Greek drama was written in such a way that the characters are the pivotal aspect of the play. The main characters in Sophocles’ epic play, Antigone, are both very strong personalities, which naturally leads to conflict. Antigone and King Creon both have very intense beliefs and roles in this play that oppose each other, and although there is a family tie, will lead to an imminent tragedy. Antigone is a young women who believes in the loyalty of her family and fears no one and nothing. She is willing to give up her bright future and her life and disobey the edict of her uncle and bury her deceased brother. Antigone displays her heroic characteristics through her fearlessness, loyalty, perseverance, and is therefore the tragic heroine of this epic masterpiece.
It is a pure understatement to say that the character of Antigone is fearless and loyal to her beliefs. As a young girl with a bright future ahead of her, any other woman would keep the death of her brother in the past if it threatened their own future marriage and long life. Her loyalty is shown from the beginning of the play, where she immediately proclaims to her sister, Ismene, that she will give her brother a proper burial, even though death is threatened for anyone that does. Antigone illustrates her strong beliefs to Ismene when she says, “...But I will bury him; and if I must die,/ I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down/ With him in death, and I shall be as dear/ To him as he to me.” (Sophocles Prologue) In this Greek era, there was an unwritten holy law that if one was not given a proper burial, they would never pass through to heaven, and would instead be forced to live in the wretched underworld. Strong family morals cannot allow Antigone to knowingly let her brother rot outside the gates of Thebes. Her loyalty to her family and values is shown through her dedication to properly burying Polyneices. Her fearlessness is shown throughout the entire course of her short life. Many young women, especially in this time period, would not have the guts to stand up to a man, especially the King, who is also her uncle. Throughout the plot, after Antigone committed the crime, King Creon tried to give her opportunities so that she could live the rest of her life. She would not give in and would not surrender because, as King, Creon proclaimed that if anyone buried Polyneices, they would be publicly killed. Antigone committed the “crime” knowing that death would be imminent. Antigone proclaims to Creon:
“And dearest Polyneices---/ dearest indeed/ To me, since it was my hand/ That washed
him clean and poured the ritual wine:/ And my reward is death before my time!/ And yet,
as men’s hearts know, I have done no wrong,/ I have not sinned before God. Or if I have,/
I shall know the truth in death. But if the guilt/ Lies upon Creon who judged me, then, I
pray,/ May his punishment equal my own.” (Sophocles Scene IV) Her fearlessness is something that people keep questioning and expecting to break. Creon, when speaking to Haimon, his son and Antigone’s husband to be, expresses that he wants to leave her a stone cave and only provide her with food. He expects that she will surrender and express her remorse, or that the Gods will save her before her death so that he comes out free of guilt. Ismene, her polar opposite, is shocked that Antigone would go to the extent of an imminent public death just to bury their brother, who can be considered a traitor to their beloved city. Her sister acts as a foil to Antigone, because Ismene highlights the loyalty and fearlessness that she herself does not hold.
Over the course of the play, Antigone does not make any major changes in her morals, values, or behavior. From the prologue until her death, she was intent on sticking to what she believed in, which is the loyalty of family and the opposition of their mistreatment. There were many times where the audience, and other characters in the play, were unsure of what...
Cited: Sophocles. Antigone. The Oedipus Cycle. Ed. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. New York. Harcourt Brace, 1977. 186-245. Print.
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