History 10th Grade
Week 5 Day 3
September 4, 2013
Topic: Was Antigone a tragedy?
In the late 440’s B.C. the philosopher Sophocles wrote the tragic drama, Antigone. The play begins with the lead, Antigone distraught because the ruler, Creon, declared that all who fought the war against him and died did not deserve a proper ceremonial burial. Antigone’s brother fought against Creon and died. She decided she would bury her brother because an unburied soul would wearily wander earth forever. Also, breaking Creon’s law was not a large wrong in Antigone’s mind because it wasn’t the gods who ordered her not to bury her brother.1 Captured, Antigone was caught by Creon’s sentinel while she was burying her brother like a mouse in a mouse trap, and was brought before Creon for judgment. Creon had a hard time deciphering what to do with her because Antigone was betrothed to Creon’s son. In the end, Creon threw Antigone into a cave to rot and die. After Antigone’s death, Hᴁmon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s betrothed, committed suicide because of grief. Shortly following her son’s death, Creon’s wife killed herself too. Creon in the end was left family-less and realized that the gods always have the last say in human affairs.2 Looking at the story Antigone, there are two ways to determine if it is a tragedy. A tragedy is a story in which a good man or woman in unforeseen circumstances, is ruined through a mistake in judgment or a defect of character that would not ordinarily have such consequences. Having stated that, Antigone could either be a tragedy or not one.
One might say that Antigone is a tragedy. Applying the definition of tragedy, there is a good woman, Antigone. It could be said that the unforeseen circumstance to the story is the death of her brother. Her mistake of judgment would possibly be her undying undermining urge to bury her brother. Since the ruler of her land would not peacefully allow her to bury her brother, her craziness to disobey law and bury him anyways could be her defect in character. “…for within the house but now I saw her, frenzied and beside herself” Creon describs Antigone as one describes a psychopath.3 With this view point of Antigone, it would be correct to say that Antigone is a tragedy. Although a good woman, Antigone is come upon with a struggle, reacts hastily with bad judgment and acts crazy.
On the other hand, one may say that Antigone is not a tragedy. For this reasoning there must also be proof. The person in the story is Antigone. The circumstance in the play would be the death of her brother. This circumstance could have been foreseen, due to the fact that he was fight on the losing side of the war and her knowledge of Creon’s decree. Unsurprised, Antigone states “I knew as much,” at the news of her brother’s death from her sister.4 Antigone stated raged, “…None may bewail, none bury, all must leave Unwept, unsepulchred, a dainty prize for fowl that watch, gloating upon their prey! This is the matter he has had proclaimed – the excellent Creon!” proving Antigone knew of Creon’s decree.5 Ultimately, her judgment to bury her brother could be viewed not as a mistake. Antigone had the right to bury her dead brother. “Him I will bury… Those nether Powers, than powers on earth; for there forever must I lie. You, if you will, hold up to scorn what is approved in Heaven!”6 Here, Antigone is stating her right, from Heaven, that she has to bury her brother. She expressed her familial duty to bury her brother so he could reach heaven when she told Creon, “It is no shame to pay respect to our own flesh and blood.” 7 while he was interrogating her. Finally, she did not have a defect in character. A defect of character could be mental liabilities, emotional deformities, instinct to run wild, personal flaws, emotional insecurity, etc. Antigone didn’t have these. Wanting to bury a loved one, even if it is against the law, is not crazy. Antigone had reasons for breaking the law and secretly burying her brother. First, the law was not set up by the gods. Second, out of respect she buried him. She didn’t have defected character. When viewed as circumstances foreseen, judgment correct and not defected in character, Antigone is not a tragedy.
In conclusion, Antigone is not a tragedy. The deciphering of Antigone in the first way to look at Antigone is incorrect. Although there is the good man or woman, Antigone, the unruly circumstance could have been expected. Her brother was fighting in a war, on the losing side. Antigone could’ve expected it. Her judgment to bury her brother is not wrong. Anybody has the right to bury the dead, it is not wrong to believe so. Last, Antigone is not defected in character. She had rationally understood that burying her brother was the right thing to do. With these views, Antigone is not a tragedy.
Sophocles. Antigone. New York: Dover Publications, INC., 1993.