It is true that life has infinite new things. In those, there are things, which cannot be counted or bought with money, that make people feel very precious and respectful. That is love. Love is mysterious in the heart. Love helps people become comfortable, happy, always approaching better personalities and the better future in life. Love is the foundation to be more stable and more attached to individuals in society. Love has many levels, but often when giving love, people look forward to responding. However, love is not always fair like that, some people give and do not receive anything back. Love in the drama play “Antigone” is that kind of love – love is traded by death. Specifically, Antigone exchanged her life against Creon for her brother, whom she loved, to be buried; or Haemon suicided for love with Antigone, his not-married-yet wife.
To begin with, what should be the priority is that the love of Antigone to his brother, Polyneices. According to “Death, Burial, and the Afterlife in Ancient Greece” written by Department of Greek and Roman Art that “Ancient literary sources emphasize the necessity of a proper burial and refer to the omission of burial rites as an insult to human dignity”. The Polyneices corpse that needs to be buried is as touching as a man in danger needs to be saved. Antigone follows the call of love. The love to his dead brother makes Antigone becoming strong. After the refusing of her sister- Ismene, she alone and decisively faces to Creon’s brutal, who threatens to bury anyone alive contrary to his orders: “…nor if you wanted/to act would I be glad to have you with me./ Be as you choose to be; but for myself/ I myself will bury him. It will be good/ to die so doing. I shall lie by his side,/loving him as he loved me; I shall be/ a criminal- but a religious one…” (Antigone 79-84).
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Antigone’s love is not just instinctive love. This passion is right and profound for an intelligent understanding. Every word she spoke has a theoretical basis, all of which start from a great principle – her love and her actions are in harmony with God, and humanity. Along with the strong personality, Antigone also expresses assertiveness in the way she deals with Creon. She is not scared or timid in her attitude like a criminal from Creon: “You there, that turn your eyes upon the ground,/do you confess or deny what you have done?” (Antigone 485-486) Inwardly, he thinks Antigone would ask for forgiveness because she does not know the order. Unfortunately, she responds very calmly without hesitation: “I knew it; of course I did. For it was public” (Antigone 492). Creon does not expect that after having fully acknowledged that Antigone had buried Polyneices as the guard told him, Antigone calmly asserts that she is fully conscious of her action.
Besides, Antigone’s words and arguments are forward-looking, steely, decisive, and regard death as one would expect: “…So for such as me, to face such a fate as this/ is pain that does not count. But if I dared to leave/ the dead man, my mother’s son, dead and unburied,/ that would have been real pain. The other is not./ Now, if you think me a fool to act like this,/ perhaps it is a fool that judges so” (Antigone 509-514). Antigone soul contains deep family affection. She lamented the pitfall of the Labdacids. She cries for her mother, cries for her father, cries for her brother, also cried for her own life. She is deeply aware of the terrible consequences of her acting that she would die, but she does not seem to have any regret. Death to her is just a reunion of the family in another world, where she can meet again her loved ones: “…But when I come/ to that other world my hope is strong/ that my coming will be welcome to my father,/ and dear to you, my mother, and dear to you,/ my brother deeply loved…” (Antigone 944-948). Undoubablely, Antigone’s death proves her beautiful and powerful love for her brother- Polyneices.
Equally important to consider is the love of Haemon to Antigone which is exchanged by his death. Haemon is known as a fiance of Antigone, and also Creon’s son. Haemon’s love for Antigone is mysterious and powerful for him to decide to commit suicide. His last words indeed touch to the readers’ heart: “…Never think that! She will not/ die by my side. But you will never again/ set eyes upon my face. Go then and rage/ with such of your friends as are willing to endure it…” (Antigone 821-824). It seems as the helplessness feeling to support that this will be the last time. As a fatherly loyalty with the desire to help his future-wife escape from captivity, he repeatedly points out his father’s weaknesses. Things people disagree but do not dare to say: “…the city mourns for this girl; they think she is dying/ most wrongly and most undeservedly/ of all womenkind, for the most glorious acts…” (Antigone 744-746). Haemon advises his father not to be overly presumptuous, but follow the will of the people, the soul in conscience, to promptly correct unflattering policies: “… You notice how bt streams in wintertime/ the trees that yield preserve their branches safely,/ but those that fight the tempest perish utterly./ The man who keeps the sheet of his sail tight/ and never slackens capsizes his boat/ and makes the rest of his trip keel uppermost…” (Antigone 765-770).
The more talking to his father, the higher effort he tries. Here shows the love for Antigone is honest because he tries to save Antigone’s life. However, his efforts are almost pointless because Creon takes his father’s rights and the king’s right to oppress Haemon. Not wanting to hear him tell the truth, Creon slanders and humiliates his son, who wishes to preserve his father’s honor on the path of truth: “Should we that are my age learn wisdom from young men such as he is?” (Antigone 781-782), or “Should the city tell me how I am to rule them?” (Antigone 790), or “Must I rule the land by someone else’s judgment rather than my own?” (Antigone 793-794), or “Your villain, to bandy words with your own father!” (Antigone 799), etc. Creon states all the words Haemon said are disrespectful, beyond the authorization of a son, and a citizen. More miserable, he attributes to him the motive just for women as Antigone. Under Creon’s dictatorial rule, Haemon fights hard for his liberty and Antigone’s as well. Plan failed, he eventually decides to choose suicide to be with his loved one. Similarly, Antigone and Haemon’s love is as intense as the love of Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, they live together and die together.
In reality, intense love, which can be exchanged with death, is almost rare because of many reasons. In today’s modern life, maybe love is not strong enough to someone can die for someone else because there are many other factors (such as physical condition, social status, job position, and more) that govern the relationship between two people. Maybe people become more selfish and care for themselves, so they do not easily give up their lives to someone else. It may also be due to the development of technology and society that there are more choices people can make. As an example, the article on theguardian.com, entitled “Love in the 21st Century” by Maureen Rice, the author states that “Love in the 21st century is both the same and different; reconfigure it for lives led by a different speed, but its power is undiminished, its grip on our hearts and record collections as strong as ever.” It shows love in the present society is not fierce and pure as a few centuries ago. However, looking back on ancient Greek society, people have no freedom of speech instead of adhering to whatever the king orders. Any revolution, condemnation, or rebellion against the king’s law is synonymous with death. Death is nearly the only option to show one’s loyalty or support to someone else.
Taking everything into consideration, “Antigone” is a tragedy play which profoundly relates to death and the meaning of death. Fears alternate with the acceptance of the character’s death as the events correspondingly unfold. Each character faces his/her death or the death of his/her loved ones. Death is a form of love. Antigone’s death is the respect, affection, support, and sacrifice for his brother. Haemon’s death is proof to the faithful love and courage to fight for authorities because of that love. As other tragedy plays, Antigone has an unhappy end that makes the reader think and perhaps painful. Death is inevitable, and its markable role in people’s lives is undeniable.