A Picture of Antigone in the Play

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Sophocles’ Antigone, believed to have been written around 441 B.C., explores a number of conflicts, including the of issue of gender inequality which is prevalent in the entire play. The play begins with a female protagonist entering the stage with pronounced intentions to defy the king of Thebes. This behavior from a woman was not accepted at any time in ancient Greek society. They were treated as  inferior to their male partners and the inequality is seen through all of the daily life.

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However, Sophocles presents Antigone as opposing, insubordinate, and strong willed, all characteristics women were not expected nor entitled to have.

As she enters the stage, Antigone ask  her sister, Ismene,if she has heard the news, then shares  her disapproval , of the new king’s decision. The sisters have lost both of their brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, in a fight for the throne of Thebes. The new King Creon has ordered that Polyneices be left unburied in the fields, the consequence of betrayal. Meanwhile, Eteocles is to receive an honorable burial.  The punishment is death for anyone who buries Polyneices, regardless,Antigone conducts her brother’s burial, which being done , would cause him to never be allowed to enter the after life. Later in the play, not only does she not deny it, she is openly proud of her choice and challenges the king, forcing his hand. Maybe a small but significant act, the king at this point has no choice but to sentence her to death, almost treating her as an equal to men. Woman of the time were not entitled to free speech, nor did they have any public or official speech.

In the dialogue with creon we can see her very brazen and passionate words, simple and direct. The lack the word play and clever banter we see later in the play between Creon and his son. This honest direct form of communication gives her a certain air of truth and righteousness, and calls into question , in am almost shameful way the Kings motives. In the first act, Sophocles presents the social role of Greek women in a dialogue between Antigone and Ismene. Antigone shares with Ismene  her intentions to bury their brother, asking for help. However, Ismene character is set as the accepted role of women at the time refuses and even advises against doing so. Ismene is almost taken back and fearful of  Antigone’s behavior. Ismene asks,

“Why do you speak so strangely? “

Sophocles use this moment to create the distinction of roles and communication that is acceptable at the time, since it is unnatural for women to give voice to personal opinions, especially ones that do not agree with those of men. As well she states

      ”  We are only women, We cannot fight with men, Antigone!

          The law is strong, we must give in to the law…

          To forgive me, but I am helpless: I must yield

           To those in authority…”

Ismene uses the word “we” , Sophocles is telling us on a broader scale , that women have no hope in their culture. Since women had no power, and everything regarding the government and all its control is under man’s rule, the idea “the law is strong”, lets us know that she has no right to even consider the topic , have conversation, and most certainly cannot attempt the burial.. Ismene repeats that she must give in to those in authority, revealing her own submissiveness and cowry. Even though she may not agree with the new law, at this point in the play, she maintains her stance on women’s adherence to their roles despite their injustices. The playwright uses this stanza to identify two crucial understandings of Greek society during this period: the first being that men hold ultimate power over women in all interactions, and the second that Antigone’s revolutionary power provokes this disparity.

As the play goes on, there is a growing resistance to authoritarian rule, and Antigone’s role starts to resemble that of a political leader with growing support. Antigone stood for gender empowerment through her physical activity and speech. Despite not having the power as a speaker then, because that belonged to men in this time period, she steps their physical realm to compensate for women’s loss of verbal powers. As a result we see Antigone’s power also create a change in Ismene’s position.

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A Picture Of Antigone In The Play. (2019, Aug 06). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-picture-of-antigone-in-the-play/