Antigone: not the tragic hero

Topics: Sophocles, Oedipus, Tragic hero Pages: 5 (2088 words) Published: March 28, 2014
Antigone: Not the Tragic Hero
Sophocles, a great tragedian, was the one who gave Greek tragedies their traditional form. An important part of traditional Greek tragedies is the presence of a tragic hero. All tragic heroes should have the characteristics of rank, a tragic flaw, a downfall, and a recognition of mistakes. The seemingly tragic hero is Antigone. She wants to bury her brother Polyneices even though this would be going against Creon, who is her uncle and the king. When Antigone buries Polyneices Creon sentences her to death because of it. In Antigone by Sophocles the tragic hero is not Antigone because she only meets the characteristic of a tragic flaw, hers being pride, but doesn't meet the other three characteristics of a tragic hero.

Through Ismene's response it's clear that Antigone does not meet the characteristic of rank even though she is of royal blood, because to have rank there has to be more than a title. All she has is a title, she is of no value and has no power in her society because she is a woman. In the Prologue Antigone tries to get her sister, Ismene to help her bury their brother Polyneices. Ismene refuses saying, "We are only women; we cannot fight with men, Antigone" (46)! Here it's shown that Ismene does not believe it would be wise to bury Polyneices because it would be going against the will of Creon and other men. Ismene's word choice demonstrates to readers that she believes that women are extremely inferior to men. This belief is established when she says her and her sister are “only women". With the usage of the word "only" it is demonstrated to readers that she perceives herself, Antigone, and other women as inferior to men. She believes they are "only" women, not of huge importance, easily replaced, and insignificant. She obviously accepts that she is inferior to men as seen in her response. Ismene's views of women are acceptable in her society. Not only are women not valued highly in ancient Greek society, they are in essence powerless. At this time women had no rights and they were considered property. Ismene's words show readers how powerless women are when she says that they "cannot fight with men". Not that they shouldn't, that it would be wrong, but that they "cannot". In her eyes, and therefore society's eyes, women can't fight with men even if they tried. They do not have the power and strength to go against men. It is clearly shown through Ismene's words how insignificant women are considered in this time. Antigone as a woman therefore cannot have rank, even if she is a princess, because in her society she has no value, power, or the respect of others.

Antigone might not possess the characteristic of rank, but does possess the characteristic of a tragic flaw as evident through her response to Ismene. Antigone's tragic flaw is pride, which means having a high opinion of one’s self and superiority. This pride is exhibited at the beginning when she speaks to her sister, Ismene, in an attempt to gain her help in burying their brother Polyneices. After Ismene refuses to help bury Polyneices Antigone responds by saying, "I should not want you, even if you asked to come... if I must die I say that this crime is holy... apparently the laws of the gods mean nothing to you" (53-62). Here Antigone is telling Ismene that she wouldn't want Ismene's help because of what Ismene had previously said. Antigone also says that if she died it would be fine because she did it for the gods and that she does not believe that Ismene cares for the gods and their laws. In this setting the gods are an extremely important part of the society. She says that the crime is "holy" and therefore it would be fine if she died for it. Obviously her priorities lie with the gods, who are "holy", since she'd die keeping their laws. Antigone's pride rests on doing the right thing; by doing the right thing she establishes herself as someone maybe superior to others. She obviously has a high opinion of herself...
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