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European Classical Literature Unit 2 Classical Greek Tragedy
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Classical Greek Tragedy
EUROPEAN CLASSICAL LITERATURE
Question And Answer
1. What is the nature of rebellion in Antigone?
Ans: Rebellion is shown to be something that reskies in the most basic expressions of one’s state of Eyeing in the world. Sophocles, through Antigone as a character, shows how individuals must act upon the rebellion that they feel is essential to express. Antigone is committed to her rebellious actions from the start of the drama all the way through its very end. She never wavers. Rebellion is shown to be something that requires acting. It cannot be deferred or put aside. When the individual feels that there is a need to rebel against that which is wrong or unjust, this feeling is shown to be something that cannot be silenced. Antigone’s characterization is one committed to her notions of justice and the ideals that are a part of her character. At the same time, she does not feel that rebellion is something to be suppressed or silenced. It is for this reason that she does not acquiesce when her sister begs her to stop. Antigone also does not relent even though she understands how Creon’s son, her lover, is going to be destroyed by her need to rebel against that which is wrong. It is also for this reason that Creon recognizes that there is a zeal and intensity to her rebellion that refuses to desist. Rebellion is shown to be an indiVidual sensation that compels individuals to act, galvanising them to ends that might lie in direct opposition with the status quo.
2. What is the role of the chorus in Antigone?
Ans: The first thing to note is that Greek tragedy evolved out of choral performance. Having actors who played individual roles was an innovation that began within Sophocles’ own lifetime. You could even argue that the chorus is the centre of the drama.
The chorus first serves as a form of spectacle, as in ancient productions choral odes were sung with the chorus dancing as they sang. This song and dance was deeply rooted in tradition and religious ritual and thus emphasises the sacred roots of tragedy. As Sophocles’ plays were originally performed at a festival in honour of Dionysus, in a religious rather than secular context, the chorus functions to celebrate the gods and often expresses a particularly pious viewpoint, thinking about how the gods might be connected with or’ concerned about various events in the play. On a dramatic level, they often function as a narrative voice, explaining what happened before the start of the play and discussing events that occur offstage.
Finally, the chorus expresses the viewpoint of “everyman”, of the society as a whole as an organic construct with certain beliefs and moral values. While both Creon and Antigone are outliers in their view points, with Creon more rational and pragmatic than average and more an advocate of human rational law than tradition and Antigone more personally religious and devoted to family than average and more willing to rebel against human convention, the chorus expresses what would have been the “common sense” viewpoint of the period, against which we can judge more extreme positions.
3. What are the similarities and differences between Sophocles’ Greek chorus in Antigone and Anouilh’s chorus in his own version of Antigone?
Ans: One of the biggest differences between the chorus in Sophocles’ Antigone and Anouilh’s is that in Anouilh’s the chorus serves as more of a narrator while in Sophocles’, customary of Greek tragedies, the chorus functions as more of a character.
Anouilh’s chorus is seen the most in the opening of the play in which it serves as narrator by introducing all of the characters. It even gives background information related to the characters that is neither found nor alluded to in Sophocles’. For example, when the chorus introduces Haemon, it characterises him as one who would be more apt to fall in love with Ismene than Antigone, which is absolutely not in Sophocles’ version. The chorus even tells a tale of Haemon dancing all night with Ismene but then going in search of Antigone. finding her all alone and, apparently, being so taken by her lost and needy nature that he asks Antigone to marry him, as we see in the lines:
… suddenly he went in search of Antigone, found her sitting alone–like that, with her arms clasped round her knees–and asked her to marry him. (p. 4)
In the same way that the chorus delivers background information surrounding Haemon, the chorus also relays other character background information invented by Anouilh, making the chorus function as more of a narrator.
In Sophocles’ Antigone, the chorus also does some narrating, but not nearly as much. For instance, the chorus relays the background surrounding the moment that the two brothers killed each other and what led to it. However, for the most part, unlike Anioulh’s, the chorus functions as more of a character. The chorus represents the elderly, respected citizens of Thebes and, as a character, frequently interacts with Creon. Not only that, the interactions serve the function of underscoring the play’s morals. For example, the chorus advises Creon to listen to Haemon when he protests Antigone’s sentence, saying that he is speaking wisely, as we see in its lines, “My lord, if someone speaks in season, you should learn, and you also, for both sides have spoken well” (736-737). At the end of the play, the chorus is also responsible for advising Creon to listen to good counsel and to release Antigone, thereby showing us just how much the chorus is both responsible for underscoring morals and for acting as a character by interacting and even guiding Creon.
4. How is Antigone a tragic hero?
Ans: Antigone can be considered a tragic heroine because she possesses the following defining traits as set by Aristotle’s Poetics:
i. The tragic hero possesses an error of judgement (hamartia).
ii. This reversal of fortune is brought about because of the hero’s error in judgement (peripeteia).
iii. The tragic hero possesses excessive pride (hubris).
iv. The fate of the tragic hero is not entirely deserved.
Questions arise about Antigone’s role as the tragic heroine because it is Creon, not Antigone, who experiences one of Aristotle’s conditions: a reversal of fortune (peripeteia) in which justice plays a role. In the end, Creon regrets that he has been blinded by his pride and that the unjust edict he has issued has resulted from his bad judgement. Antigone experiences no such reversal of fortune because she is aware from the beginning of the path her actions will take. However, all the other conditions set by Aristotle hold for Antigone:
(a) She buries her brother in defiance of the law, insisting that she answers to divine law. Thus, she commits what Aristotle termed hamartia, “an act of injustice.” She tells Creon:
ANTIGONE I dared.
It was not God’s proclamation. That final justice
That rules the world below makes no such laws. (Sc. 2)
(b) Her reversal of fortune results from her act of defying the edict of Creon. He then accuses her of “barefaced anarchy.” He has Antigone locked “in a vault of stone” for this act of disobedience. There she hangs herself with a noose made from her fine linen veil. (Exodus)
(c) Antigone demonstrates excessive pride, arrogantly refusing to obey the prohibitions against burying her brother Polyneices.
(d) Antigone’s fate is somewhat undeserved. Her noble act of love, though in defiance of Creon’s edict, should not have resulted in her imprisonment in a vault and subsequent death because Creon himself erred in judgement in forming his edict.
5. What is the meaning of the second choral Ode in Antigone by Sophocles?
Ans: The Choral Ode title “Ode II” takes place between lines 465 and 492, between scenes ii and iii. Choral Odes usually take place between scenes or divide scenes. The Chorus comments on what has just been witnessed in the previous scene and serves as the voice of the community.
The first strophe reads as follows:
CHORUS: [Strophe 1] Fortunate is the man who has never tasted God’s vengeance! / Where once the anger of heaven has struck, that house is shaken / For ever: damnation rises behind each child / Like a wave cresting out of the black northeast, / When the long darkness under sea roars up / And bursts drumming death upon the wind whipped sand. (465-470)
In this first section, the Chorus discusses the vengeance of the gods. They say that those who have not suffered as a result of the gods’ vengeance are lucky, not only because they do not face that wrath but also because the gods will continue to punish the sinner’s family for generations. This seems to refer to the curse of Oedipus, Antigone’s father. The cursed prophecy that destroyed Oedipus, Laius, and Jocasta continues to haunt the next generation. The Chorus uses the simile of the wave to show that the gods’ vengeance continues to whip the sand (the family/descendants) with the dark force of their rage.
The antistrophe then replies:
I have seen this gathering sorrow from time long past / Loom upon Oedipus’ children: generation from generation / Takes the compulsive rage of the enemy god. / So lately this last flower of Oedipus’ line / Drank the sunlight! but now a passionate word / And a handful of dust have closed up all its beauty. (471-476)
Here, the Chorus continues on the theme of how a family curse continues through the generations. Oedipus’s children, including Antigone, suffer as a result of “this gathering of sorrow from time long past.” The gods are still angry. and so Antigone must suffer.
The second strophe sings:
What mortal arrogance / Transcends the wrath of Zeus? / Sleep cannot lull him, nor the effortless long months / Of the timeless gods: but he is young forever, / And his house is the shining day of high Olympos. /All that is and shall be, / And all the past, is his. / No pride on earth is free of the curse of heaven. (477-484)
In this section, the Chorus rhapsodises about the power of Zeus. No human could possibly best this immortal, who is “young for ever” and controls Olympus and the earth. Man’s “arrogance” and “pride” are no match for the gods; if Zeus is angry with a person, that person will suffer no matter who they are and no matter how highly they think of themselves.
Finally, the antistrophe closes the ode by saying:
The straying dreams of men / May bring them ghosts of joy: / But as they drowse, the waking embers burn them; / Or they walk with fixed eyes, as blind men walk. / But the ancient wisdom speaks for our own time: / Fate works most for woe / With Folly’s fairest show. / Man’s little pleasure is the spring of sorrow. (485-492)
The antistrophe claims that men may think they are happy in their dreams, but these are mere “ghosts of joy.” They are “blind” because they do not realise that the gods, or Fate, control their lives. The Chorus even goes so far as to say that “Fate works most for woe,” suggesting that when Fate is determining men’s lives, the outcome will be tragic. Any “little pleasure” mortals enjoy is only “the spring of sorrow.” Joy will always lead to pain. This is a particularly dark sentiment from the Chorus to close out scene ii of the play.
6. What is the main theme of “Antigone”?
Ans: Perhaps there are at least two main themes in Antigone; one is the conflict between justice versus law and order, but much has already been written about that. Another major theme in the play is the examination of women’s roles in society.
Antigone’s sister, Ismene, represents the cultural norm for women; she is appalled and frightened when she learns of Antigone’s plan to defy Creon and bury their brother. Her words “We are women, born unfit to battle men” signal her acceptance of the notion of women’s innate inferiority. Antigone, in response, shrugs off her sister’s point of view with the words, “Then weakness will be your plea.”
Creon’s determination to put Antigone in what he sees as her place is tested through the bonds of family since he is her uncle. But his reinforcement of two cultural norms, obedience to the state and subordinate roles for women, leads him to ultimately put her to death when she defiantly rejects his way of thinking.
7. What happens to all the characters in Antigone?
Ans: Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a tragedy of a later age that nonetheless resonates with the themes and conflicts of its Greek antecedent, we can summarise the conclusion of Antigone with the familiar pithy line – “everyone one dies at the end.”
Of course, this is not entirely true. Creon lives, but, as the other posts here have made clear, the other major figures die by suicide.
Perhaps the irony of the play’s conclusion is found in the fact that the one figure that refused to obey the dictates of the gods is the only person left alive.
“[Creon] has a regard for the external forms of religion but no understanding of its essential meaning”.
His life becomes one of suffering, as Creon loses his wife, his son and his rule in Thebes – all because he puts his self-interest above the gods’ interests.
Creon’s transgression, ultimately, can be seen as the animating force behind Antigone’s death. If she had been allowed to do her god-mandated duty and bury her brother, tragedy may have been avoided.
Antigone proclaims her innocence in this regard, saying, “You will remember what things I suffer, and at what men’s hands, because I would not transgress the laws of heaven.” The play ends with a statement from the chorus pointing blame directly at Creon, the sole survivor of the tragic events:
“There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;
No wisdom but in submission to the gods.”
With Antigone, Haemon and Eurydice all dead by suicide, Creon is left alive to lament his folly and suffer his hard-earned wisdom.
8. How does Antigone die?
Ans: In the play, Antigone is sentenced to death by her uncle, King Creon, for the crime of burying her brother, Polynices. Polynices had been killed during an attempt to take Thebes from his brother, Eteocles, who also died during the battle. Under Creon’s decree, the punishment for burying Polynices is death by stoning.
Creon does not sentence Antigone to death by stoning, however. He orders her entombed alive, so as to avoid the public spectacle of her death. The sentence is still death, but it is a death away from the eyes of the public. Further, it is neither a swift nor a merciful death, but rather one from the prolonged suffering of deprivation.
Antigone accepts her death sentence as the price for doing what she knew to be the right thing, but she does not submit to despair or to the cruel death Creon attempted to impose on her. Rather, she takes her life by her own hand, hanging herself within the tomb:
[l]n the furthest part of the tomb we described her hanging by the neck, slung by a thread-wrought halter of fine linen….
In this way, Antigone defies Creon even in her death, for she chose both the time and manner of it.
9. What punishment does Antigone receive for disobeying Creon in Sophocles’ Antigone?
Ans: Creon is in a notably difficult position in the play Antigone. The city of Thebes has undergone nu-merous misfortunes, including the death of Laius, a plague, the discovery that the city’s savior Oedipus actually murdered his father and married his mother, and finally the fratricidal wars between the brothers Polyneices and Eteocles. In light of these events, Creon is trying to restore some semblance of order and normalcy to the city. Because of this, he makes the harsh decision that while Eteocles shall be buried with honour, Polyneices’ corpse shall be left out for the birds and beasts that feed on carrion. He decrees that anyone attempting to bury the corpse of the traitor shall be stoned to death.
When Antigone is identified as the culprit trying to bury the body, Creon is confronted with a dilemma. Not only is Creon Antigone’s uncle but Antigone is engaged to Creon’s son Haemon. In Greek religion, killing or harming a relative calls down the vengeance of the gods not just upon the perpetrator but also upon the community as a whole. Thus rather than actively kill Antigone, Creon orders her walled up in a cave. If she starves to death, that will not bring ritual pollution and the gods’ anger on Thebes and Creon; in a sense, Creon is trying to escape the displeasure of the gods on a technicality.
Of course, one can never escape divine justice in Greek plays, and when Antigone commits suicide, tragedy ensues with Haemon, Creon’s son, and Creon’s wife, both also committing suicide.
10. How does Creon change throughout Sophocles’s Antigone?
Ans: Creon seems to undergo an awakening of consciousness during the course of the play. This involves improved understanding of his duty to the gods and his family, with compassion toward his niece Antigone, in particular.
Creon initially aims to rule Crete with an iron fist. He brooks no disobedience of his orders. Creon’s ruthlessness toward Antigone is especially heinous, as she is attempting to follow her familial obligation— something on which Creon has turned his back. Not content simply to give Polynices a less-than-glorious burial, he orders his corpse left “for birds and dogs to eat.”
Whether Creon would have realised his errors in his own time is open to debate. Instead, the prophet Tiresias makes him see that he has angered the gods. Does Creon act out of fear of their retribution, or does he act out of conscience? Regardless, he changes course and modifies Antigone’s punishment.
The entreaties of his son Haemon initially had fallen on deaf ears. Creon’s change of heart may indicate his realisation that he is jeopardising his entire family’s future—and by extension that of Crete, as he may have no heirs. This revelation comes too late, however; his niece, son, wife—they all perish by suicide. Creon, still holding on to his prized power, is left to rule alone.
11. Does Sophocles take a stand in favour of either side (Antigone or Creon) in Antigone? How?
Ans: This is an interesting question, because one could argue either side of it. The story of Antigone is part of the Oedipus cycle—she is Oedipus’s daughter—and Eteocles and Polyneices were his sons. After doom comes upon Oedipus, he flees Thebes to wander the countryside as a blind beggar. The city is left without a ruler, and it plunges into civil war as Oedipus’s sons fight for control of Thebes (this story is detailed in Aeschylus’s play Seven Against Thebes). Antigone opens at the end of this war, when Creon, Oedipus’s brother-in-law, becomes the king.
Creon leaves the body of Polyneices unburied to serve as a warning to any remaining rebels in the city: make waton Thebes, and this will be your fate. Leaving the dead unburied was a severe taboo in Ancient Greek society, as it was felt to be offensive to the gods and prevented the soul of the unburied corpse from crossing the River Acheron into the Underworld. By threatening people with the spectacle of an unburied enemy, Creon is making a powerful statement about how he intends to deal with dissent.
Antigone, Polyneices’s sister, is appalled, and her outrage is the locus of action in the play: she insists on burying her brother, despite Creon’s order forbidding it, and she will not be intimidated, cajoled, or threatened on this point. Creon sentences her to death for her disobedience, although in doing so, he loses his own son (Antigone’s fiance) and his wife, who both kill themselves.
So who is “right”? Which character does Sophocles “support”? Arguably, he must support Antigone, because her death is portrayed as unjust. Creon reaps terrible consequences for his actions. However, audiences at the time would have been aware of the broader context of the story and the need for a ruler to set immovable boundaries in society after a civil war. Creon is stubborn, prideful, and harsh, but he is also responsible for an entire city that has just gone through years of upheaval. Antigone’s rebellion is not simply the act of a loving sister, it is a brazen defiance of orders which risks further social unrest. It is clear from the text that she is just as stubborn and proud as Creon, but because she is the eponymous victim of the play, she is more sympathetic.
I think the obvious answer is that Sophocles “favours” Antigone because her death is decried as profoundly unjust, but it would be interesting to delve into how he shows Creon’s side of the disagreement and Creon’s justifications for his actions.
12. In Sophocles’s Antigone, what evidence is there that Creon’s decree is either just or unjust?
Ans: Sophocles argues.through the character Tiresias, the soothsayer, that punishing the dead is foolish. In other words, Creon has made his decree forbidding Polynices’ burial out of revenge because he sees Polynices as a traitor for battling his brother Eteocles for the crown, which led to the deaths of both brothers. Tiresias points out that avenging oneself on the dead is foolish. As he states it:
Obstinacy brings the charge of stupidity. Yield to the dead, don’t kick a fallen man! What prowess does it take to kill one already dead? (1031-34)
In addition to Creon’s decree being foolish as it seeks revenge on the dead, it is also argued that his decree is alsb blasphemous. Tiresias argues that the dead belong to the gods and that Creon will be punished for holding back Polynices’ “unhappy, unburied, unholy corpse … from the gods below” (1078-80). Even Antigone herself argues that the gods’ laws are higher than Creon’s laws and that he has no right to try and override them, as we see in her lines:
I would never think your pronouncements had such strength that, being mortal, they could override the unwritten, ever-lasting prescriptions of the gods. (462-465) Hence, we see that Sophocles argues all throughout the play that Creon’s law was indeed unjust, foolish, and irreverent. In addition, Creon is chastised for his stubbornness.
13. What is King Creon’s decree in Antigone?
Ans: As king, Creon decrees that the son of the former king, rebel Polynices, shall not be buried and shall rot in the open as an example to others that would think of taking action against the state. Anyone attempting to bury Polynices would be killed for actions amounting to a collaboration with the dead rebel.
This decree is severe in many ways. Polynices’ brother, Eteocles, had assumed the throne of Thebes according to the rule set down by Oedipus (former king of Thebes and father to Polynices, Eteocles and Antigone). Eteocles goes against the rule of Oedipus, however, when he refuses to step down from the throne at the appointed time so that Polynices could take his turn as ruler of Thebes.
Polynices then had a legitimate reason to defy the rule of Eteocles (Polynices was supposed to be the one on the throne). Why is this important?
When Creon identifies Polynices as a dishonourable man, he is doing so according to the strictest possible letter of the law. He is choosing to defend the integrity of the state by adopting a very unforgiving and narrow view of what actions might constitute rebellion or insurgency. He extends this rather extreme particularity of perspective when he says that anyone sympathising publicly with Polynices will be killed.
In the action of the play, Antigone does sympathise with her brother Polynices and so stands opposed to Creon’s decree.
Creon’s reasons for upholding the letter of the law go beyond his concern for the integrity of the state. When he assumes the rule of Thebes, he becomes concerned for his own authority and wants to ensure that his commands, as king, should not be questioned.
The political concerns for his own power stand in stark contrast to Antigone’s quite human and self-sacrificing concerns for honouring her dead brother with burial. Creon’s worry is displayed early on as paranoia. He believes that there are “[s]tiff- necked anarchists, putting their heads together/scheming against [him] in alleys.” Creon fumes at his sentry and later at Tiresias, expressing a belief that his power is being undermined.
The extremity of Creon’s decree cannot be separated from his insecurity vis a vis his new position as king of Thebes. In acting against a very strict definition of rebellion, Creon is protecting his own authority and pro-actively defending himself against any challenges to his rule.
14. In Sophocles’ famous drama Antigone, Creon issued the decree forbidding the burial of Polynices. Antigone rejects Creon’s decree. Whose argument do you find more convincing and why?
Ans: Antigone by Sophocles is set in ancient Greece, a place known as the birthplace of democracy but a place which also reveres the gods. It is a fitting setting for this play, as the primary conflict of the play is between natural law and man’s law.
Antigone argues for natural law, what she calls “the laws of the gods.” She believes she must disobey the law of man if it comes into direct conflict with this higher law. For Antigone, this means that she must disobey Creon’s edict and go bury her brother. ‘She knows the consequences but feels as if her brother’s eternal destiny is more important than any man-made law.
Creon, of course, argues the opposite: that the law of the land supersedes any other form of law. There is a consistency to his position, as no one will get to pick and choose the laws he (or she) will or will not obey; however, there is also a stubbornness to it which suggests that Creon simply does not want his will to be crossed.
In a perfect world, where man’s law is not based on personal animosity or feelings (which seems to be at least partially the case with Polyneices), perhaps man’s law could be trusted to value the right things and allow for the basic humanity of all. Asit stands,’however, it seems to me that natural law must be followed when man’s law is wrong, weak, or warped.
When Creon and Antigone actually face off on this issue, Antigone boldly says the following:
Zeus did not announce those laws to me.And Justice living with the gods below sent no such laws for men. I did not think anything which you proclaimed strong enough to let a mortal override the gods
and their unwritten and unchanging laws.
They’re not just for today or yesterday,
but exist forever, and no one knows
where they first appeared. So I did not mean to let a fear of any human will
lead to my punishment among the gods.
I know all too well I’m going to die—how could I not?—it makes no difference what you decree.
Antigone’s position seems stronger to me. Though she is every bit as stubborn and unyielding as Creon (they are related, after all), her motive is love for her brother and concern for his afterlife. Creon, on the other hand, just wants his word, capricious or not, to be law; that is excessive, unbending, unyielding pride. Could Antigone have gone about things differently? Of course. However, she would never have made a dent in her uncle-king’s pride. I admire the fact that Antigone does not whine about the price she might have to pay; she simply knows what must be done and she does it, knowing what her actions will cost her.
Obviously which argument is best is a personal opinion, and I would encourage you to formulate your own, based on the reading and your personal ethic. Sophocles obviously did not choose sides, as both Creon and Antigone suffer great loss for holding their positions: Antigone is dead and Creon loses everything and wishes her were dead.
15. Is Antigone portrayed in the play as a feminist?
Ans: Let’s assume that by “feminist” you mean an adherent or follower of feminism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, feminism is the “advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Nowhere in Sophocles’s tragedy Antigone does the titular character advocate, promote, or sacrifice for women’s rights. Rather, Antigone martyrs herself for the right to offer traditional burial rites for her dead brother Polynices. To quickly recap the relevant plot points of the play, Polynices was killed in battle when he betrayed his citystate and attacked Thebes with a foreign Argive army. This act of treachery led Creon, the newly appointed king, to issue a decree forbidding the burial of the trai-tor, declaring that “he must be left unburied, his corpse carrion for the birds.” He declares that the supreme loyalty every citizen of Thebes owes is to the state by saying, “Never at my hands will the traitor be honoured above the patriot” and that anyone who breaks his command will be promptly executed.
Antigone puts Creon, her uncle and future father-in-law, in an awkward situation when she disobeys the proclamation, buries her brother, and is caught redhanded in the crime. Although Antigone’s death sentence is commuted, Creon banishes her to a cave. Antigone hangs herself in the prison before stubborn Creon, who finally accepts the advice of his son and the prophet Tiresias, can release her from the cavern. There is not a single moment in Sophocles’s play where Antigone strives for gender equality or women’s rights. She nobly defends her family, but there simply isn’t enough evidence to confidently declare Antigone a feminist as we understand the term today.
However, that doesn’t mean that Sophocles’s Antigone can’t be viewed from a feminist literary lens. Ancient Thebes is a staunchly patriarchal society. This can be seen in Creon’s attitude toward Antigone when he advises his son Haemon to “never lose your sense of judgment over a woman” and tells him to forget Antigone because “there are other fields to plow” The insinuation is that women are worthless and viewed as sexual objects by the powerful in Theban society. Haeinon, in his response, abuses his father by calling him “a woman,” one of the worst insults he could muster. Even the women understand their lowly position in Thebes. Ismene, in her attempt to dissuade her sister Antigone from burying their brother, encourages her to “remember we are women; we’re not born to contend with men. Then too, we’re underlings, ruled by much stronger hands.” Thebes is basically a feminist’s nightmare!
However, Antigone rebels against this patriarchy in ways that would have been shocking for ancient Greeks. Unwilling to be cowed by powerful men, Antigone courageously adheres to her values by burying Polynices even though she understands it might result in her execution. Even when caught, Antigone remains defiant, declaring that she is “not ashamed for a moment.” This courage, particularly from a woman, gains the approval of the Chorus and wins the popular opinion of the Theban citizenry. In this sense, the character of Antigone models feminist values of courage, independence, and a willingness to defy male authority.
In short, although Antigone cannot be called a feminist, because she does not fight for women’s rights or gender equality, she does embody many of the qualities of feminist philosophy.
16. What role does religion play in government, as seen in Sophocles’ Antigone?
Ans: While it is true that religion does not factor into Creon’s initial governing decisions, by the end of the play, he relents and does govern through the gods’ laws instead of just his own. Creon, as the tragic hero of the story, proves to have the character flaws of being stubborn and tyrannical. It is especially Tiresias who finally convinces Creon to give up his stubborn and tyrannical nature and bend to the gods’ will, proving that the play does consider religion an important factor in Ancient Greek rule. The play strives to show that, not only is Creon’s line of thinking wrong and tyrannical, the laws of the gods stand on a far higher plane than man’s laws.
It is Creon’s son Haemon who i rst points out to Creon that he is acting tyrannically. Haemon argues that the whole city of Thebes believes it is unjust for Antigone to die in such a horrible way for such a noble deed. Creon, like a tyrant, then asks his son, “The city will tell me how I ought to rule it?” followed by the equally tyrannical, rhetorical question, “Isn’t the city thought to be her ruler’s?” (745, 749). In both instances, Haemon replies that his father is acting foolishly and that “this city does not belong to one man!” (748). In other words, the city of Thebes was not meant to be governed by a tyrannical ruler; rather, the ruler should pay attention to the city’s wants and needs.
Later, even Tiresias argues that Creon is behaving foolishly and tyrannically by failing to honour the dead in the way that the gods command. As Tiresias phrases it, “Obstinacy brings the charge of stupidity. Yield to the dead, don’t kick a fallen man!” (1031-33). Tiresias further prophecies that because Creon has disrespected the dead the gods will seek revenge by first killing every one ( reon holds dear and then torturing him in the underworld. Sophocles’ point is to assert that it is a tyrannical ruler who believes no law stands above his own, not even the gods’. The chorus underscores this point perfectly in its final lines, saying, “Knowledge truly is by far the most important part of happiness, but one must neglect nothing that the gods demand” (1348-50). Hence, Sophocles is indeed making the point that a ruler must take all things into consideration when governing, even religion, as man’s laws are certainly not the highest laws.