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Antigone Compare & Contrast Essay

By sophiefeld Mar 20, 2014 1270 Words
Antigone, a tragic heroine in the self titled Sophocles play, fights against male power demonstrating courage and determination. Although Jean Anouilh and Sophocles both create the character Antigone to be a spoiled, scrawny princess, they create different personas out of her. In Anouilh’s version of Antigone is honest, soft spoken and an unhappy person, in Sophocles version Antigone is a strong willed, brave and powerful individual who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Both tragedies share various similarities and differences in the content, themes, and conflicts; specifically focusing on the comparisons between the themes of power, corruption and responsibility throughout. Ultimately the outcome of both tragedies is a result of Antigone’s selfless act and the effect it has on others. Creon is the most diverse character between the two versions. In Sophocles Antigone Creon states that once the news is released to the public that Antigone buries Polynices, he has no power over the decision any longer. In Anouilh’s Antigone Creon does not make an immediate decision to execute Antigone, he gives the decision thought. This is proven when Creon states “Very well. Now Listen to me. You will go straight to your room. When you get there, you will go to bed. You will say that you are not well and that you have not been out since yesterday. Your nurse will tell the same story. And I’ll get rid of those three men.” (Anouilh, 41). In Sophocles he treats Antigone’s consequence as if he does not have to follow the law he enforces with his power, as opposed to Anouilh’s where Creon uses his power and sends Antigone to her room to think about his decision. Next, Creon demonstrates an inner power in both plays by viewing his decisions based upon being a king rather than a villain. He believes he has to make decisions based on the duties of a king rather than his own personal opinions. This is shown when Creon says “I agree my trade forces me to be. We could argue whether I ought or ought not to follow my trade, but once I take on the job I must do it properly.”(Anouilh, 48). In both plays the end decisions result in Creon following through with the laws he enforces. He values his role of being king more than his role of being an uncle. Finally, Creon’s decision to execute Antigone not only demonstrates his power but also the corruption that causes Haemon, Ismene and Eurydice to all take their lives as they are unable to cope with the loss of Antigone. This is shown when Creon states “I have had them laid out side by side. They are together at last, and at peace. Two lovers on the morrow of their bridal. Their work is done.” (Anouilh, 69). If Creon chooses not to follow his duties as a king, he will not feel the remorse and guilt like he does for the consequences of his actions. Antigone first demonstrates a sense of power and bravery in both plays when deciding to bury Polynices despite Creon’s law against it. Using her power, Antigone attempts to convince Ismene to join in upon the act of loyalty with her, but being the innocent sister Ismene is not in agreeance. This is proven when she says to Ismene “The punishment for disobedience is death by stoning. So now you know. And now is the time to show whether or not you are worthy of your high blood.” (Sophocles, 127). Subsequently in both plays Antigone takes advantage of being a princess and Creon’s niece, and goes ahead with her choice to bury Polynices. Although she knows the possible outcomes of her choice, this does not stop her as she believes Creon will be more sympathetic towards her. Antigone proves this when she says “Poor Creon! My nails are broken, my fingers are bleeding, my arms are covered with the wells left by the paws of your guards- but I am queen!” (Anouilh, 50). Therefore she takes advantage her relationship with Creon in order to gain power. Lastly, the outcome of Antigone at the end of each play was the same, but the amount of power she obtains is the difference. In Sophocles there is no doubt that Antigone’s death is tragic and heroic. However the tragedy seems to be more heroic in Sophocles Antigone than it does in Anouilh’s. This is demonstrated when Antigone says “"I have given my brother burial. What greater honour could I wish? All these would say that what I did was honorable but fear locks up their lips. To speak and act just as he likes is a king’s prerogative.” (Sophocles, 140). After Creon executes Antigone in Sophocles the play drags on to emphasize how powerful a character she is in Anouilh’s Antigone is killed and the story ends shortly after as if what she does is not heroic.

Haemon plays a very important role in Antigone's heroic journey to tragedy in both Sophocles and Anouilh’s play. He is engaged to Antigone and is the son of Creon which gives him power over Antigone to begin with. Using his power, in both plays he tries to convince Creon that the execution of Antigone will not bring only sadness to others, but tragedy to his own life. This is shown when he says “Live as you say! Live a life without Antigone? A life in which I am to go on admiring you as you busy yourself about your kingdom, make your persuasive speeches, strike your attitudes? Not without Antigone. I love Antigone. I will not live without Antigone.” (Anouilh 62). Haemon is similar to Antigone because he takes advantage of his power to try and help in the end. In Anouilh’s version of Antigone there is a significant change in affection shown by Haemon towards Antigone. The play features more romance between the couple that is not in Sophocles version. Haemon is able to gain power over Antigone through devotion as she is so blinded by love and romance she does not realize it. An example is when Haemon says “Antigone, darling, I love you exactly as you love me. With all of myself.” (Anouilh, 27). Although Haemon does not take advantage of Antigone’s love, he does have more control over their relationship because of it. Lastly, Haemon’s power and corruption comes through at the end of both plays when he attempts to kill his father Creon and proceeds to murder himself. This is proven when he says “That sight I’ll never see. Nor from this hour shall you see me again. Let those that will be witness of your wickedness and folly.” (Sophocles, 147). This shows Creon causes the corruption by taking Antigone away from Haemon. This is Haemon’s desperate attempt to seek power and get revenge against Creon for all the pain he has suffered.

It is clear that the reoccurring theme of power is present throughout both versions of Antigone and demonstrates this through the actions and tragedies of the characters Creon, Antigone and Haemon. Both Sophocles and Anouilh’s tragedies share similarities and differences in the content, themes and conflicts. These comparisons are present between the themes of power, corruption and responsibility shown throughout the play. The tragedy of Antigone in both plays is inevitable as the choices she makes foreshadow her outcome and affect the people around her. The end result is a tragedy due to the power that is lost, the corruption that is caused, and the responsibilities that are maintained.

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