, Research Paper
In Sophocles’ Greek tragedy, Antigone, two characters undergo character changes. During the play the audience sees these two characters’ attitudes change from close minded to open-minded. It is their close minded, stubborn attitudes, which lead to their decline in the play, and ultimately to a series of deaths. In the beginning Antigone is a close minded character who later becomes open minded. After the death of her brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, Creon becomes the ruler of Thebes. He decides that Eteocles will receive a funeral with military honors because he fought for his country. However, Polyneices, who broke his exile to “ spill the blood of his father and sell his own people into slavery”, will have no burial. Antigone disagrees with Creon’s unjust actions and says, “ Creon is not strong enough to stand in my way.” She vows to bury her brother so that his soul may gain the peace of the underworld. Antigone is torn between the law placed against burying her brother and her own thoughts of doing what she feels should be done for her family. Her intent is simply to give her brother, Polyneices, a proper burial so that she will follow “the laws of the gods.” Antigone knows that she is in danger of being killed for her actions and she says, “I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he to me.” Her own laws, or morals, drive her to break Creon’s law placed against Polyneices burial. Even after she realizes that she will have to bury Polyneices without the help of her sister, Ismene, she says: Go away, Ismene: I shall be hating you soon, and the dead will too, For your words are hateful. Leave me 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. Here Ismene is trying to reason with Antigone by saying that she cannot disobey the law because of the consequences. Antigone is close-minded when she immediately tells her to go away and refuses to listen to her. Later in the play, Antigone is sorrowful for her actions and the consequences yet she is not regretful for her crime. She says her crime is just, yet she does regret being forced to commit it. Antigone now has the ability to consider her consequences because her action of burying her brother is complete. She knows her crime is justified, but her new open-mindedness leads her to consider the alternative. Even though she knows she will die with honor she is grieving for the way she was forced to commit a crime to take an action she believes is justifiable. This is seem when Antigone says: Soon I shall be with my own again . . . To me, since it was my hand That washed him clean and poured the ritual wine: And my reward is death before my time! And yet, as men’s hearts knows, I have done no wrong, I have not sinned before God. Or if I have, I shall know the truth in death. But if the guilt Lies upon Creon who judged me, then, I pray, May his punishment equal my own. Antigone’s statement shows open-mindedness because she says she does not believe she has sinned but if she has she will know in death. Before Antigone believed that her actions were not sinful, but how she shows an open mind. She is also saying if it is Creon’s fault that she will die then may he die also for sending her unjustly to her death. Antigone says: Thebes, and you my father’s gods, And rulers of Thebes, you see me now, the last Unhappy daughter of a line of kings, Your kings, led away to death. You will remember What things I suffer, and at what men’s hands Because I would not transgress the laws of heaven Come: let us wait no longer. She comes from a long line of kings that were fated to die because of a curse placed on them. She willingly leaves to die knowing that it is an honorable death. Antigone hangs herself, in the tomb she was placed in by Creon, using a noose of her fine linen veil. Creon, Antigone’s uncle, experiences a change of close-mindedness to open-mindedness with his actions throughout the play. Creon’s close-minded attitude can be seen when he says: This is my command, and you can see the wisdom behind it. As long as I am king, no traitor is going to be honored with The loyal man. But whoever shows by word and deed that he Is on the side of the state, he shall have my respect while He is living, and my reverence when he is dead. Creon is saying that as long as he is king that this is the way it will be, and you can see wisdom behind it. Unfortunately he is convinced that this is the right way to rule, and it is this attitude that leads to Creon’s decline. When Choragos tries to explain why Polyneices is now buried Creon says: Stop! Must you doddering wrecks Go our of your heads entirely? “The gods!” Intolerable! . . . Is it your senile opinion that the gods love to honor bad men? A pious thought! Creon does not accept that a higher being could possibly judge Polyneices differently then he has. This example of close-mindedness shows that Creon compares his views with those of Greek gods. After learning that Antigone is the person who defied his law he says: She has much to learn. The inflexible heart breaks first, the toughest iron Cracks first, and the wildest horses bend their necks At the pull of the smallest curb. This is ironic because he is saying she has an inflexible heart when in fact he is the one who is stubborn or inflexible. When asked by his niece what he wants more than her death he says, “Nothing. That gives me everything.” The audience gets a continuous look at Creon’s close-minded attitude. When he says Antigone’s death gives him everything he means everything in a positive sense. In actuality her death brings him everything negative. This is how his close-minded, stubborn attitude leads to his decline. As a result of his inflexibility, he loses Antigone, Haimon, and Eurydice. After the loss of his niece, son and wife, Creon’s change is sudden. While talking to Choragos, he tells Creon to, “Go quickly: free Antigone from her vault and build a tomb for the body of Polyneices.” Creon’s response is contrary to his earlier stubbornness, “It is hard to deny the heart! But I will do it: I will not fight with destiny.” Creon is now becoming open-minded. He says that he will no longer fight destiny and this shows that he was not right to punish Antigone in the first place. Another example of Creon’s change is shown when the Messenger says: Take the case of Creon: Creon was happy once, as I count happiness: Victorious in battle, soul governor of the land, Fortunate father of children nobly born. And now it is all gone from him. This illustrates Creon’s decline due to his stubborn, inflexible attitude. He has lost all of his happiness, explained by the Messenger, leading towards his decline because of his stubborn personality. The Messenger says, “Haimon is dead; and the hand that killed him is his own hand.” Choragos’ response is, “His father’s? or his own?” The Messenger replies, “His own, driven mad by the murder his father had done.” Haimon’s suicide is being placed on Creon’s stubborn murdering. He also admits to this later when he says, “I have killed my son and my wife.” Choragos attempts to explain Creon’s newfound open mind when he says: 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. This statement illustrates that Creon’s “big words” are punished by the deaths of his niece, son and wife. Creon learns to be wise or to become more open-minded after he is too late to stop the deaths in his family. Creon was a proud man, but with time and consequences he learned to be wise. Antigone is a tragedy that involves the changing attitudes of two characters. It is through the changes made by Antigone and Creon from close-minded to open-minded characters that the play becomes a tragedy. With Creon’s stubborn laws and Antigone’s stubborn opinion in the beginning of the play, the tragedy may take place.
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