European Classical Literature Unit 2 Classical Greek Tragedy

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European Classical Literature Unit 2 Classical Greek Tragedy

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17. How are the women portrayed in Sophocles’ play Antigone? 

Ans: In his play Antigone, using the two sister characters Ismene and the title character Antigone, Sophocles portrays women in two different lights. However, in general, he presents women as being oppressed but as also handling their oppression in two different ways. 

Using the character Antigone, Sophocles portrays women as being strong and able to fight against the restraints of society. Antigone is restrained by Creon who decreed that their brother Eteocles shall be given proper burial but not their other brother Polynices. Creon’s decree is significant in that it breaks laws already made by the gods but also in that it denies one of the few essential rights granted to women. Based on Ancient Greek beliefs, only when a person was buried could the personIg soul be released into the Underworld to find rest. Therefore, burial was a very significant ceremony, and it was primarily women who oversaw the burial. 

According to the article titled “The Importance of Burial in Greek Religion,” women underwent significant ordeals in the burial ceremony including “provid[ing] the tomb with liquid offerings (libations), and [leading] the mourning, a loud and violent process in which women tore their cheeks with their fingernails, ripped out their hair, and poured dirt over the heads and clothing” (, “Antigone eText–The Importance of Burial in Greek Religion”). Hence, in denying both Antigone and Ismene to bury their brother, he is denying them a “chance to do one of the few important things society allowed women to do” (“Antigone eText–The Importance of Burial in Greek Religion”). However, Antigone rises above Creon’s restraints by burying her brother in secret, showing her strength of character. In contrast, Ismene gives in to what she feels is her hopeless role as a woman. She begs her sister to reconsider her plan, feeling instead that they should be content submitting to their lot in life as women, knowing it’s their role in society to be ruled by others: 

Rather, consider that we were born women, proving we should not fight with men, and that we are ruled by powerful people and must obey them, even in more painful things. (6 1 -64) 

18. How are idealism, realism, and rationalism reflected in Sophocles’ play, Antigone? 

Ans: Idealism is the pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, or goals. In Sophocles’ play Antingone, the character Antigone exemplified idealism when she decided to disobey Creon’s orders and bury her brother Polynices. According to the laws of Zeus, when a person dies, the women in the person’s immediate family are responsible for carrying out the burial rituals. Without the burial rights, a person’s soul cannot be released from the body to join the others who are dead and rest in peace. If the body is dishonoured then the soul remains dishonoured. In choosing to obey Zeus’s law above Creon’s, Antigone has acted idealistically by choosing what she believes to be the nobler pursuit. Antigone believes that the gods’ laws stand higher than the kings and it is not within the king’s rights to disobey the laws of the gods.

Realism is the tendency to view or represent things as they really are. Ismene’s actions are a very good example of realism. Ismene is completely against Antigone’s decision to bury their brother. Ismene sees in her life that she has lost nearly her entire family—first she lost her mother and father, now she has lost both her brothers. Ismene sees clearly the reality of the situation that if Antigone goes against Creon’s command, Antigone will be killed and Ismene will have lost her entire family. For Ismene, preventing the certain death of what little remains of her family and not living life completely alone is a stronger motive than any idealistic reasoning about the importance of Zeus’s law over Creon’s. All Ismene sees is the reality that if Antigone disobeys Creon, she will die, and Ismene doesn’t want that to happen. 

Rationalism is the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct. New King Creon very clearly exemplifies rationalism. After King Oedipus’s death, Eteocles inherited the throne. Eteocles and Polynices were engaged in battle because Polynices challenged his brother’s rule. When both brothers were killed, the throne was left to Creon, Antigone’s uncle. Creon considered Polynices’ attack on Eteocles’ rule as high treason. For that reason, he decreed that no one should give Polynices proper burial and that his body should be left to rot as a warning to other rebels. Creon acted thusly solely out of interest in protecting his kingdom. Creon gave no further thought to laws already decreed by the gods, but considered himself the sole authority. Thus Creon acted solely out of rationalism. 

19. How does Antigone show bravery and courage in Sophocles, Antigone? 

Ans: Antigone is one of the bravest characters in all of Greek literature. She shows this in several ways. First, we need to know a little of the context of what is taking place. Creon, the leader of Thebes, expressly forbids anyone to bury the body of Polynices, who just died in a battle to take over Thebes. Creon wants his body to rot and be eaten by animals as a punishment. I might add that this is one of the worst things that can be done in this society. 

Second, within this context, Antigone decides to defy Creon and bury her brother, Polynices. She will risk her life. In the process, she gets caught, but she will not be deterred. This shows great courage. She is about to die on account of her actions, but even then she will not be deterred to follow what is right. Here is quote on her resolve: 

“I didn’t say yes. I can say no to anything I say vile, and I don’t have to count the cost. But because you said yes, all that you can do, for all your crown and your trappings, and your guards—all that you can do is to have me killed.” 

We can see her courage even more when we look at the other characters. No one has the courage to do the right thing, that is, bury the body of Polynices. 

20. To what extent do the works Antigone and The Great Gatsby show that an individual is in control of his or her own destiny? 

Ans: The two works have very different attitudes towards destiny because they are grounded in different philosophical and religious beliefs. 

Antigone is a play based on Greek mythology. Sophocles did not invent the story but rather retold a commonly known account of the travails of the Theban dynasty, perhaps adding or modifying some details but generally following earlier sources. The main action of the play results from a curse on the Theban dynasty caused by Laius, father of Oedipus, who angered the gods. This curse then affects Oedipus and all his children, as well as the city of Thebes as a whole. Thus, while Antigone and Ismene can make limited choices about how to respond to their situation, their destiny is determined by the gods. The Greeks believed that no one, not even Zeus, could escape fate or necessity. 

The Great Gatsby is a novel about a self-made man in twentieth-century America. The background is secular, but there still is a sense of heredity determining.fate, as Gatsby—despite’ his willpower and intelligence—never quite manages to join the upper-class society of East Egg; in the end, he remains an outsider. 

21. Compare and contrast Antigone and her sister Ismene, showing how the two contribute to the play and how Ismene is a foil character. 

Ans: Ismene is presented as the ideal of ho A+ a woman in Ancient Greek society was expected to be: passive, demure, and obedient. She understands why her sister Antigone behaves the way she does but there’s no way in a million years she’d ever consider defying Creon’s express orders: 

I scorn them not, but to defy the state 

Or break her ordinance I have no skill. 

Creon is the king of Thebes and as a ruler and as a man he expects his word, which is law, to be followed to the absolute letter. Ismene accepts this without demur. Her own personal feelings simply don’t enter into it; as a woman and as a citizen she feels compelled to obey Creon. 

Though often presented in the critical literature on the play as being some kind of coward, it should be pointed out that Iseme does actually volunteer to share the same fate as Antigone. Moreover, we might like to consider whether Ismene was the wiser of the two sisters, more level-headed, in her acknowledgement that her family had suffered enough without Antigone’s making things worse by her willful act of disobedience. 

22. Why is Ismene important in the play Antigone? 

Ans: Ismene is incredibly important to the play. For one thing, she acts as a foil to Antigone. In literary terms, a foil is someone who provides a contrast with another character, usually the protagonist, in order to highlight particular qualities of that character. In this case, the protagonist is, of course, Ismene’s sister, Antigone. Ismene, unlike her sister, is not a dynamic character; she remains the same throughout the entirety of the play. She doesn’t make things happen—things happen to her. Nevertheless, she still has an important role to play, and not just as a foil to Antigone. Ismene, no less than Creon, represents the forces of human law and convention. Antigone, by contrast, is openly prepared to defy Creon and all that he represents, in order to do what’s right by all that’s just and holy. Furthermore, in defying Creon, Antigone is also displaying her contempt for Ismene for her unthinking submission to Creon’s will, a mere earthly power. After all, Polynices was Ismene’s brother too, so to some extent we can understand Antigone’s hostility towards her sister. 

At the same time, however, Ismene strikes us as a sympathetic character overall. For one thing, she’s very much a creature of her time, a woman living in an age when women were expected to be meek, demure, and submissive to their menfolk. There’s nothing unusual or especially cowardly about her actions. Indeed, the vast majority of women at the time would’ve done the exact same thing. But because Antigone displays such extraordinary heroism, we’re in danger of overlooking the harsh realities of the time. 

Finally, Ismene gives us someone in the play with whom we can identify more readily. She confronts us with a stark challenge: what would we have done in her shoes? Although we can still admire Antigone’s enormous courage, there’s still something almost godlike about it, something that we can’t imagine ourselves doing, save for in exceptional circumstances. Ismene, for good or ill, is only human, and as such provides an essential dramatic counterpoint to the superhuman courage of her sister. 

23. What is the difference between Antigone and Ismene? How is Ismene a foil to Antigone? How are they different? I know that Antigone is for the gods’ rule, and Ismene is for the state’s rules. What other differences are there? 

Ans: Ismene is a clear foil to her bolder sister Antigone. Antigone lives by her moral convictions and the law of the gods. She is not afraid to stand up to male power to do what is right. 

Ismene, at least at first, is more concerned with self-preservation than burying her dead brother. As she outlines to Antigone, their entire family has been through quite a bit of trauma. She admits she is weak and can’t stand any more contention. She is much more apt to define herself by her gender—as a woman—than as a human being. She uses her societal position as a woman to save herself from having to put her life on the line, something Antigone does not do. In the prologue, she says to Antigone: 

We are only women, / We cannot fight with men, Antigone! / The law is strong, we must give in to the law / In this thing, and in worse. I beg the / Dead To forgive me, but I am helpless: I must yield / To those in authority. 

Ismene is more akin to the average person, unwilling to rock the boat, and in this way she highlights Antigone’s moral courage. 

It is hard not to credit Ismene with some common sense for not wanting either of them to stick their necks out for a brother who is already dead after there has already been so much tragedy in their family. However, the gods, as the chorus explains, side with Antigone: one must do the right thing, regardless of the cost. As Antigone says: 

But I will bury him; and if I must die, / I say that this crime is holy 

24. In Antigone, how are Creon and Antigone both similar and different? 

Ans: Creon and Antigone are similar in some significant ways. Both are very strong, aggressive, willful personalities who are utterly convinced of the rightness of their actions. Neither of them will even consider the other’s position or attempt to understand it. These traits are very evident in their confrontations; they argue but they do not discuss in terms of solving the conflict between them. Each tries to intimidate the other, to no avail. Creon reminds Antigone that he will kill her, while Antigone points out that he is defying the gods and will suffer for it. Also, both reject those who do not support them. Antigone ends her relationship with her sister when Ismene will not join her in burying their brother, and she coldly rejects Ismene’s love when she tries later to share Antigone’s punishment. Creon flies into a rage against his son Haemon when Haemon dares to question Creon’s actions and tries to save Antigone’s life. 

It is their primary essential difference, however, that creates the conflict between them and drives the action of the drama. They have different priorities. Creon is most concerned with the strength and security of the state, while Antigone is most concerned with the welfare of her unburied brother’s soul. Her loyalty to him surpasses all else. Creon believes that if he backs down from his edict to kill anyone who touches the body of Polyneices, whom Creon despises as a traitor, such action will make him appear weak and thus will weaken his political power and threaten the security of the country. Antigone believes that if she does not bury her brother, his soul will never find peace in the afterlife and she will have defied the will of the gods. Creon and Antigone hold firmly to very different values, and their strong personalities guarantee that the conflict between them will not be easily resolved. 

25. How is Creon in Sophocles’s play Antigone similar and different to Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth? 

Ans: Ambition is a significant similarity between Creon in Sophocles’s play Antigone and the title character Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. More specifically, their similarity is the ambition to rule. 

In Sophocles’ Antigone, a primary reason Creon decreed the law denying Polynices’s burial was to reestablish law and order in Thebes, especially to establish himself as the new King of Thebes. The city of Thebes has just undergone a great deal of political turmoil, and Creon is actually the fourth king crowned to rule over Thebes in a very small number of years. Prior to Creon, Oedipus was exiled, leaving his twin sons, Polynices and Eteocles, to rule jointly. The two brothers agreed to alternate possession of the throne each year; however, after only the first year, Eteocles, the younger brother, refused to step down and drove his brother into exile in Argos, where Polynices married the daughter of King Adrastus, Argeia. King Adrastus sent his army into Thebes to defend Polynices, but both brothers died killing each other in battle (Hellenica World Encyclopedia, “Polynices”; Encyclopedia Britannica, “Seven Against Thebes: Greek Mythology”). 

Hence, in Creon’s mind, since Polynices attacked Thebes, Polynices is a traitor to the state and does not deserve burial, whereas, since Eteocles was defending Thebes, Eteocles is a hero of Thebes and does deserve a heroes burial regardless of the fact that, as the younger brother, he was keeping his older brother from his natural birthright. Therefore, in Creon’s mind; in establishing the law denying Polynices’ burial, Creon is trying to re-establish law and order in a devastated Thebes and to position himself as the new and trustworthy king, since he is next of kin of the deceased, as we see when he declares in his first speech in the play, “With laws like these I will make our city grow” (192-93). 

Similarly, Macbeth also wants to establish himself as king, but his reasons are far less noble than Creon’s. Creon is the rightful heir to the throne; Macbeth, on the other hand, must undertake a series of murders to try and secure the position of king. First, he kills the present King Duncan and the witnessing servants; then, he kills Banquo, who is expressing suspicion, and tries to kill Banquo’s son Fleance, who may inherit Duncan’s throne. 

26. What is the significance of symbolism in Antigone and how does each symbol relate to its themes? 

Ans: One symbol is the way in which Creon chooses to punish Antigone. Creon sentences Antigone to be buried alive in a cave. This is significant because Antigone has been trying to give her brother his funeral rights for the entire play, but now she herself is put in the ground. Ironically, Creon will not allow the dead to be buried but punishes Antigone by burying her alive. This punishment is symbolic of the perversion of justice that has taken place. In his original decree, Creon said that any person who disobeyed his decree would be publicly stoned, but he changes the punishment for Antigone to a much more private death that mirrors what she has been trying to do for her brother. When Creon realises his error and recognizes that he has been going against the will of the gods by leaving the dead unburied, he rushes to dig Antigone out of the cave. However, it is too late and she is already dead. Ironically, Creon has been wrongfully uncovering Polynices each time Antigone tries to bury him. He finally gives the order to bury Polynices and uncover Antigone at the end, but his change of heart comes too late. 

27. How is Antigone’s death by committing suicide significant to her beliefs? 

Ans: Antigone’s suicide is in keeping with the fatal and fatalistic atmosphere that surrounds her entire family. She professes devotion to her family, the doomed house of Oedipus. With the exception of her sister Ismene, they have all preceded her in death: her father, mother and two brothers (who killed each other); it seems fitting that she join them in death. As Creon tells her brutally at one point: ‘Go and share your love with the dead’. She prefers to do that rather than go on living in a world which is largely meaningless to her. She has been entombed alive, but she prefers to hasten her end rather than wait for it. 

Antigone dares all for her family, and sacrifices all. She had earlier accompanied her blind, disgraced, exiled father Oedipus, and then she buried her brother Polynices, whose corpse had been left exposed as he was deemed a traitor. By this latter action she ensures her own condemnation by the state. For this action she sacrifices her own life, her own hopes for marriage and children she was betrothed to Haemon, son of Creon, the ruler who officially condemns her. She bewails this loss but does not waver from her preferred course of action. 

Antigone is heroically dedicated to her ideals and carries them out to the letter. Her devotion to family and family duties is an all-consuming passion with her. She is utterly inflexible and determined, one of the most towering characters in all of ancient Greek tragedy. Her suicide is one final act of defiance against the world that condemned her for carrying out her family duty in burying Polynices. 

28. Was Antigone successful despite her suicide? 

Ans: I would submit that Antigone was successful. Antigone does not change in her belief system. The same values to which she demonstrates the utmost in conviction are there at the very end. She remains steadfast and true that what she believes is valid. In the face of the law saying otherwise, Antigone believes that there is a higher moral law that she must obey. It is in this where her success is most evident. Antigone does not waver in her belief in what is right. The same cannot be said for Creon, who relents in his position when it is too late. Antigone was successful because she became the symbol of the individual fighting for conscience, even in the face of social and legal pressure that encourages abandoning such ideals. 

Antigone is successful because she shows the power of ideas. In illuminating the power of ideas upon the individual’s identity, Antigone is successful in causing individuals to rethink about the validity of such laws. The Chorus urging Creon to change his mind only serves as testament to how successful Antigone is in her stand. Antigone’s success is precisely what causes Creon to change his mind, something the Chorus advocates. They would not do so had she not been so resolute in her beliefs and actions, demonstrating a high degree of success. 

29. Why does Antigone feel it is her duty to bury Polynices? 

Ans: Most obviously, Antigone feels duty-bound to bury Polynices because he is her brother, as the previous answer states. This brings her into immediate conflict with the city’s ruler Creon who decrees that the corpse of Polynices should be left to rot outside the city gates because he was a traitor to the city. In fact, he died fighting Antigone’s other brother Eteocles who was honoured for defending the city. Antigone has already buried her parents and Eteocles, and now she wishes to do the same for Polynices, despite Creon’s edict. She willingly takes on Creon and refuses absolutely to back down. 

Antigone at times also intimates that she is so determined to bury Polynices because it is an offence against the gods, against morality, to leave any corpse unburied. Death longs for the same rites for all,’ she informs Creon. Actually, she does appear much obsessed by death; she invokes the gods and the dead many times. She seems to have more of a connection with the dead than with the living. This no doubt has much to do with the fact that her own family is so doomed – her father Oedipus committed incest with her mother, who committed suicide when finding out the truth, her two brothers killed each other, and so on. She is obsessed by the peculiarly grim fate of her family and seems to be lured down a similar path. 

We should also remember that mourning the dead, performing funeral rites, was the province of the women in ancient Greece (and in many other cultures, both in the past and present). Antigone, as a woman, therefore would feel a greater obligation to perform the last rites for her brother, and she is scornful of her sister Ismene for refusing to do the same. 

Interestingly, when being led off to her entombment, Antigone observes that she never would have defied Creon to bury a husband or children, only a brother her reasoning being, apparently, that if her husband or children died, she could get another husband, or bear more children to another man, but, because her parents are both dead, it’s impossible for her to get another brother. This admission underlines the feeling that she is so determined to bury Polynices not in the interests of upholding morality in general but because she really cares about her own family alone, and particularly about her own death. 

30. In Antigone, who does Creon think “buried” the body of Polyneices? Why did they do it? 

Ans: In a classic example of shooting the messenger, Creon angrily threatens the sentry who informs him about Polyneices’ burial, ordering him to find out who buried the body in pain of death. It’s not the sentry’s fault that someone buried Polyneices, but as it’s already been established, Creon doesn’t really go in for fairness all that much. He’s a monstrous tyrant who simply must be in control of everyone else at all times. It’s simply incomprehensible to him that anyone would have the sheer effrontery to defy his express orders. After all, Creon is king, and what he says goes—or at least, it should so. So his immediate reaction to the news of Polyneices’ burial is to assume that one of the sentries has been bribed. In Creon’s fevered imagination, that’s the only rational explanation for why someone would go against his wishes. 

31. How did Polyneices die in Antigone? 

Ans: Antigone is the third instalment in Sophocles’ trilogy about the disastrous fate which torments the royal house of the Greek city-state of Thebes. The first two stories mainly concern Oedipus, who kills his father and marries his own mother (hence, the “Oedipus complex” in Freudian psychology). Eventually, Oedipus, who has four children, two sons and two daughters, is exiled from Thebes while his brother-in-law, Creon, rules as king. Oedipus’s two sons soon clash over who will assume their father’s throne. Creon sides with Eteocles and Polyneices is forced into exile where he raises an army and attempts to invade Thebes. At one of the gates of city, the brothers meet and wind up killing each other. As Antigone opens, it is the day after the battle and Eteocles has been buried with full military honours, but Polyneices has been deemed an enemy of the state and left unburied. 

This was a very harsh sentence to the Greeks because their religious laws required the performance of certain burial rites. If a body was left to decay in the open, then its soul would never be at rest. The play concerns itself with the clash between Antigone, one of Polyneices’s sisters, and Creon over the burial of the brother. 

32. How does Haemon die in Antigone? 

Ans: In Antigone by Sophocles, Haemon is the son of Creon and engaged to marry Antigone. Creon has issued a proclamation that any person caught burying Polyneices will be stoned to death, as he considers Polyneices a traitor to Thebes. Antigone, however, is the sister of Polyneices (and daughter of Oedipus). Within Greek religion, women had a strict obligation to conduct certain female-specific burial rituals for their male relatives. Thus Antigone feels that she has an inescapable religious duty to conduct a burial, by sprinkling dirt on the corpse and singing lamentations. To shirk this duty, as she says, would bring down the wrath of the chthonic (underworld deities) upon her. When she is caught, Creon confronts her and she defies him. After she is condemned by Creon, Haemon speaks to Creon attempting to defend her, but Creon is obdurate and threatens to kill Antigone in front of Haemon. Haemon responds by saying: 

She’ll not die with me just standing there. 

And as for you— your eyes will never see my face again. 

After this speech, Haemon exits and kills himself offstage. The chorus and then Creon receive this news by means of a messenger. 

33. In Antigone, how does Haemon attempt to reason with his father? 

Ans: After King Creon decides to put Antigone to death for her crime against the state, he is approached by his son Haemon, who is Antigone’s lover and fiance. Haemon pleads with his father to spare Antigone’s life. 

Haemon begins by declaring his allegiance to his father (always a good idea when asking Dad for a big favour): 

Father, I am yours, and as you have me, 

you guide the best course for me to follow.(645) 

No marriage will ever be more important to me than justly carrying out your precepts. 

After listening to his father rail against Antigone, Haemon presents several lines of reasoning. 

a) The public is on Antigone’s side; since the “city does not belong to one man [only],” Haemon feels that his father should bend to public opinion. 

b) Antigone’s actions were not wrong: 

She didn’t let her brother, 

who had fallen in combat, lie unburied, 

to be devoured by some ravenous 

dog or bird. They ought to give her an award! 

c) By punishing Antigone, who has obeyed the divine obligation of burying the dead, Creon is placing his entire kingdom at risk: 


Am I wrong to protect my own empire?(755) 


You don’t protect it when you trample the honours of the gods! 

34. Who is the protagonist and antagonist in the play? 

Ans: Antigone, the titular character, is the play’s protagonist. She chooses the morally correct route in performing what the gods say she must: she provides a ritual burial of her brother, Polyneices. In doing so, she defies her tyrannical uncle, Creon, who has forbidden the burial and has promised death to anyone who dares to contradict him. 

Creon, then, is the play’s antagonist. He acts against what the gods have decreed as proper handling of a corpse. Creon is caught up in local politics; he sees Polyneices’s act as an attack on his own people, so he takes it upon himself to dishonour his remains. Creon is also angry because his niece dares to publicly embarrass and defy him. Creon’s rigidity and defiance of the gods leads to more deaths: Antigone’s, Haemon’s, and Eurydice’s. 

35. In Antigone, by Sophocles, who is the protagonist? Creon or Antigone? please explain why? and what is the theme of this tragedy? 

Ans: Indeed, the previous thoughts are valid in that both can be considered tragic figures or protagonists. I think that I have already written as to why Creon can be seen as the protagonist/ tragic figure. In the interests of presenting both sides, I think there is a case to be made as to why Antigone can be seen as the tragic figure in the play. Simply put, Antigone is the agent of action in the tragedy. It is she who brings about the tragic collision between two equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action. She is the embodiment of this tragedy. On one hand, she feels honour towards her brother and her family and on the other hand, this love brings her in direct contradiction with the state. Antigone represents the fundamental tragic position of the law and justice. 

Creon only represents the former of these two, while Antigone brings about the foundational tragic dilemma of what happens when the law denies a sense of justice to its citizens. It is this idea that becomes the theme of the tragedy, as it plays itself out entirely throughout Antigone’s belief system and how she proceeds with it. Antigone becomes the tragic figure and protagonist in the play because she is the one who seeks justice in a world that is devoid of it. I think that another reason why one can argue that she is the protagonist is because of the title. There’s a reason the play is not called, “Creon.” (The last reason was cheap, but you get the idea.) 

36. Give a brief character sketch of Antigone and Creon is the tragedy, Antigone by Sophocles. 

Ans: Both characters are incredibly stubborn, albeit for different reasons. And both passionately believe that they’re doing the right thing. Antigone openly defies Creon’s express orders in attempting to bury the body of her late brother Polynices. According to Creon, Polynices was a traitor for participating in an attack on Thebes. Furthermore, Creon maintains that Polynices was planning to commit sacrilege by burning the Theban temples. As far as Creon’s concerned, he has both law and the gods on his side. 

Antigone, however, believes that she is in the right. Whatever the law says—and in Thebes, Creon is the law—she answers to a higher concept of justice. Refusing to allow anyone to bury Polynices’s corpse isn’t simply wrong; it’s impious. Creon is acting in open defiance of the gods and their divine law. So she attempts to bury her brother, showing immense courage in the process. In doing so, she incurs the terrible wrath of her prospective father-in-law, who orders Antigone to be walled up alive in a cave. 

Despite Antigone’s immense popularity among the people of Thebes, and despite the blind seer Tiresias’s prophecy of doom if Creon continues on his present course, the Theban king initially refuses to back down. But by the time he eventually relents, it’s too late; not only has Antigone already killed herself, but so too has her intended, Creon’s son, Haemon, as well as Creon’s wife Eurydice. Soon afterwards, a distraught Creon follows suit, broken and destroyed by his stubbornness and overweening pride. 

37. In Antigone, by Sophocles, who is the protagonist? Creon or Antigone? please explain why ? and what is the theme of this tragedy ? 

Ans: Indeed, the previous thoughts are valid in that both can be considered tragic figures or protagonists. I think that I have already written as to why Creon can be seen as the protagonist/ tragic figure. In the interests of presenting both sides, I think there is a case to be made as to why Antigone can be seen as the tragic figure in the play. Simply put, Antigone is the agent of action in the tragedy. It is she who brings about the tragic collision between two equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action. She is the embodiment of this tragedy. On one hand, she feels honour towards her brother and her family and on the other hand, this love brings her in direct contradiction with the state. Antigone represents the fundamental tragic position of the law and justice. 

Creon only represents the former of these two, while Antigone brings about the foundational tragic dilemma of what happens when the law denies a sense of justice to its citizens. It is this idea that becomes the theme of the tragedy, as it plays itself out entirely throughout Antigone’s belief system and how she proceeds with it. Antigone becomes the tragic figure and protagonist in the play because she is the one who seeks justice in a world that is devoid of it. I think that another reason why one can argue that she is the protagonist is because of the title. There’s a reason the play is not called, “Creon.” (The last reason was cheap, but you get the idea.)

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