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Antigone Essay Research Paper Antigone The main

Antigone Essay, Research Paper Antigone The main theme for Antigone is that people sometimes have to learn the hard way from their mistakes. This theme is expressed in the final four lines of the play. They read, There is no

Antigone Essay, Research Paper

Antigone

The main theme for Antigone is that people sometimes have to learn the hard way from

their mistakes. This theme is expressed in the final four lines of the play. They read, 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. These lines are an important part of

the play. They symbolize Creon’s bad decisions, his defiance of the gods, the punishment he

went through because of his edict, and the wisdom he gained because of all his mistakes. “There

is no happiness where there is no wisdom” demonstrates how Creon not using wisdom in his

decisions affected him.

By declaring that Polyneices could not have a proper burial, he went against the gods and

the other citizens of Thebes’s beliefs. This was not a wise decision on his part, and because of it

he lost his wife, his son, and his happiness. This is what is expressed in the line, “No wisdom but

in submission to the gods.”

The edict and decisions that Creon made demonstrated that his law was more important

than the laws of the gods . His defiance of the laws eventually made him believe, by talking to

Teirisias, that something bad would happen to him, so he gave in to his decision. When he gave

into the gods he gained wisdom and learned that his actions would be punished. Creons edict is

considered his big words. In the third line it says, “Big words are always punished.” Creons edict

was punished by his loss of happiness. In Ancient Greece, life was full of complicated questions

centered on the expanding Field of science.

Freedom of religion was encouraged to be exercised in the city-states and man was

focused on more than the Gods or heavenly concerns. As a result many new ideals and beliefs

surfaced. These new ideals and beliefs, though good in intentions, often conflicted with One

another and created complex moral dilemmas. Such was the case in Sophocle s play .

According to Richard Jebb, “It is the only instance in which a Greek play has for its central

theme a practical problem of conduct, involving issues, moral and political, which might be

discussed on similar grounds in any age and in any country of the world.” Perhaps personal

experience is the reason why so many people can relate to this story. After all, the theme of the

story is personal conflict, with two stubborn people at a standstill because of their unwillingness

to compromise. The conflict between the laws of the gods and those of the humans, with

Antigone and Creon representing the opposite sides. Sophocles paints these two title characters

are remarkably similar, and he invokes the readers’ sympathy toward them both. However, it is

Creon, and not Antigone, who is the “hero” of the story, because his character suffers a tragic

downfall.

The primary conflict arises when Creon declares that no one be allowed to bury the body

of Polynices, one of Antigone’s brothers who was slain in battle. Antigone, who cares for her

brother very much, wants to see him properly laid to rest, so that his spirit can find peace.

Unfortunately, doing so will mean certain death, as Creon’s orders are not to be disobeyed.

Antigone believes that Creon’s law is wrong, and that Polynices, although a traitor to the

city of Thebes, should be buried. She finds it immoral of Creon to forbid such an action. While

trying to convince her sister Ismene to help bury him, Antigone says, “The time in which I must

please those that are dead is longer than I must please those of this world. For there I shall lie

forever.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) Creon, on the other hand, is a new king who wants to make

sure he becomes a respected and somewhat feared ruler. He does not want to begin his reign by

issuing a decree and then rescinding it the moment a conflict arises.

There are many similarities between Creon and Antigone. Perhaps the most common

characteristic is that both characters are very stubborn. Neither one can back down once the lines

have been drawn, even though it means certain destruction. While questioning Antigone about

the burial, Creon asks, “And did you dare to disobey that law?” To which Antigone answers

“yes.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) This naturally infuriates Creon to the point where he says, “I

swear I am no man and she the man if she can win this and not pay for it.” (Sophocles,

“Antigone” ) Both sides are committed to their own reasoning, and are unable to listen to other

points of view.

Sophocles sympathizes with both Creon and Antigone. However, the play is more directed

at Creon’s woes than Antigone’s. This is mainly shown by the amount of lines devoted to Creon

compared to that of Antigone so his problems are the most magnified. It seems as though

Antigone is simply the last tragedy to Oedipus’ tale, while Creon and his family are an entirely

different one. Therefore, not as much attention is devoted to Antigone’s problems, while

Sophocles instead makes the reader focus on Creon. This is again demonstrated by the sheer

amount of lines Creon has. It is impossible for the reader to ignore Creon’s problems. The

emotional climax of the readers’ sympathy towards Creon is when the second messenger tells

him what had happened right before Eurydice’s (his wife) death. Eurydice had, “cried in agony

recalling the noble fate of Megareus, who died before all this, and then for the fate of this son;

and in the end she cursed [Creon] for the evil [Creon] had done in killing her sons.” (Sophocles,

Antigone ) This bestowed all guilt upon Creon, making him responsible for actions in which he

ignorantly played a part. Creon shows many heroic characteristics. A hero is a person who must

survive many downfalls, and Creon has suffered many setbacks.

To Aristotle, a hero is a “man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is

brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be one who is

highly renowned and prosperous…” Creon meets all of these requirements. He is obviously not

entirely good or just, and he does make mistakes. His greatest error is issuing the decree

forbidding anyone from giving Polynices a proper funeral. However, he does not do this entirely

out of spite or anger, but instead to protect his country. Creon is of the belief that laws are

necessary to retain order, even if this means going against ones family. Creon regards the family

almost exclusively in one aspect; for him it is an institution related to the state as the gymnasium

to the stadium; it is a little state, in which a man may prove that he is fit to govern a larger one.”

Even though Antigone is his niece, he must rule with an iron hand, and therefore cannot allow

her to “escape the utmost sentence: death.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ).

As a hero, Creon suffers a tragic downfall. It does not appear that Antigone suffers as

much as Creon, because Sophocles had decided to portray Creon as the hero instead of Antigone.

James Hogan asks three questions to determine who is the hero: Who is the main character? Who

dominates the action? Whose suffering is the primary subject? The answer to all three of these is

Creon. Creon is obviously the main character because all events seem to revolve around him.

William Calder has pointed out that “Sophocles wrote no Haimon-Antigone scene…such a scene

would have shifted the emphasis of the whole from the figure whom Sophocles intended to be

central: hence a Haimon-Creon scene.” Calder also gives evidence as to how Creon dominates

the entire play.

Finally, Creon’s suffering is the primary subject because Sophocles explains Creon’s

anguish in great detail. Creon, after finding out Eurydice is dead, exclaims, “I am distracted with

fear. Why does not someone strike a two-edged sword right through me? I am dissolved in an

agony of misery.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) This suffering is the price Creon has to pay for

making the wrong decision. Prior to his revelation that Teiresias provided him with, he had

erroneously decided that moral laws were not as important as his own laws, and consequently

suffered greatly.

To Creon, protecting his country comes before anything else. According to Creon,

Polynices is, “a returned exile, who sought to burn with fire from top to bottom his native city,

and the gods of his own people; who sought to taste the blood he shared with us, and lead the rest

of us to slavery.” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) Polynices is a traitor who deserves none of the

respect the people of Thebes have to give. Creon’s decree is simply an error of judgment, but it is

perfectly understandable for him to do so. “An Athenian strategos is time of war held

extraordinary judicial power and could put to death without trial any man under his command

whose conduct he considered treasonous,” according to Calder. After all, Creon is the king, and

the laws that he makes are meant to be obeyed. Even if they are of questionable moral judgment.

It is Creon’s interactions with Antigone that show the central issue: the conflict between

moral laws and human laws. In the end, moral law supersedes human law, and Creon suffers as a

result. Creon’s tragic suffering is what turns him into the hero. Sophocles thereby forces the

reader to feel sympathy toward him. While feeling this sympathy, the reader also learns not to

make the same mistakes Creon did, to avoid being stubborn and unwilling to compromise. Those

characteristics have been shown to signify great suffering and destruction.

Bibliography

1. Gillespie, Sheena and Fonseca, Terezinha and Sanger, Carol A.-3rd ed. (2001).Literature across cultures, Allyn & Bacon, Antigone 953-981

2. Aristotle. Poetics, XIII.3-6

3. Calder, William M. III (1968). Sophokles’ Political Tragedy, Antigone.GRBS 9, 389-407

4. Hogan, James C. (1972). The Protagonists of the Antigone.Arethusa 5, 93-100

5. Sophocles (1991).Antigone (David Grene, Trans.) University of Chicago Press.

6. Sophocles (1902).Antigone (Richard Jebb, Trans.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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