There is no question that pride, in the context of Antigone (and most of Sophocles' works), is a trait despised by the gods and punished without mercy. In Antigone, Sophocles describes the type of pride that allows men to create laws that substitute for divine principles. In other words, when Creon creates a law because he believes it is divine will, that is the ultimate display of punishable pride, for no man can ever create a law that is equal to or above divine right. As a result, when Tiresias comes with the news that Creon will suffer, Creon realizes that he has made a terrible mistake, and yet still refuses to admit it, bending to the prophet's message only because he wants to preserve his life, not because he knows he's gone too far. As a result, he must suffer the loss of his family.
These three conflicts are very closely related, but this crude set of pairings helps to untangle some of the central issues of the play. Antigone and her values line up with the first entity in each pair, while Creon and his values line up with the second. Antigone continues to be a subversive and powerful play, and the inspiration for generations of rebels and dissidents. In the 20th century, a version of Antigone rewritten during the Second World War became one of the most powerful texts of resistance against the Nazis. The conflict between the individual and the power of the state was as pressing for Greek audiences as it is to modern ones. Antigone is a threat to the status quo; she invokes divine law as defense of her actions, but implicit in her position is faith in the discerning power of her individual conscience. She sacrifices her life out of devotion to principles higher than human law. Creon makes a mistake in sentencing her-and his mistake is condemned, in turn, by the gods-but his position is an understandable one. In the wake of war, and with his reign so new, Creon has to establish his authority as supreme. On the other hand, Creon's need to defeat Antigone seems at times to be extremely personal. At stake is not only the order of the state, but his pride and sense of himself as a king and, more fundamentally, a man.
Antigone's gender has profound effects on the meaning of her actions. Creon himself says that the need to defeat her is all the more pressing because she is a woman. The freedom of Greek women was extremely limited; the rules and strictures placed on them were great even for the ancient world. Antigone's rebellion is especially threatening because it upsets gender roles and hierarchy. By refusing to be passive, she overturns one of the fundamental rules of her culture. Ismene is Antigone's foil because she is completely cowed by the rule of men and believes that women should be subservient to them or risk incurring their wrath. Men are stronger, she says, and therefore must be obeyed. Ultimately, however, we see that she has merely bought into the problematic concepts that Creon espouses, for even when Creon realizes he may be wrong, he switches his defense, arguing that even if he were incorrect, he couldn't admit defeat to a woman, for that would upset divine law even more than backtracking on his principles. It is this fundamental untruth that Sophocles' play seeks to correct, mainly through the punishment that the Gods inflict on Creon as a result of his obtuse, misogynistic thinking.
When faced with injustice, Antigone and Ismene react quite differently - the former aggressively, progressively, and the latter more conservatively. Ismene is not so much afraid of injustice as she is frightened of her own demise - and she cannot bear to incur the wrath of men for fear of being condemned to the same fate as the rest of her family. After watching her father and brothers die, she believes that the best course of action is to lie low and obey. In the case of Ismene, it seems inaction is tied to fear-at least until she willingly offers to die next to Antigone, at which point we realize that she is not so much inactive as she is unsure of her place as a woman. Thus, while Ismene is a figure characterized principally by doubt, Antigone is one who plunges ahead purely on self-belief and her firm convictions about right and wrong. Ultimately, then, because of these fundamental differences in philosophy, they cannot die together, though Ismene wants to. Antigone forbids it - she cannot bear to have her sister tag along when Ismene all along is in the camp of the patriarchs, despite her eleventh-hour shift.
Athenians, and particularly Thebans, were sensitive to the idea of tyranny and the fine line between a strong leader and a brutal tyrant. Creon is in many ways a sympathetic character, but he abuses his power subtly - mainly by decreeing man's law as a consequence of divine will. His faults do not necessarily stem from a lust for power, for he often has noble intentions. He is completely loyal to the state, but is subject to human weakness and poor judgment. Indeed, at the beginning of the play he frequently comments on his desire to do what's best for Thebes and gains the confidence of both Haemon and the Chorus of Elders, who say that they will follow him if that is his goal. And though he continues to reprise this theme, Creon is clearly more concerned with preserving certain values of law rather than the good of the city. When faced with a choice that would preserve 'tradition' or his own interpretation of the rule of law vs. a more progressive approach that does not follow precedent but clearly benefits Thebans, he chooses the former.
Essay/Term paper: Antigone: a tragic hero
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Antigone: A Tragic Hero
Heroes come in many forms. Some such as immense in size and strength as
Hercules, some in the form of people that are shunned upon, such as Harriet
Tubman, and some that are only valorous heroes to some, such as Kurt Cobain.
These heroes have many characteristics that make people flock to their side and
follow them without a thought of hesitation. In Sophocles' Antigone the hero
is a women that believes in her heart far stronger than that of her leader's
rule. This brings up many characteristics that are shown within her that are
also seen in other heroes. One being that she is up against an impossible enemy,
one who does not fit well into society's mold, and is destroyed by her own pride.
For these characteristics Antigone is given the title of an epic Heroin.
Antigone is one of the lucky townsfolk to be born of a royal house, yet is
unlucky to be born in the House that she is born into. As Antigone defies
Creon's law, she is cast into a pool of danger between what she believes is
right and what the state's law decrees is right. As Antigone is charged with
the burying of her brother, an action which the King has declared unlawful, she
holds like stone to her undying gratitude for her deceased brother. She holds
to this thought because of the fact that she believes that her, who died
fighting against the state, must be interred with the same honor as her brother
who died defending the state. She believes that this will help lift the curse
plagued on the household. The curse in which there father tried to hold at bay
and failed. Her sister Ismene warned Antigone by exclaiming "Sister please,
please! remember how our father die: hated, in disgrace, wrapped in horror of
himself, his own hand stabbing out his sight. And how his mother-wife in one,
twisted off her earthly days with a cord. And thirdly how our two brothers in
a single day each achieved for each a suicidal Nemesis" (166). This has
already gave Antigone the mind set that even the Gods are against her will. She
is also up against a great foe in fighting that of Creon's edict. Ismene has
said this: "The rest, if we defy our sovereign's edict and his power. Remind
ourselves that we are women, and such not made to fight with men. For might
unfortunately is right and makes us bow to things like this and worse" (167).
So as one would believe Antigone sees herself as not only on who can defy the
power of the Gods but the power of the state. Thus she would be up against an
force greater than her own. Second, another characteristics of a tragic hero is
that the person does not always fit into society's mold. The tragic hero is
usually one who wants change, yet also needs the peace that goes along with
stability. The fact that the tragic hero also usually thinks that they are in
there right mind when yet the rest of the society thinks that they are mad.
Antigone has said "Say that I am mad, and madly let me risk the worst that I can
suffer and the best" (168). this shows that although Antigone thinks she is
doing is right, she also does not care how the other members of society deem
her for her action. Antigone also must believe that she must be different from
not only society but members of her family. Creon notes on this when he is
asking her about his proclamation "O, she's the man, not I, if she can walk away
unscathed! I swear I hardly care if she be my sister's child, or linked to me
by blood more closely than any member of my hearth and home (181). This should
also show one that Creon does not care about her nobility and that he will treat
her just like one any other member of society. Lastly, Antigone is inherently
destroyed by the one thing that is her tragic flaw: excessive pride. This was
also a downfall of her father Oedipus. This pride could also be confused with
honor. Antigone not only defies Creon's edict but also makes a mockery of it
when he asks her about it. When asked if she knows the edict her exclamation is
"Of course I knew. Was it not publicly proclaimed?" (179). This line clearly
shows that Antigone has knows that she broke the edict and also is not shamed to
admit it to the creator of the edict himself. She almost revels in telling
Creon about it. Antigone also shows that she choose what to do not based on the
law of the state but on the laws of the Gods. Antigone also embellishes her
statement by telling Creon that he is a fool to judge her on what she has done.
"I feel no twinges of regret. And if you think I am a fool, perhaps it is
because a fool is judge" (180). If anything this clearly states that she has
excessive pride for what she has done and will make sure that Creon knows this
and her unfeigned gratitude for her dead brothers. As one can tell the role of a
tragic hero is one that Antigone plays well. Although she dies at the end of
this play, Antigone feels no regret in what she has done. She also shows that
she is proud of the fact that she never denied burying her brother. One would
infer that although of her death, Antigone died for what she believed. This is
the utmost characteristic in the portrait of a tragic hero.
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