices, two brothers, are fighting for the throne. Because of the fight between the two brothers, Creon becomes the new ruler of Thebes.
Creon is also the brother of the form queen, Jocasta. Creon makes a decision that Polyneices will suffer the consequences and Eteocles will be honored. The body of Polyneices would be unburied. Ismene and Antigone are siblings of the Eteocles and Polyneices. In the beginning, Ismene is summoned for a private meeting with Antigone about Antigone wanting to buy Polyneice’s lifeless body. Ismene is not fond of the idea because she believes that it is not possible to bury their brother. She cannot stop her from burying her brother.
Creon wants support from the chorus regarding the decision of Polyneice’s body. The leader of the chorus supports Creon. A sentry informs that the body of Polyneices has been given a burial and funeral rites. Creon is very upset with this demand. He tells the sentry to find the person in charge of this decision or they would be killed. The sentry comes back to tell that the body had been uncovered by watchmen. Then Antigone was caught performing funeral rituals.
Antigone is then questioned by Creon and admits she did that to her brother’s body. She argues with Creon of why she did and why he should a proper funeral and burial. Creon gets upset again and then sees Ismene upset as well. He assumes that she knew of Antigone’s plan the whole time. Creon then summons her. Antigone’s sister, Ismene, tries to convince Creon she had no idea of the crime Antigone committed. Antigone Denys Ismener’s claim and Creon sends them to be imprisoned for a short period of time.
Haemon wants to know the situation between Creon and the two siblings, Ismene and Antigone. Haemon tries to convince his father to spare Antigone. The conversation does not go well and they both end up insulting each other. Creon threatens to kill his fiance in front of him. Harmony then promises Creon to never to speak to him again because of what he did.
Creon decided to bury Antigone alive in a cave and to let Ismene live. Because Creon did not kill her, he thinks he will have to pay the minimum amount of respect to the gods. Antigone is brought out of her house and is now feels bad about what she has done. She regrets not following the laws of the gods and not marrying. Antigone is taken away to her tomb with the Leader of the chorus. The leader expresses great sadness for what is going to happen to her.
Tiresias, the blind prophet, tells Creon that Polyneices needs to be buried immediately because the gods do not like his decision. Creon accuses Tiresias of being not honorable. Tiresias tells him that he will lose a son because of the crime of leaving Polyneice’s body unburied and putting Antigone in a tomb alive. Everyone in Greece dislikes Creon now.
The leader of the chorus asks Creon to take the advice of Tiresias to buy Poyneices and free Antigone from her tomb. Someone then informs the leader that Antigone has committed suicide. The informant also informs them that Creon saw the burial of Polyneices. Creon arrives at the cave of Antigone and sees his son Haemon standing over Antigone. By the looks, she hung herself.
Creon carries his son’s dead body. Creon blames himself for everything that happened and he knows that his actions caused this. A messenger arrives to tell Creon that Eurydice has committed suicide also. Eurydice’s last breath was her cursing her husband. He blames himself for everything that has happened and asks help from his servants. Creon is still the king and he valued the order so much that it is being protected. Creon did lose his children and wife as a consequence of his decisions as king.
Example #8 – Antigone Summary
Thebes was invaded by Oedipus’ son, Polynices, and his followers. As Oedipus predicted in the previous play, Polynices and his brother, Eteocles, killed each other during battle. Creon, the king of Thebes, ruled that Eteocles should have a proper burial with honors and Polynices, the invader, be left unburied to rot. Antigone was dejected with Creon’s ruling and decided to bury Polynices herself.
She tried to enlist Ismene to help her, but Ismene was too afraid. Antigone furiously continued with the plan on her own. A sentry discovered Antigone and brought her to Creon. Ismene was also brought to Creon and confessed that she had helped Antigone with the burial rites of Polynices.
Antigone had hanged herself in the tomb and Haemon was wailing at her side. Creon heard Haemon’s voice and begged him to come out of the tomb. Haemon came out and lunged at Creon with his sword and missed. Haemon then took his own life by leaning on the blade of his sword, Haemon then embraced Antigone as he died. Eurydice, Haemon’s mother, and Creon’s wife were brought notice by a messenger that her son was dead.
Eurydice retreated to the palace for the sake of mourning in private. However, the death of Haemon was too much for Eurydice to bear and she ended her own life right there in the palace. Creon grieved over the death of Heamon and thought that there could be no worse. The messenger then informed Creon that the agony did not end there, Eurydice had also killed herself. Creon cursed himself and anguished over the loss of his wife and son.
Example #9 – Ismene: a Tragic Hero in Antigone
Though it was written over two millennia ago, Sophocles’ Antigone features one of the preeminent symbols of female defiance in its title character. The play centers on the exploits of Antigone as she openly goes against the king’s decree in the name of honor and piety. Though she ends her story in death, she nonetheless proves the powers of which the supposedly weak and subordinate are capable of having when they have righteousness on their side.
It is therefore surprising to learn that perhaps Antigone is not the true hero of this classic Greek play, but rather her sister, Ismene. This is what Jennifer Kirkpatrick argues in her groundbreaking essay, “The Prudent Dissident: Unheroic Resistance in Sophocles’ Antigone.” Kirkpatrick brings forth an entirely different reading of Antigone that involves Ismene being the one who buries Polynices the first time, thus casting her as the unsung hero of the play. This idea is radical; however, upon careful examination, one can see it is actually highly plausible.
In order for Ismene to have buried Polynices, the first and foremost thing to assure is that the plot of Antigone would allow it – which it does. As Kirkpatrick points out, Ismene has no alibi or witness placing her someone else on the night of the burial (Kirkpatrick 409). Thus, the reader is given permission to entertain the idea, as nothing is tangibly dismissing it. There are other perceptible hints in the plot that strongly suggest Ismene could have buried Polynices.
One is the strangeness that surrounds the notion that Antigone conducted the burial rites two times – one quietly and hurriedly, the other publicly and thoroughly. While it is odd that she would choose to embark on a mission already completed, it is even odder that she would choose to make her initial burial so secretive.
Antigone asserts to Creon that “there is nothing shameful in piety to a brother (Antigone 104).” Clearly, Antigone believes wholeheartedly in her actions and is not afraid to pronounce them to the world. Her affinity for forthrightness does not align with such a clandestine act, making it unlikely that it was her own doing.
The other hint the plot offers that shows Ismene has a more significant role in the play than what is shown at the surface is her reappearance, in which she confronts Creon and offers herself up with her sister. Kirkpatrick notes that this final exchange contradicts Ismene’s role as Antigone’s foil and adds complexity to the sisters’ relationship (Kirkpatrick 413). This complexity is wasted, however, as it doesn’t change the plot; Ismene, while briefly threatened with punishment, is ultimately let go, and ends the play still the weaker version of her sister.
It is possible then, that this complexity was added for a reason – that reason being Ismene truly does have a deeper significance to this play. Sophocles’ revealing of this transition in Ismene’s character is just the tip of an iceberg that can be further unveiled by exploring other traits of Ismene that would make her what James Scott would brand as the unheroic weak – “[someone] who [is] aware of [her] vincibility and act within its constraints” in order to accomplish her mission (Kirkpatrick 403).
Ismene would not have simply buried Polynices without reason. Nor would she have done it purely out of pressure from her sister, Antigone. Rather, she would have had to have a strong motivation that drove her to commit this unlawful deed. Ismene proves that she would have this incentive to go through with the action in secrecy, thus making it all the more likely that she did. In her initial exchange with Antigone in the play, Antigone states, “I do them no dishonor”, in reference to the gods (Antigone 94).
Through this quote, Ismene makes clear that, despite what her sister insists, she doesn’t only care about obeying Creon, but also the gods. So, there is good reason to believe that she would have some desire to give her dead brother his proper burial rites as the gods would have intended. Another factor that would have motivated Ismene is her loyalty to her sister. By asking Creon, “How could I endure without her presence?” when he threatens to punish her, she shows that she cares deeply for Antigone.
Antigone is virtually all Ismene has left in the world, as both of her parents and her brothers are dead. Ismene would evidently be distraught if she allowed her sister to commit a crime for which she surely would receive capital punishment. This would motivate Ismene to commit the crime herself before Antigone has the chance to do so. Like with her sister, Ismene does have something to gain by burying her brother. Even though she does have the conflicting motivation to obey Creon, Ismene’s reasons to act counter to this are strong enough for her to actually do it.
It has been established that literary-wise, Ismene is allowed to bury Polynices, as there are both plot holes for her to slither her way around and incentives for her to use as a reason to. However, it is perhaps most important that Ismene show that with all these allowances, she has the capability to be an unheroic weak through her characteristics. Ismene displays numerous aspects of her personality that only further the argument that she is the true hero of the story.
One is her secretiveness. Ismene first establishes her proclivity for secrecy when after hearing of Antigone’s full-fledged commitment to burying, she asks Antigone that she “disclose this plan to none” and “hide it closely” (Antigone 93). This plea by Ismene shows that she is sober to the benefits of keeping things under wraps. With this given, it would make sense that she would choose to embark on a secret burial, as Kirkpatrick implies in her paper.
Not only does Ismene have an inclination towards secrecy, but she also has s belief in the power and credibility secrecy contains. When Antigone criticizes Ismene for not taking action alongside her yet still wanting to share her honor, Ismene refutes by maintaining, “Nevertheless, the offense is the same for both of us” (Antigone 105). This can be interpreted to mean that Ismene did commit the same crime as Antigone.
The only difference in their crimes was that hers was done covertly. Ismene’s actions going unnoticed allowed them to be “approved” by the mortal world, as Antigone suggests. Ismene believes that defiance does not need to be open in order to earn the honor, and so sees her action as a valid means of showing reverence to the gods – something which she aspires to do.
Despite Ismene’s apparent inclination for avoiding hostile confrontation with authority, she does have the facility to be defiant. While this defiance never shows itself to be as bold as that of Antigone, it is nonetheless an important trait to note on top of the other clues that Ismene committed the crime. Kirkpatrick notes in her essay that the most apparent sign of Ismene’s rebelliousness is when she enters before Creon in tears (Kirkpatrick 410). This act goes against Creon’s edict, which declares that “none shall entomb [Polynecies] or mourn him, but leave him unwept” (Antigone 92).
By coming to Creon crying, Ismene is flouting this edict in one of two ways: either she is mourning the death of her brother Polynices, which the edict strictly prohibits, or she is the mourning the almost certain fate of her sister, showing her sympathy for someone who challenged the edict. Whether she weeps for a pariah of the state or a soon to be one, Ismene is challenging her previously-made conviction to obey Creon. If she has the fortitude to do this, then it becomes all the more plausible that she would also have the fortitude to bury Polynices.
Jennifer Kirkpatrick writes that it is common for the unheroic resistors to be sensitive to “political context and power dynamics”, as well as “the political inequality of the larger group of which she is a part” (Kirkpatrick 414-415). It is important that these resistors are sensitive to these things because it makes them more aware of their own limitations and allows them to work within them. In her first exchange with Antigone, Ismene displays her sensitivity to circumstance.
First, she explains how she and her sister are the descendants of a family tree ridden with shame and scorn from society, and impels her sister to “think how [they] shall perish . . . in defiance of the law, more miserably than all the rest” (Antigone 93). Unlike Antigone, Ismene knows that there would be serious consequences to come if either of them went against Creon. Ismene then appeals to her sister by reminding her that a poor lineage isn’t the only thing working against the sisters. Nay, they are also hindered by their status as women – a status that does not allow them to “strive with men” and perpetually forces them to be “ruled of the stronger” (Antigone 93).
These two arguments made by Antigone should not be seen as proof of her unwillingness to act in defiance. Instead, they are indications of Ismene’s consciousness of the greater world around her. She knows what is realistic to expect from her own abilities, rather than overestimating them as Antigone does. To add on to this, she knows that she does not avoid action in order to stay within her limits, but rather she only needs to act prudently so as to bring honor and avoid punishment by Creon.
With the information Ismene has at hand, it is also important that she know how to use this information best to her advantage. In fact, to carry out such a difficult task that she does, it is absolutely crucial she has the ability to be resourceful – knowing how to make the most of what she has and to be imaginative enough to think her way out of tricky situations. When Antigone begins revealing her plan to bring nobility to her name, Ismene asks what it is she can “do or undo” (Antigone 93).
This provides evidence that Ismene is aware that problems needn’t have absolute or limited solutions; rather, there are multiple avenues one can choose to travel down in reaching an ultimate end. Sophocles asserts Ismene as a resourceful character through this line, and there are several scenes in the play where Ismene exemplifies this characteristic. One that Kirkpatrick emphasizes in her essay is the scene where she is crying in front of Creon – an act that is radical in its disobedience of the king’s edict yet conventional in its conformity to the archetype of the mourning Greek woman Such a “docile and defiant” act can confuse the king and possibly cause him to question his decision to punish mourners (Kirkpatrick 418).
Ismene is yet again able to show her capacity to manipulate her situation by playing directly to Creon’s fatherly sentiments. She asks the patriarch, “But will you slay the betrothed of your own son?” (Antigone 105). Ismene is using this key detail of Antigone’s romantic ties to Creon’s son, Haemon, to persuade Creon into not killing her off.
Though this does not change the king’s mind, it still says a lot that when Ismene saw Creon was not going to change his mind out of moral insight into Antigone’s actions, she quickly thought to rather remind him of the great disservice he’d be doing to his own kin if Antigone were to be punished by his hands.
Sophocles’ Antigone ends in tragedy. The main character dies by suicide, as do two other significant characters of the play, Haemon, and Creon’s wife. To add on to this, Ismene and Creon end the book in despair, with nothing but bleak, lonely lives ahead of them. Essentially, the actions were undertaken by Antigone, the story’s supposed hero, brought about no good.
This tragic ending cannot merely be read as the unfortunate consequence of Creon’s refusal to adhere to the gods’ will. Rather, it can be read as a punishment for Antigone’s intervening with Ismene’s plan. If Antigone had left the grave alone, Ismene would have been successful in her plan to bury her brother while still feigning allegiance to the king. Nobody would have died, nor would anybody have been left miserable. This would have been a true accomplishment for a story’s hero.
As Kirkpatrick points out, “Ismene’s underhanded tactics are more in line with a commitment to nonviolence because they attempt to dodge government violence altogether” (Kirkpatrick 424). Antigone thwarts the efforts of Ismene that would bring about a more appealing ending, however, by seeing honor as something that can only be earned out in the open.
This could be a lesson from the author, then, that the true heroes are those that act quietly yet admirably, and that those who let ego play a role in their actions (as with Antigone) will never succeed in actually bringing about goodness.
Just as Ismene knows that transparency is not necessary for doing heroic deeds, Sophocles knows that transparency is not necessary is depicting heroes of the story. In the case of Antigone, the hero was not the obvious choice. Rather, it was the “unheroic” Ismene. Ismene serves as the ideal dissident through acting covertly and therefore pragmatically. Furthermore, Ismene serves as the ideal hero in Antigone by proving grandiose display is not essential to accompany an action, but rather all the action needs are righteousness behind it.
Example #10 – Gender roles in Antigone Essay
Antigone is a bold and assertive woman who threatens to upset gender roles in her community by defying the most powerful entity in Thebes – King Creon. She is a woman who rises up and faces death in order to stick to her values. Such a depiction was at odds with the original audience’s perception of women’s place. This will be seen through an analysis of the other characters in the play and the values of ancient Greeks.
In ancient Greece, women’s role in society was minimal (at best), yet Antigone represents conflicting values. Indeed this central character appears to be at odds with the inclinations of the other females in the play. For instance, Antigone’s sister Ismene is weak and subservient. She knows that the King’s decree was unjust but she is too timid to fight for her brother’s dignity. She even tries to talk her sister out of defying the King’s order. In the play this is what she says in an attempt to persuade her sister:
“Think how much more terrible than these our own death would be if we should go against Creon. We are only women, we cannot fight with men Antigone! The law is strong, we must give in to the law… I beg the dead to forgive me, but I am helpless, l must yield to those in authority. And I think it is a dangerous business to be always meddling.” (Burnet and Burto 462)
These were symptomatic of prevailing perceptions of feminine roles in that society. Women thought of themselves as weak and inconsequential.
The other individual who also displays these values in the play is King Creon’s wife Eurydice. She was not bold enough to confront her husband about the moral wrongs he had committed, because this would translate into defiance that resembles that of Antigone. She chose the easy way out, and merely committed suicide. The other women in the play are tools that have been used by Sophocles to reveal prevailing gender assumptions (Harvey 69).
Books and scholarly analyses of women in ancient Greece reveal that they were a fearful lot. Most of them could not dare to speak out against their male counterparts because they would be confronted with violence. Additionally, because that society was deeply rooted in mythologies, most women thought that if they stood out, they would anger the gods hence bring curses upon themselves. All these fears kept them in the confines of their homes.
They let their brothers, husbands, and fathers attend to all the serious matters in life while they stayed at home taking care of their children. Kings, members of the council, soldiers, and other political roles were strictly male-dominated. This group made all the crucial decisions in Greece while women abided and respected those decisions without question.
The main character in the play is definitely a progressive individual based on those Grecian standards. Her gender had a serious effect on her actions because it undermined societal structures. King Creon vehemently asserted that he needed to defeat her even more pressingly because she was a woman.
Her rebellion was a threat to hierarchical structures since she had refused to act subserviently. This view was confirmed when the King realized that he had made a mistake. Instead of correcting his wrongs, the King chose to alter his argument. He insisted that accepting defeat to a woman would upset divine laws and he simply was not prepared to do so.
Such faulty thinking has been punished in the play through the deaths of Creon’s most important family members i.e. his wife and his son. This is indeed a progressive depiction because it focuses on an ideal female character (Bates 44). She made a resolve to bury her brother’s body regardless of her sister’s support.
Antigone firmly tries to protect her sister when she wanted to accompany her to her death. She makes a very convincing and daring speech against Creon when he questions her decision to bury her brother. Antigone does not refrain from provoking the King to implement his repressive resolution because she is certain about her values. Her purpose is firm and undeterred, and she is willing to face death for it.
When the guards carry her off to her death, she starts wailing about her untimely death. Antigone still exhibits heroic qualities at this moment because she does not talk about Haemon and other lustful moments that she will miss upon her demise. Even the very nature of her accusation makes her heroic. She is accused of committing a holy crime. This sister wanted to bury her brother in the proper way but got prosecuted for it.
Four specific instances in the play reveal the heroic (hence progressive) nature of the main character. First, she readily admits her commission of the so-called ‘crime’. She could have taken the easy way out and be spared from prosecution. Secondly, she refuses to let Ismene take the blame for this act and thus illustrates how selfless she is.
Thereafter, Antigone faces death boldly without a hint of nervousness or misery. Lastly, this woman is a true icon because she chose to take her life rather than waste away in a cave. Instead, of waiting and hoping for the King to change his mind, she chose to terminate it honorably.
Interestingly enough, Antigone is not too different from other contemporary fictitious characters in Greek plays. Ancient Grecian playwrights had a tendency to create unconventional and complex female characters. Some notable figures include Clytemnestra of the play Agamemnon. This was a brutal and villainous woman who killed her husband and his lover.
Her actions are justified by the difficulties she underwent when she lived with her husband. Another notable figure is Cassandra of the play “The women of troy”. She was granted the gift of prophecy by a god known as Apollo. Cassandra prophesized that the city would be destroyed; she also boldly rejected the sexual advances of a mortal and real god. All these unconventional women reveal that Greek plays tended to elevate women above and beyond their traditional roles in society.
The play remains relevant today because, like most feminist advocates, Antigone represents a form of defiance to authority necessitated by seeming injustices. Such individuals can be found in mainstream media today. An example is Amelie; a French film about a girl who grew up with pathetic authority figures for parents.
She decides to defy them by healing people. Another one is “The burning times” which talks about European killings of female witchcrafts. Some of them were falsely accused and were bold enough to defend themselves. They defied authority but still ended up dying.
Civil liberties are still under threat. Instances of racial injustices and oppression still occur in modern times. Some countries are grappling with a prolonged war, religious and cultural tensions as well as economic oppression. In situations like these, individuals must stand up just like Antigone did in order to mend these wrongs.
However, those objections should not be raised through brutal or violent means; they need to borrow strong feminine approaches such as the ones depicted in the play. Intellect, firm will, and self-sacrifice are just some of the traits that change agents today can utilize to change their worlds.
Antigone is a fascinating character who single-handedly takes on figures of authority in an effort to fight injustice. The manner in which she deals with the King, her sister, and her death makes her quite endearing. It is these qualities that qualify her as an unconventional and progressive woman in her society.
Example #11 – interesting ideas
For people who have read Antigone, I have to write an essay on how she portrayed heroism and I don’t know how she did. HELP): and I also need to compare her to a modern-day hero…any ideas on who I can do?
Antigone represents a “tragic hero”, and so does Creon. Antigone represents her heroism by defending what she believes in (giving her brother a proper burial), rather than becoming a conformer, and obeying Creon. Antigone was more willing to die and rebel against Creon’s rule, rather than betray her brother.
Can someone dumb this prompt down for me?
“If Antigone is taken, not as simply the contest between arrogant tyrannical power and idealistic resistance to oppressive authority, what do Creon and Antigone then each stand for, and does the resolution of the tragedy suggest that the order of things favors one more than the other?” What does this mean and how do I write an essay on it.
Think of Creon as the standard-bearer of the status quo and Antigone as the urge to accomplish radical change. Think of Creon as Assad and Antigone as the rebel forces. Think of Creon as Obama and Antigone as Occupy Wall Street. Think of Creon as your dad and Antigone as you at age 14 wanting to stay out after 11:00 p.m. on a date with a known rapist.
Think of Creon as your English teacher who insists on your reading dead Greek writers and you as Antigone who wants to read a novel about aliens destroying Washington DC. Think of Antigone as a person who straps herself with explosives and walks into a crowded market and Creon as the local policeman who is sent to her in an effort to rescue her. Think of Creon as he embraces this Antigone while trying to defuse the bombs. Think of Antigone as she presses the glowing red button.
Critique my Antigone essay, please?
The prompt: Having read Antigone, does the protagonist qualify as a tragic hero? Please just critique it from a literary standpoint, not an ideological one. Any and all criticism would be greatly appreciated. The essay is just supposed to be the introductory paragraph and the first body paragraph.
Austrian physician Wilhelm Stekel once said, “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” The immaturity Antigone demonstrates throughout the play makes her incomparable to and less likable than Oedipus, a true tragic hero. Antigone is not a tragic hero, because she does not demonstrate a hamartia, a peripeteia, or an anagnorisis.
Although the play does contain hamartia, it is not of Antigone’s doing. Antigone breaks Creon’s law by burying Polynices after receiving strict orders not to do so. The hamartia, however, occurs later in the play, when Creon commands his guards to bury Polynices properly, before sending them to release Antigone from her entombment. Here, Creon’s ignorance leads to the death of Antigone. The hamartia rests on Creon, not Antigone, making her ineligible to be a tragic hero.
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