Story Of Greek Tragedy Essay

Length: 7 pages Subject: Plays Type: Essay Paper: #29632964 Related Topics: Antigone, Greeks, Play, Plays
Excerpt from Essay :


Sophocles' Antigone is taken as a paradigm of the very idea of tragedy. Why is Sophocles' play called "Antigone" and not "Creon"?

The play "Antigone" by Sophocles illustrates many of the factors and paradigms that go into defining a great tragedy. A tragedy can be thought of as a literary work in which the principal character is engulfed in some form of a morally significant struggle which in the end results in ruin or in which the primary character experiences some profound disappointment in their life. Throughout the tragedy "Antigone," Sophocles uses many literary techniques to engage the empathy of the reader and manifest feelings of fear and pity which is a requirement of an excellent tragedy.

To meet all of the requirements for a great classical tragedy, the plot must achieve the response of fear and pity in the reader. In the plot of "Antigone," Sophocles does a great job of highlight the prompts of these emotional responses. The plot also includes many sub-themes that are related to the creation of these emotions. For example, another lesson or theme that is evident is the role of stubbornness and how stubbornness can prevent the person from conduct themselves in a thoughtful and disciplined manner. In the story, Antigone's stubbornness and his sentiments towards her brother offers the reader a moral lesson. A similar theme can also be exhibited by Creon's unwillingness to give in to Antigone because of worry about the way such actions would be perceived by others. However, the blind adherence to stubbornness ultimately sets the stage for the personal tragedy in which Creon loses all at the end of the play in great pain and alone. The experience of such personal losses have a timeless quality in which they can still prompt empathy from readers from different cultures and through different periods of history and the themes in the story are still relevant even in the modern age.

Plot Overview

In the story of Antigone, the plot begins with the mention of Oedipus and how his two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles, have already died. This has left an opening in the royal linage and the characters in the story are left in contention for control of Thebes. As common in such situations, there is a struggle between individuals to take the throne and each of the two brothers slay each other, which consequently makes a figure named Creon the next in line for the throne of Thebes. With Creon's newly found power, among his first orders is that Polyneices must be left to rot on the battlefield; which represents an immense disgrace to Polyneices.

Antigone, is the daughter of Oedipus, are is in the middle of the family drama. She is left with a decision about whether to follow the rule of Creon, or to remain loyal to the family. If she does not follow Creon's rule then she will undoubtedly put herself in grave danger. However, Antigone decides that she needs to bury the body of her brother Polyneices, and thus her story begins.

Antigone's character is framed as that of a tragic hero, marked by her loyalty to her father Oedipus and her brothers. However, this loyalty, although admirable, is one of the characteristics that will eventually lead to her demise. At the beginning of the story, Antigone is the daughter of royalty, but this position is directly responsible for first tragic position. Despite the fact that it could put her in danger, Antigone is determined to give her brother a proper burial, despite Creon's first order as ruler.

After she originally decides to bury her brother, Antigone considers asking her sister, Ismene, to help. However, she worries that Ismene does not have the same dedication to the burial that she has. She believes that Ismene is mostly likely too afraid of Creon to be able to be brave and respect her brother's body and quickly dismisses the idea. Antigone shows some arrogance in her believing that she can carry out the burial herself without any help.

When the story progresses, the reader learns that Antigone does in fact bury her brother. However, in the process Creon becomes aware of what she has done. The fact that she honored her brother's body even despite Creon's orders is admired by many of the people in Thebes who are aware of what happened and view the burial as a selfless act which is conducted in honor of her family. Therefore, she builds...


He decides that Antigone should be executed as a traitor to his power. There is an exchange between Antigone's fiance (Haemon (who is also Creon's son)) and Creon regarding the guilt of Antigone in light of the public's support.

(Creon): "So this creature is no criminal, eh?"

(Haemon): "The whole of Thebes says "no."

(Creon): "And I must let the mob dictate my policy?"

(Haemon): "See now who is speaking like a boy!"

(Creon): "Do I rule this state, or someone else?"

(Haemon): "A one man state is no state at all."

At this point in the plot, the lines are drawn and the rivalry is clear. It will be Antigone, with the support of the people, who is fending off Creon and his newly found power.

Creon meets with the prophet Tiresias, who is finally able to frame the decision in which Creon has to make and Creon finally comes to understand the full weight of his options. Creon realizes that if passes judgment upon Antigone, then losing the support of the people could make his power illegitimate. Yet, when he finally decides to change his mind about Antigone, it is already too late. After he ventures to offer Antigone her freedom, he finds that she has already committed suicide. It is not only Antigone however, Haemon (Creon's son) also decides to take his own life in response to Antigone's suicide.

The double suicide of the loving couple meets all of the requirements of a classical tragedy. After the suicide, Antigone the obvious tragic hero, however she is not alone. Many of the other characters suffer as well and the grief is immensely multifaceted. Antigone decides to be the one ultimately in control over her fate, and stubbornly takes her own life out of pride. However, if she would have waited a bit longer, her fate could have been significantly different and she would have been freed. Yet, as a result of her decision to end her own life, a cascade of consequence also ensued. Haemon's death is subsequently also a tragedy that was based on the love he felt for Antigone.

Also, from Creon's perspective, if he would not have hung on to his own foolish pride for so long, he might have been able to make his decision to free Antigone sooner. If he would have made this decision sooner and Antigone would have been freed, he would have secured his own power relative to the public by increasing his approval among the people of Thebes. Not only would his position as ruler be more concrete, but his son would have also likely remained alive. Therefore, depending on the perspective, each of these characters could literally be considered the tragic hero.

Another instance of tragedy also arise towards the end of the plot. Ismene, who Antigone believed lacked the courage to stand up against Creon, reached the conclusion that she was ready to join her sister in honoring her family and was ready to stand by her side in this endeavor -- despite what the consequences of this action might have been. Antigone did not believe that Ismene had such strength within her, and ironically did not even ask her to join her in the burial of her brother. Thus this also represents a flaw in Antigone's character; that she rushed to judgement on her sister without even talking to her about the burial first.

Therefore Antigone's character can also be viewed from a variety of perspectives. Although she had won the favor of the public in deciding to honor her family and their fallen brother, in a sense she also dishonored her sister by rushing to judgement and not even giving the opportunity for Ismene to be courageous. In the end Ismene exhibits the courage it would have taken to stand by Antigone's side. It isn't clear if she would have been this brave from the beginning, however by denying her the opportunity Antigone acted alone and further set the stage for her own fate. Yet if Ismene would have stood by Antigone's side, then it is reasonable to believe that they would have had even more public support and Creon might have reached the decision…

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