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Antigone is a Greek tragedy by Sophocles, written in around 441BC. It is one of the ancient play that has a female protagonist. In an era of strict cultural rules that curtailed women liberation, Sophocles created a character like Antigone which is a breakthrough in that age.
Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus and Iocaste (Oedipus – married his own mother, got children, on knowing the truth blinded himself and left the land. Iocaste -married her own son bore him children and killed herself when she knew the truth).
Ismene is her sister, Polyneices and Eteocles are her brothers who fought and killed each other. It is in their death the problem arises. Polyneices was not given a proper burial as he returned to assault Thebes after he was driven out of the kingdom. And Antigone wanted to give him the decent burial, breaking the laws of the king Creon (Iocaste’s brother).
A Loving Sister
Antigone is a loving sister who is willing to do anything for her brother. She is aware of all the misfortunes that happened to her family. She decides to give rest to the soul of Polyneices by burying his dead body which is a duty of a loving sister even at the cost of losing her life.
I shall lie down with him in death and I shall be as dear to him as he to me. These lines show the depth of love that she had for her brother. It is my nature to join in love, is a clear proof stated by Antigone herself about her character.
Antigone knew what is right and is bold enough to do it. She is not bothered about the consequence. Giving the dead a decent burial is the right thing to do. This is what the Gods want.
Also, she knows the law of the king, yet risks her life to do what is right even if the king is against it. Creon is not enough to stand in my way, these words of Antigone proves her boldness of taking risks and an attitude to face anyone who comes in her way.
Antigone knows no fears. She knows she was going against the law, her sister Ismene threatens her that she would inform others. She is not afraid of it, on the contrary, she asks her to proclaim that to everyone.
Ismene is shocked to hear it and says you should be cold with fear, for which Antigone says I am not afraid of the danger, that shows her attitude towards fear,
Antigone fears God, the only authority that she abides. Not even the king. It was not God’s proclamation. That final justice that rules the world below makes no such laws. These lines stated by Antigone asserts that, according to her, only God is worthy of giving the final verdict.
Antigone is not afraid to stand alone for the right. All the citizen of Thebes knew Creon’s verdict is wrong, still, nobody dared to stand against him or tell the king about his mistake. She dared. She also addresses him as Unjustly judge and points out his act in front of everyone.
Gender Doesn’t Bother Her
Antigone was not bothered about her female sex nor her gender roles which are laid by society to curtail her limits.
When Creon learns about the burial asks, and the man who dared do this? Not a woman. Ismene also says we are only women, we cannot fight with men Antigone! Which represents the voices of society. Crossing norms, she did what she desired.
Antigone denied nothing when she was accused. She didn’t want to tell lies to escape the situation, rather faced it. She was not afraid, not even when we charged her with what she had done. She denied nothing, is a certifying statement made by the Sentry which proves her determination.
She has never learned to yield, is a comment on Antigone by the head of the chorus, Choragos on her unyielding attitude. According to her, she has not done anything wrong to be ashamed of. So she didn’t want to accept her deed as a mistake by yielding to them rather argues with the king.
Not Afraid of Death
Antigone was not afraid of death and has complete control over her life. She calls death as sleepy death as she considers herself more energetic and powerful than death.
When Creon pronounces her death sentence she ‘simply’ says to Guards, come; let us wait no longer, that shows her eagerness to taste death that she could not wait for it. She shows her control over her life by killing herself. Being killed by someone else is a form of dependency on Antigone.
She does have a pinch of masculinity in her attitude, but she was so beautiful to the eyes, that is compared to the mythological character Danae (All Danae’s beauty) by Choragos, whose beauty attracted Zeus also kept other suitors hooked.
This beauty kept Haimon son of Creon hooked to Antigone that he even fought against his father, also kills himself after her death to live with her in ‘the house of the dead’ All these constitute the character of Antigone that makes her the protagonist of the play Antigone, by Sophocles.
Antigone by Sophocles, English version by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald.