Antigone - Greek Playwright Sophocle

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Emmanuel Roberts
English 112
Spring 2010
Research Paper
Greek playwright Sophocles wrote the last play in the Theban Trilogy, Antigone, around 442n B.C. The Theban Trilogy consists of Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the king); Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, but the play considered the last of the three was, ironically, written first. Only seven of Sophocles’ one hundred twenty three tragedies have survived to the modern era with the trilogy surviving the ages intact. These three plays are perhaps the most famous of the seven, with Antigone performed most often. Antigone tells the story of the title character, daughter of Oedipus (the former king Theban who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother, and who renounced his kingdom upon discovering his action) and her fight to bury her brother Polyneices against the edict of her uncle, Creon, the new king of Thebes. It is a story that pits the law of the gods “unwritten law” against the law of humankind, family ties against civic duty, and man against women. Many playwrights in Ancient Greece used mythological stories to comment on social and political concern of their time. This is what Sophocles may have intended when he wrote Antigone. Based on the legends of Oedipus, Sophocles may have been trying to send a message to the Athenian General, Pericles, about the danger of authoritarian rule Antigone as a Tragic Hero

In Sophocles’ Antigone, the question of who the tragic hero actually is has been the subject of a debate for years. It is unlikely for there to be two tragic characters in a Greek tragedy, and there can be only one in the play Antigone. The king Creon possesses some of the qualities that constitutes tragic character, but does not have all of the necessary traits. Antigone, however, contains all of the aspects that are required for her to be the main character. According to Aristotle’s Poetics there are four major traits, which are required of the tragic character. The character must be a good and upstanding person. The character must focus on becoming a better person, must be believable, and must be consistent in his or her behavior (Barnes, Jonathan. Princeton 1984). Due to the fact that Antigone represents these four character guidelines as well as several other protagonist traits, she can definitely be defined as the tragic hero. In order for Antigone to be the tragic character, she first must be a good and upstanding person. Antigone is indeed a good-hearted person and has committed no crime up to her decision to give her brother, Polyneices, a proper burial. There is no doubt that Antigone is upstanding and a person of important in Thebes. Aristotle stated that the aspect of a good person was first and most important when creating a tragic character. The fact that Antigone is a woman makes no difference, because Aristotle expressly said, “Even a woman may be good though the woman may be said to be an inferior being”. Aristotle’s second rule for determining a tragic character is that the person must aim at property. The character must work towards becoming a better person. Antigone illustrates these second guidelines by her effort to clear her conscious and bring honor to her family by giving Polyneices a decent burial.  By taking this responsibility, and by denying Ismene’s involvement in her crime, Antigone shows that she has acquired a greater courage within herself than she had possessed before (Miami Herald 1999).  In no way does Creon comply with Aristotle's second guideline.  Throughout the play, he does not allow himself to see the point of view from other people, such as when Haimon tries to reason with him, and he neglects the blind prophet, Tiresias, when he warns Creon of his actions. The last two expectations of a tragic character are intertwined. According to Aristotle, the character must be true to life and be consistent in behavior and actions.  He states that these two areas are "a distinct...
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