The Themes of Antigone

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The Themes of Antigone

Antigone is credited as one of the best works of Sophocles, ranked by most modern critics above Oedipus the King. There are many aspects of Antigone that make it the play critics love to ramble about. "Antigone must be received as the canon of ancient tragedy: no tragedy of antiquity that we possess approaches it in pure idealism, or in harmony of artistic development" says one critic named Berhardy.

Tragedy is usually concerned with a person of great stature, a king or nobleman, who falls because of hubris, or extreme pride and Antigone is no exception. Pride and its effects are a central part of Antigone's plot and theme. Pride, being part of their character and morality, overran in to their literature and was a complex and multifaceted concept in Greek tragedy, exemplified by Sophocles' Antigone. In the play both Creon and Antigone were incredibly proud and unwilling to back down once they took their stands. Creon had made a decision and was unwilling to compromise. Antigone was to die for her violation of the law, the sin of burying her brother. Antigone's gender had a profound affect on the meaning of her actions. Creon had disliked for her disrespectful and rebelling nature. His need to defeat her was all the more pressing because she was a woman. "The ideal of the female character in Antigone is boldly and severely outlined. The freedom of Greek women was extremely limited and restrictive. Antigone's rebellion is threatening because it upset the gender roles and hierarchy. Creon was a sympathetic character but abused his power. One of the purposes of the Chorus is to illustrate the sway of public opinion. In the end of the play, Creon is ruler over an orderly city, but he has lost everything dear to him.

Closely related to the theme of gender, the theme of Inaction/Lack of Agency versus Agency plays itself out in the contrast between Antigone and her sister Ismene. Ismene chooses to do nothing under the threat of the law...
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