Sophocles’ Antigone: The Real Character of Antigone

Category: Antigone, Tragedy
Last Updated: 07 Nov 2022
Pages: 5 Views: 62

Antigone, the main character in Sophocles‘ renowned tragedy of the same name, is often praised as a figure of integrity and heroism. However, Sophocles’ intentions may not have been so simple. By taking a deeper look into Antigone‘s words and deeds, one realizes that she may not be the loving, moral character she is often portrayed as Under her tragic heroine facade, Antigone is selfish, proud, and spiteful. Creon’s decision to forbid Polyneice‘s burial is objectively wrong It was an act of hatred and spite, as seen clearly when Creon says, “Leave him unburied, leave his corpse disgraced, / a dinner for the birds and for the dogs." (205-206)‘. The Greeks believed that until burial, one cannot enter the afterlife, and instead is trapped between worlds in endless suffering.

To most moral people, it is completely unethical to inflict this punishment on a fellow human. It follows that Antigone’s desire to bury her brother is rational and loving. However, the intentions behind her deed were not all virtuous Although Antigone’s actions are, to the outside eye, selfless, her attitude points out that despite the fact that she sacrifices herself for her brother, she still has selfish motivations She says to her sister lsmene, “And yet what greater glory could I find / than giving my own brother funeral?" (502-503) Instead of focusing on her brother, Antigone is concerned with her own well—being. When Ismene tries to convince Antigone to follow the king’s decree for her own sake, Antigone replies, “Sister, I pray, don’t fence me out from honor,” (544). Antigone desires recognition and glory more than her own life In fact, believes that her life is useless, instead of a gift to be treasured, Since Antigone cares little for her own life, she sees it as dispensable in favor of honor and renown.

She would do anything for recognition, She even mentions, “I shall suffer nothing so great, as to stop me dying with honor,” (96797) In the end, her desires are fulfilled. When her fiance'e, Haemon, is defending her to Creon, he mentions that the city is in her 1 All parenthetical citations are taken from Sophocles’ Antigone, translated by Richard favor, to which Creon promptly replies, “15 the town to tell me how I ought to rule?” (734) Thebes is consumed with anger at Antigone’s sentence, which is exactly what she wanted, As Antigone is being led to her doom, the chorus laments, “My tears will not be checked / I see Antigone depan / to the chamber where all must sleep" (803-805), At this point, Antigone has succeeded in winning the pity and admiration of the throngs. Antigone’s persistence in making her situation seem as tragic and pitiful as possible can be seen as an annoying cry for attention.

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All she wants is fame and prestige, whether she has to die to get it or not. When lsmene swears to protect Antigone by keeping her actions secret, Antigone harshly replies, “,,,I shall hate you more / if silent, not proclaiming this to all,” (87). This truly shows Antigone‘s twisted desires for recognition. Her family is trying to protect her from a torturous death, but Antigone is pushing them out of her life with insults and self-righteousness, Some of Antigone’s defiance and longing may have grown from her oppression as a woman in ancient Greece Sophocles may be trying to make a statement by writing a tragedy primarily concerning a woman. Ismene makes it clear that she has been oppressed when she reminds Antigone, “We must remember that we two are women, so not to fight with men” (60), Creon also makes a statement about gender roles when he protests, “I am no man and she the man instead / if she can have this conquest without pain,” (4847485) Through this outcry, Creon implies that women are meant to be controlled and dominated.

The repression of free will often leads to dangerous acts of defiance, as in the case of Antigone. However, her selfishness and pride are not to be condoned because of her past According to Antigone, her death was long awaited, She mourns to Ismene, “Who lives in sorrows many as are mine, how shall he not be glad to gain his death?" It follows that Antigone‘s death is just another selfish desiret Since she already covets her demise, Sophocles makes it clear that it is not a sacrifice for her to give up her life for her  Lattimore. brother: Antigone is not intended to be the self»sacrificing heroine she is often seen as She is a prideful, self—serving woman. AnLigone’s suicide is just another aspect of her pride. After going through all the trouble of setting up an “honorable death”, she does not want to take any chances. As soon as she is sealed inside the cave, she kills herself. Most likely, she knew there was a chance that Creon would change his mind and come back for her.

This would ruin her scheme. Her suicide is also a final act of defiance against authorities. They condemned her to death, but even in her final hours she would not let go without proving her independence. Defying a king in such a manner makes her renowned for courage and piety, since she claims to value the gods’ opinions more than man’s. Of course, this is exactly what Antigone wants. Antigone’s value of the gods and the dead can be seen as admirable, but one of her flaws is that she puts the dead before the living. She has no concerns for the pain she leaves behind after her death. Haemon, her fiancee, is deeply in love with her, as seen when he begs Creon to spare her life. After Creon refuses, and even threatens to kill Antigone in front of her fiancee, Haemon cries out, “Not at my side! Don’t think that! She will not / die next to me. And you yourself will not / ever lay eyes upon my face again“ (762-764).

Antigone, on the other hand, does not mention Haemon once throughout the play. Her disregard for the love of her fellow humans is repelling. She goes through the same ordeal with her sister, Isrnene, who loves Antigone dearly, but is shown no regret for the sorrow inflicted upon her. The chorus, although primitively in Antigone’s favor, eventually sees her for her true self. They make their opinions clear when they proclaim, “You showed respect for the dead / So we for you: but power / is not to be thwarted so, / Your self-willed temper has brought you down.” (8727875). The chorus recognizes her egotistical attitude through her mask of unfair tragedy. At the close of the play, the chorus laments, “Our happiness depends / on wisdom all the way,” (1347-1348).

If only Antigone had relied on her wisdom instead of her passions, there would have been three fewer deaths in her family. Antigone is almost always analyzed as a beautiful, long-suffering role model. However, through closer examination of her character traits, it is obvious that she has far too many fatal flaws to be a true hero. As lsrnene says, “Wrong from the start, to chase what cannot be,” (92). Antigone is pursuing a daydream of glory that is so falsely attractive to her, she would give anything to reach it, On the brink of suicide, Antigone is already damaged and pathetic before the play begins. Her story is tragic and her character is pitiful, but she is not in any way a hero.

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