Theatrical Analysis of Macbeth and Antigone Essay

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  • Subject: Literature
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Theatrical Analysis of Macbeth and Antigone

The most accounted features of a tragedy are the gloominess of atmosphere, solemnity of action, mental conflicts, strain, suspense and capability of capturing the audience. Tragedy tries to stimulate the sentiments of pity and fear (Devi 1). Thus, this study is comparing the two Shakespearean and Greek tragedies, Macbeth and Antigone. This analysis will compare and contrast the two plays, their theme, comparison of main characters, conflict, plot etc. The purpose of this study is to provide a deeper understanding of the plays to the reader and to assess the similarity and differences in both the plays. Macbeth unfolds the story of a man, ambitious to become a king. He even murders King Duncan to fulfil his ambition due to the prophecy of the three witches and his wife, Lady Macbeth. However, he ends up dying because of his greediness. Antigone, on the other hand, unveils the story of a young woman, courageous enough to break the rules laid down by King Creon. She demands justice for the improper burial of her brother and she also dies at the end (Puspita, Arifaturrochmah &Setyowati, 2013)

Macbeth and Antigone both lie in the category of tragedy as both the dramas end with the death of the protagonists. Both the dramas are powerful in their approach as every act has its penalties and characters have to face them as a consequence of their action. Thus, the theme, as communicated in the end of both the dramas, is that people must learn the tough way resulting from their mistakes. In Sophocles' Antigone, Antigone and King Creon have to face consequences of their actions; as Creon has to face the loss of his family (Haimon and Eurydice) due to his bad decisions during his reign in Thebes. Antigone also bears the consequences of burying her brother's body and ends up committing suicide, followed by the death of Haimon and Eurydice. The tragic end is the outcome of Creon's unwise decisions during his reign. While in Macbeth, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth face their punishments due to their ambitions. Lady Macbeth detonates her ambitions by means of Macbeth by using her gender. She fulfils her ambitions by questioning Macbeth about his manhood, (Puspitaet al. 2013) as she says,

Art thou afraid

To be the same in thine own act and valour

As thou art in desire?...

When you durst do it, then you were a man (Boyd 176).

And along with three witches, she provokes Macbeth to murder King Duncan and become powerful. But, ambitions have costs, as they pay the price by death. They achieved their ambition but could not even enjoy it because of their bad ways of achieving it (Puspita et al. 2013).

Macbeth is considered as the shortest and blood-spattered of all the other Shakespearean tragedies. The story revolves around the obsession of the title character with power, which initiated due to the prophecy of the three witches that Macbeth would become king one day, which he shares with his wife, Lady Macbeth. The reward generates a conflict in Macbeth's life when he gets an opportunity to murder King Duncan to become king and make the prophecy true (Jankowski, 2017).

However, in Sophocles' Antigone, Antigone's struggle starts when she acquires the knowledge of her birth by incestuous union of the former king of Thebes, Oedipus, with his own mother, Jocasta. When she learns about the blindness of her father-brother, she follows him into banishment not to return to Thebes until his death to try to reunite her brothers who were in a dispute over the throne. However, both the brothers in dispute are killed and her uncle, Creon, becomes the king. Creon honours the one who was protecting Thebes but condemns the corpse of another to rot as a traitor and forbids its removal. Antigone, not convinced with the justice done, believes that it disrupts the divine law and thus, out of her love for her brother, she secretly buries the body herself. Creon thus sentences her to be buried alive in a cave. This bewildering story, like Macbeth, unfolds the association between man and society i.e. the opposition of an individual to Power and the reaction of Power to the opposition (Stewart 2013).

Conflict

The basic component of the course of action in a play is the dramatic conflict which results from the chemistry of opposite forces i.e. the ideas or interests, in the plot. The actual plot in a tragedy starts with the introduction of a conflict and ends with its solution. The middle of the play includes the advancement and variations of the conflict (Devi 1). The central conflict, critically assessed in Antigone, can be said to be one of the State/power against the individual; where King Creon represents the power/State and Antigone the individual. This conflict between the two has frequently been interpreted as one between a political power and an individual's conscience. Watson's assessment of the play restates that Antigone displays a crystal-clear conflict between the contradictory notions of law, the human law and a greater divine law (qtd. in Owoeye 102). The targets of the law of Creon, regarding the corpses of the brothers, are Antigone and Ismene, the only living relatives of the King Oedipus. However, Antigone sees herself not as a woman fighting men in a patriarchal world rather as a human being, united with gods to fight human oppression and injustice to other human beings. Therefore, Antigone considers this conflict as the one between the other worldly and the ordinary, the divine powers governing the universe and the physical powers (Owoeye 108).

In tragedy, two types of conflicts i.e. inward and outward can be observed. Outward conflict includes the tussle between two opposite parties, of the hero with the other one; as Macbeth involves the tussle between Macbeth and King Duncan's supporters, chiefly Macduff and Malcolm; and with his own wife, Lady Macbeth, who questions his manhood, calls him coward and provokes him to murder Duncan. Macbeth, at the onset, is a praise-worthy war hero, but lured by power and progress; and due to the Lady Macbeth's constant pressure to fulfil the witches' prophecy, he tussles…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Boyd, Catherine Bradshaw. The Isolation of Antigone and Lady Macbeth. The Classical Journal, vol. 47, no. 5(Feb., 1952), 174-177+203, 2014, http://www.wwrsd.org/cms/lib04/NJ01000230/Centricity/Domain/230/Article%203.pdf. Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Cap, Adam. Creon as a Tragic Character in "Antigone." AdamCap.com, 16 Feb. 2016, https://adamcap.com/schoolwork/creon-as-a-tragic-character-in-antigone/ Accessed 12 Apr. 2017.

Chu, Dennis. Comparison of Macbeth and Oedipus. Prezi.com, 2010, https://prezi.com/jyrpci7hthum/comparison-of-macbeth-and-oedipus/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.

Collins, J. Churton. Structure and Plot of Antigone. TheatreHistory.com, 2006, http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/structure_and_plot_of_antigone.html. Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.

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