Gender Bias Critic of Antigone

Topics: Sophocles, Tragedy, Antigone Pages: 7 (2361 words) Published: August 31, 2008
A Gender Bias Approach to Antigone

Just as one stone removed can break a bridge, one flaw can bring a man to ruins. The flaw of one man cannot bring down an entire kingdom, but rather one outlook of the king can lead to the demise of the whole. In Sophocles' epic tragedy, Antigone, a strong gender bias is present throughout the tragedy, and is partially responsible for the downfall of the king.

To Sophocles the king is not always representative of the people, but acts on his own personal desires and judgments. Sophocles was born in 496 B.C. and from 490 B.C. until 442 B.C. when the first performance of Antigone at the Dionysian theater; there had been many wars in the Greek and Persian history. These ongoing battles would not involve women in combat nor negotiations in the political arena, but merely a person to remain at home, responsible for domestic affairs. There would always be the fear of war, seen on the faces of every adult, reflected in the eyes of every child. Kate Hamburger, the author of From Sophocles to Sartre, and essay on the tragedies of Sophocles with an emphasis on the heroic tragedy Antigone, claims that the effect of war in Sophocles' earlier youth is a contributing cause to his heroic tragedies. Sophocles saw the ideals of democracy early and practiced self-governing in the local market place. According to Siegfried Melchinger, a German dramatist who in his doctoral dissertation made a focus specifically on Sophocles, stated that Sophocles' character is one of an "overlapping discipline." Siegfried Melchinger published his book titled Sophocles in 1974, which David Scarse later translated from German to English. Sophocles composed his education to be "overlapping," in that he was well educated in all areas. Even before the performance of Antigone, Sophocles was acclaimed for his feminine roles; as females were not allowed to act in theater. It was not until 442 B.C. that he wrote Antigone, with an even greater allusion to the role of women.

Before Antigone begins, the two brothers of Antigone are engaged in a battle no only of land, but of power. Their deep desires to rule Thebes and male dominating ego, only lead to their deaths; a tragedy that would affect more than just themselves. The battle of glory for men would not be the same for their sisters, but in 442 B.C. as Sophocles illustrates, the living women would have to deal with the tragedies of the dead; a task not easy to be burdened with as woman. Their uncle, Creon, dominates Antigone and her sister Ismene to the extent of mourning their own brother's death. Antigone has chosen a fate without glory: "I'll suffer nothing as great as death without glory," (Antigone line 112). Only a male in this time could die with honor and glory, and just as her uncle has forced a death without glory for her brother, although a glorious death is honorable, she has decided it a better life to die without glory than dishonor her blood and the gods. Ismene does not wish to go against the laws of her uncle, for "women were not born to contend with men," but between the bond of her and Antigone, she will defy the king(line 75). Ismene is just as horrified about the edict as Antigone is, but asks what they--weak women--can do. During this era the women had a specific role, and to defy that role would be horrific enough, despite the edict which Antigone spoke so ill of. Ismene does not follow her sister, as Antigone is sure of her own fate and actions. To Antigone, there is nothing worse that she can face except death. Death is not a dilemma if she does as the gods' sacred commands require, but to leave the body uncovered after death is treason to the gods and the soul of the dead will wander the Earth forever. Antigone sees no reason to hide what she considers to be perfectly just and a responsible act.

The relationship between the two sisters in Antigone, but the male dominating King split the bond. The force that split the bond was not a physical...
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