Kelli Epling

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Kelli Epling

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Morality, gender roles, and leadership are a few of the themes presented in Antigone, a tragic play written over 2500 years ago. I have always loved this play and found the strong female role as unique to typical male dominated literature of the time.  Like Antigone, The Iliad showcases Achilles refusing to allow a proper burial for Hector.  Here we see Hector’s father risking his life to uses an emotional argument to gain his son’s body to bury.  Achilles unlike Creon finally agrees to the request.  The difference in Antigone is that she refused to follow civil laws and social order.  She believes that her actions are justified because she is appealing to the gods, which she sees as a higher power.   I wonder if this play was a warning against woman who stands up to men, as she had a bad end.  Creon seems to suffer the most as he loses his son and wife to suicide.

 Often a woman‘s role is to care for the men in her family and Antigone fights for this natural right in Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone.  Antigone takes this family duty to the point of subjecting herself to death.  This play questions the individual’s right to ignore or reject laws of the land in order to perform personal or religious practices.  Religious beliefs are at odds with tyrannical rule and Antigone is a head strong female in a time when women were not allowed to speak or vote in the assembly.  He states that he will not live where a woman rules.  He is shocked by Antigone’s disobedience and he is further appalled by her pride in her actions.

The audience must make a decision as to which side they will take.  Antigone who tries to make an emotional plea for her brother, yet she seems very self-serving and very unloving to her sister, Ismene.  Creon believes a good citizen follows the rules that are proclaimed by the leader.  He sees leadership as power at the top and submission by all others.  He also believes that effective leadership requires a leader to follow through at all costs.  As a new King, he feels he must maintain order and never surrender to a woman as this would make him appear weak.  Creon follows traditional ideas and is unwavering in his actions until it is too late.

Haemon believes a good leader takes input from others and feels his father is extreme.  Haemon is a symbol of democracy and new ideals.  He seems the most logical and selfless, even though he is trying to save his wife.  His motives appear to serve others.

Antigone showcases a belief that there is room for individual decisions.  Antigone feels supported by the gods.  She feels that there are unalienable rights endowed by the gods which include the right to be buried.  The belief at the time was that without a burial the soul would wonder; therefore, the punishment that Creon granted was not only an insult to the family but was a sentence for soul.

At first Creon gives Antigone the benefit of the doubt and asks her if she knew the consequences of burying her brother.  She was aware of the consequences and seems very aggressive when she confronts Creon, and goes as far as to call him a fool.  She feels that mortal laws cannot override the unwritten laws of the gods.  She states that she will live less time with Creon and therefore the gods were more important to her.  She feared the penalty that she would pay to the gods for violating these laws in fear of man’s law.

When Antigone sees her sister, Ismene, she assumes that Ismene will help her bury the body and becomes very angry when Ismene does not want to participate.  Ismene comes across as an emotional mess.  She seems like a typical woman of the time.  She is fearful of making Creon angry.  She seems to just want Antigone to be good and follow the status quo.  Later when Creon calls Ismene in to question her about her participation in the burial, Ismene lies and says she was involved, Antigone will not let her sister take the blame.  Antigone’s reason for not allowing Ismene share in the responsibility seems to be fueled by hate.  Antigone this female that seems to care so much for family seems to have zero compassion for her sister.  Forgiveness is not shown by Antigone and none is shown for her from Creon.  Antigone’s disgust and disdain for her sister is extreme and makes her almost unlikeable.  Her lack of female characteristics takes away from the feminist theory.  There is no support that she is a true rebel or feminist. We can assume that had she not been caught burying her brother, one of the few “female roles” of the time, then she would have married Haemon and produced children and continued on meeting society’s ideals for women.   

I relate the most with Haemon, the son of Creon, because he uses persuasive speech to try and pacify his father in order to gain his father’s good graces right before he tries to persuade him to keep Antigone alive.  At first Haemon seems to simply support his father and then he uses persuasion tactics to try to change his father’s mind. The nature of people and behaviors are detailed and well written in this play.  The nature of Creon is one of tyrannical rule and large ego.  Haemon tells of how the people want to save Antigone and feel that she was acting in accordance with cultural values.  They see Antigone as a hero and therefore Creon is getting bad reviews from the public.  Creon says the city will not tell me how to rule.  He poses the question, “Should I rule this land for myself or the people?”  It is apparent that Creon and Antigone are both self-centered.  The father is disgusted when his son tries to manipulate him.  When Creon realizes that Haemon wishes to save Antigone, he begins to ridicule his son for allowing a woman to “control” his behavior or decision making.  Creon is very sexist and unwilling to look at the situation from other point of views.  Creon shows that he does not value women as individual as he believes that Haemon will easily find another woman to marry.

After the death of Antigone, Creon finally sees the error of his ways, alas it is too late.  Could Creon be considered a tragic hero?  His pain is increased when he finds that his son and wife have committed suicide.  When Creon takes away one of the few rights that women have, Antigone begins to demonstrate civil disobedience.  This woman defies Creon even to his face.  This woman who was not allowed to speak, vote, or even choose her own husband stands up and basically dares him to kill her.  She may be considered a hero by feminist, but I see her as a self-serving, over aggressive woman who seems to be asking to be punished.  I understand her desire to bury her brother, but I feel that her flamboyant disobedience is a slap to the face of Creon.  A no point does Antigone recognize her flaws.  The message seems to say, bad deeds come to those who are inflexible.

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