Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most distinguished pieces of theatrical work that reflects upon Greek mythology and culture. Antigone has several themes and circumstantial settings that can be indirectly referred or related to in modern society. Sophocles uses various and strategically placed characters to present his play as well as his themes. The play mainly revolves around Antigone who acts alongside her elder sister, Ismene. Both are daughters of Oedipus and Jocasta who are in the context of the play deceased.
This essay will analyze these two characters alongside one other female minor character, Eurydice who contributes significantly to the development and success of the play. From the start of the play, the audience is given a vague idea of both Antigone's and Ismene's characters. Both sisters have suffered the anguish of having lost their brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices. It is at the beginning of the play that we see Antigone's braveness. She notifies Ismene of her intentions to bury Polyneices despite the fact that such an act is punishable by death, for Creon considers Polyneices to be a traitor and that by not having his body buried, Polyneices suffers a posthumous punishment. She makes this declaration while being fully aware of the penalties involved and this brings to light several other things about her character.
The audience is able to see that she is confident in her actions and will justify anything that she does. Meanwhile Ismene can be viewed as being afraid and uneager to agree to an action. She confronts her sister's statements by saying, " But think of the danger! Think what Creon will do! ' (34, Prologue). This statement by Ismene create a vague feeling in the audience that Ismene is a pessimist. This view is further reinforced when she says, " And do what he has forbidden! We are women / We cannot fight with men, Antigone! ' (46-47, Prologue). Hence Ismene is seen seeking a way out by giving excuses that are in a sense linked to negative stereotypes and this makes a reflection of her pessimistic nature.
Antigone's actions at the beginning of the play reflect her impulsiveness and rash manner in handling situations. Rather than try to confront Creon regarding the burial of her brother she goes ahead to bury him. Her impulsive manner is also seen when she doubts Ismene's promise that she will not divulge any information to anybody else regarding Antigone's plans to bury her brother. She does this despite the reasonable consideration that Ismene is her only sister and family member left. Her actions at this point also reflect on her indifference in carrying out actions that reflect on others. She does not seem to care about the fact that burying her brother may have unfavorable consequences on Ismene who would lose her sister and at the same time be in a dilemma.
Ismene would have to risk telling the authorities and get her sister prosecuted so as to be a true patriot and to save her own life or keep mum and be prosecuted for aiding and abetting an offense alongside her sister whom she will eventually loose, regardless of what she decides to do. This scenario presents a strong argument that Ismene is considerate and rational as she eventually decides to keep Antigone's plans secret and continues to do so even when Antigone attacks her. She responds by saying, " But a loyal friend indeed to those who love.' (85, Prologue). This demonstrates Ismene's passive and un vengeful nature. Antigone bears responsibility well and can therefore be seen to be responsible. When brought before Creon, she admits her actions in burying Polyneices without much ado, she audaciously confesses, " I do.
I deny nothing ' (52, ODE I, Scene II). She goes ahead and justifies her action, and calmly makes it clear that she is not afraid of the punishment due to be imposed on her... In contrast Ismene bears a sense of responsibility just like her sister. When brought before Creon, she admits her role in Antigone's ‘ crime' without hesitation, she says, " Yes, if she will let me say so. I am guilty.
' This and the ensuing exchange that follows between the sisters also brings to light other aspects of the sisters personalities. One of the aspects that is brought out by this exchange is that of loyalty. Both Ismene and Antigone are loyal to each other even in a situation where it is at the expense of death. Ismene is ready to die alongside her sister.
At the same time Antigone cares too deeply for Ismene and does not want Ismene to suffer the punishment of death. The idea that loyalty exists between the two sisters is reinforced by the fact that Ismene, while in the face of death, defends her sister. When Antigone is declared as having lost her mind by Creon, she says, " Grief teaches the steadiest minds to waver, King.' (153, ODE I, Scene II). Other events that had occurred earlier in the play portray this feeling of loyalty and the sisterly love that exists between Ismene and Antigone.
Both sisters place family duty above everything else. Ismene's earlier caution at the beginning of the play can now be interpreted as an act of sisterly love and concern. Eurydice who is Creon's wife cum queen and Antigone are emotionally impulsive. Antigone commits suicide when she is sentenced to death and confined to a vault of stone. Eurydice in turn commits suicide when she hears about the death of her son, Haemon.
Hence both characters can be seen as compulsive and quick to act rather than face the harsh reality of suffering. All in all it can be said that Sophocles primarily uses the various characteristics presented by Antigone, Ismene and Eurydice to develop his play. Although of these characters are the same gender their characteristics differ greatly and this lies in with the underlying themes of the play. Bibliography Sophocles. Antigone. Trans.
Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. Literature and the Writing Process. Eds. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 4 th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 1996.
660-685. History 100 9/29/99 Adrian Keck i Antigone During the ancient years of Greece, new ideas came up that complicated life. These new beliefs came with the strong development of science, where people started to get new aspects of Gods. But yet they were encouraged to exercised Gods and the heavenly matters in city-states.
These new ideals often conflicted with each other creating complex moral dilemmas. In the play, Antigone and Creon battle a philosophical war dealing with the controversy of the Greek ideals. They both based their actions on their beliefs of what is right and wrong. The whole problem arises when their believes and ideas encountered each other, making it contradiction between morals. Antigone's side of the conflict held a much more heavenly approach, as opposed to the mundane road that Creon chose to follow. Antigone feels that Creon is disregarding the laws of heaven through his act.
After she is captured and brought to Creon, she tells him "I do not think your edicts strong enough to overrule the unwritten unalterable laws of God and heaven, you being only a man.' Antigone's opinion is one that supports the Gods and the laws of heaven. Her reasoning is set by her belief that if someone is not given a proper burial, that person would not be accepted into heaven. Antigone was a very religious person, and acceptance of her brother by the Gods was very important to her. She felt that "It is against you and me he has made this order. Yes, against me.' Creon's order was personal to Antigone. His edict invaded her family life as well as the Gods'.
In Antigone's eyes, Creon betrayed the Gods by not allowing her to properly bury her brother, Polynices. She believed that the burial was a religious ceremony, and Creon did not have the power to deny Polynices that right. Antigone's strong beliefs eventually led her to her death by the hand of Creon. Never, though, did she stop defending what she thought was right.
As Creon ordered her to her death, Antigone exclaimed, "I go, his prisoner, because I honored those things in which honor truly belongs.' She is directly humiliating Creon by calling his opinions and decisions weak and unjust. She also emphasizes "his prisoner,' which tells us that Creon's decision to capture Antigone was his own, and was not backed up by the majority of the people. She feels that Creon is abusing his power as king and dealing with her task to a personal level. Creon's actions are guided by the ideal that states, "Man is the measure of all things.' The chorus emphasizes this point. Creon believes that the good of man comes before the gods. Setting the example using Polynices' body left unburied is a symbol of Creon's belief.
"No man who is his country's enemy shall call himself my friend.' This quote shows that leaving the body unburied is done to show respect for Thebes. After all, how could the ruler of a city-state honor a man who attempted to invade and conquer his city? From that perspective, Creon's actions are completely just and supported by the ideals. Though most of Creon's reasoning's match with the Greek ideals, the people questioned his action on this point. First, Antigone was "his prisoner', not necessarily the publics. In fact, the general population supported Antigone, though they were too scared to say anything. Haemon, the son of Creon, knew of this, and told Creon, "Has she not rather earned a crown of gold? Such is the secret talk of the town.' This proves that Creon was exercising complete domination of political power, which is strictly forbidden in the new ideals.
Also, not allowing Antigone perform her religious ceremony of burying her brother is interfering with religious affairs. This denies Antigone freedom of religion. The contradictions between the beliefs of Creon and Antigone are strong throughout the play. Both have well-structured arguments, but neither completely dominates the other. Some people still question who the real hero is in the play. Antigone is motivated by her strong religious feelings while Creon is out to make good for his city-state.
The chorus' opinion is the determining factor, as in the end, they convince Creon to set Antigone free. Creon had to weigh each factor carefully, and in the end, he had to decide between ideals. His mind was torn in two. The contradiction of ideals was what led to Antigone's, Haemon's, and Megareus' death.
Some individuals in literature try to do what they believe is right, even though they face oppositions. In the play "Antigone', by Sophocles, and "A Few Good Men', by Rob Reiner, Both Colonel Jessep and King Creon are two such individuals. In both of these plays, they are both successful in doing what they believe is right, but they both face oppositions. In the play "Antigone' King Creon did what he believed is right and faced opposition. King Creon believed that Polynices, Antigone's dead brother, should be left out in an open field where animals can feed upon the body, and anyone who tried to bury him will be put to death by stoning. The reason he believed this is because Polynices was a trader.
He succeeded, but is faced by an opposition. Antigone opposed him because in her religious laws, all corpses had to have a proper burial. (Sophocles: lines 384-581) "That order did not come from God. Justice, That dwells with the gods bellow, knows no such law. I did not think your edict strong enough To overrule the unwritten unalterable laws of God and heaven, you only being a man'. Antigone buries her brother and is sentenced to death.
Her fiancee He amon, and Creon's son, then opposes Creon but doesn't succeed either. In "A Few Good Men', Colonel Jessep also did what he believed even though he faced opposition. He ordered Dawson and Downey, two Marines who he knew would follow his orders without question, to do a Code Red on William Santiago, a mess-up Marine. A Code Red is a type of severe harassment in which something is do to toughen up the offending Marine. Such Code Reds were part of Marine tradition but were official forbidden by recent Marine Regulations. Dawson and Downey did the Code Red and Santiago died.
When Colonel Jessep said in the play that "People have to die to save lives', he meant that he believed that this barbaric tradition would serve the better good by making tougher Marines. Daniel Kaffe opposed Colonel Jessep in this movie. He proved that Colonel Jessep was wrong. Therefore Colonel Jessep and King Creon both believed that making an individual suffer served as an example which strengthened the state against its enemies.
They were each opposed by an apparently weaker but enlightened foe that believed in forgiving human error. Both Colonel Jessep and King Creon were ultimately defeated by their opposition.