Both literally and figuratively of noble character, Oedipus is the epitome of tragedy, moving from hubris to his downfall to ultimately tragic hero. In a mental sense, Oedipus realizes his flaw and finds this completely unacceptable. He punishes himself by means of self-mutilation and his removal from kingship.
Antigone also suffers from a sense of hubris. She is completely self-sufficient. She fails to rely on others, or indeed to submit to the circumstances around her. In the play, the choir explains her fundamental flaw: "You showed respect for the dead. / So we for you: but power / is not to be thwarted so. / Your self-sufficiency has brought you down."
Her flaw is therefore far more subtle and hidden than that of Oedipus, although her self-punishment is much harsher. Antigone's resistance to the king's decree earns her a sense of complete desolation. She feels apart from the community she represented, and also from the love of family and friends.
Elise P. Garrison (p. 125) for example notes that Antigone's self-destruction is a result of two types of tragic pain: "Antigone & #8230; chooses to die because she fervently believes she has done what had to be done, and she chooses to commit suicide to escape the pain of a slow death by burial alive. She sacrifices herself to uphold traditional customs."
She does not sacrifice herself only for those reasons, however. She does so also to escape the pain of living the rest of her life alone. Here she can be contrasted with Oedipus. His downfall leads him to confine himself to a lifetime of loneliness. He separated himself from his family by blinding himself and accepting banishment from Thebes. Antigone on the other hand removes herself from a life...
She chooses instead to be reunited with her love in death.
Antigone's tragedy then lies in the fact that she experiences the pain of rejection in life, as result of opposing those in political power. Although she upholds the social and religious protocol as she understands it, she does this to the detriment of her social and family relationships. As such, she experiences rejection, albeit only up to her own death.
Antigone's tragedy then lies not so much in her death as in the actions of others during her lifetime. There is a discrepancy between what she attempted to achieve and its results. This is the tragedy. She however finds a type of peace in death, which could be regarded as the justice that Oedipus never finds. Oedipus murdered his birth father, but is nonetheless a much nobler king than Creon. His banishment and blindness remain as permanent reminders of his own wrongdoing, but does not achieve either personal justice for him or social justice in terms of restoring his kingship to a nation who needs it.
Antigone on the other hand at least experiences justice on a personal level, by finding a type of peace and human connection in death, which she has lost by means of her actions in life. In conclusion, one might therefore maintain that Antigone's hubris and downfall are no less present, even if they are more subtle than those of Oedipus. She is a far superior candidate for tragic heroism that Creon.
Antigone begins as a noble and royal character. Her downfall occurs as a result of her attempt to be noble, just like Oedipus. Hence, she might be viewed as the tragic hero of Sophocles' play.
Brown, Larry a. Aristotle on Greek Tragedy. 2005. Retrieved from http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/Aristotle_Tragedy.html
Garrison, Elise P. Groaning Tears: ethical and dramatic aspects of suicide in Greek tragedy. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995.
Kaufmann, Walter. Tragedy and Philosophy. Princeton University Press, 1992.
Leinieks, Valdis. The Plays of Sophokles. B.R. Gruner Publishing Co., 1982.
Lines, Patricia M. Antigone's Flaw. Humanitas, Vol. XII, No. 1. Washington, DC: National Humanities Institute. Retrieved from http://www.nhinet.org/lines.htm
Ricoeur, Paul. Conflict of Interpretations. Northwestern University Press, 2004.
Segal, Charles. Tragedy and Civilization: an interpretation of Sophocles. University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Translated by F. Storr. Retrieved from http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/oedipus.html
Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by R.C. Jebb. Retrieved from http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/antigone.html
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