Antigone 3 Essay, Research Paper
“Frailty is thy name woman!” Taken from this line reflects a common misconception about women. According to some, the sole purpose and duty of a woman is to serve her husband and look pretty. Her voice is not heard. Her thoughts are not taken into consideration. Her virtue and intellect are not respected. A woman is the “effect” of the “cause” that is man.
The women in the Oedipus Trilogy are depicted in such a manner. They are almost background figures, reacting to events, but not causing them. These women have feelings appropriate to their time and place. Antigone is something of an exception to this rule. As befits her, she is a loving and loyal daughter and sister. It is precisely this loyalty that makes her an active rather than a static figure.
Throughout the play, Antigone amazingly retains the traditional role of women, while at the same time boldly challenges this depiction. This is precisely where the conflict between the sexes rises. The denial of burial to Polynices strikes directly at her family loyalty, for it was the immemorial privilege and duty of the women of the house to mourn the dead man in unrestrained sorrow, sing his praises, wash his body, and consign him to the earth. This enormous sense of loyalty leads to her simultaneous violation and abidement to the duty of women at the time. In order for her to properly mourn her brother, like every sister should, Antigone was forced to boldly challenge the law set forth by her uncle and king, Creon.
Unlike her sister, Ismene refuses to challenge the male authority, even if it means to (not fulfill) her duties as a sister. “Remember we are women, we’re not born to contend with men. Then too we’re underlings, ruled by much stronger hands, so we submit inthis, and thingds still worse,” (634). These words stated by Ismene, express her extreme fear for and subordination to man. She admits to and accepts commiting wrong and suffering due to a woman’s subordination to man.
Apparantly, Creon, king of Thebes, is abhsolutely furious with his niece for commiting siuch an unforgivable crime. He claims that Antigone is out her place to do such a thing. Not only did Antigone challenge the authority of her uncle, but also the high power of a man. When speaking to his son, Haemon, about his wife’s act, Creon strongly emphasizes the important relationship and obligation of a man to his father rather than to his wife. Moreover, he emphasizes the importance of males in a household. “A man prays for: to produce good sons – a household full of them.” (649). “Never lose your sense of judgement over a woman . . . a worthless woman in your house, a misery in your bed.” (649). By stating this, Creon expresses his belief that a woman’s sole purpose is to serve and support her husband. Once this is broken, she is no longer of any use.
Furthermore, hubris (pride) is strongly evident throughout the character of Creon. He refuses to compromise or humble himself before others especially women. “Never let some woman triumph over us. Better to fall from power, of if fall we must, at the hands of a man – never be rated inferior to a woman, never.” (650). He stubbornly refuses other characters the right to express opinions different from his own. Creon abuses his power to force others to accept his point of view. This extreme male dominance conflicts head-on with Antigone’s bold unwomanlike challenge to Creon’s authority. When encountered with his son, Haemon’s defiance to his father, Creon proclaimed him a “woman’s slave,” a man unfortunately sided with a woman. According to Creon, this act was close to, if not already, commitinf a sin.
In conclusion, the bold, tradition-braking character of Antigone clearly clashed with the ovepowered, male dominant personality of Creon. This collision of character gave rise to the conflict between the sexes in Sophocles’ “Antigone.”