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A Feminist Reading of Sophocles’ Antigone

While researchers disagree over when the feminist movement began, most agree that it was sometime in the past two centuries. The feminist movement has generally, and often successfully, sought equality between sexes. For example, the womens’ movement has won women the right to vote, moved women “out of the kitchen,” and, in many ways, made women socioeconomically competitive with men. Nonetheless, all such gains, and the womens’ (or feminist) movement itself are largely products of the last 200 years. However, women who are feminists per se have been around much longer. One example of a classic feminist could be Antigone, a fictional woman written of by Sophocles in the fifth century before Christ. In some ways, Antigone even shows some characteristics of a modern feminist.

Antigone first demonstrates feminist logic when she chooses to challenge a powerful male establishment. This establishment, personified by her uncle Creon, has a whole army to defend it, and it is usually challenged by whole city-state like Argos, not one lone “fire-eating” woman (3) and her bumbling sister. The challenge occurs as both a defiance of Creon’s laws in Antigone’s burying Polynices and as a direct verbal assault on Creon himself. Antigone tells Creon bluntly while he questions her,

Sorry, who made this edict? Was it God?

Isn’t a man’s right to burial decreed

By divine justice? I don’t consider your

Pronouncements so important that they can

Just . . . overrule the unwritten laws of heaven. [ellipses original]

You are a man, remember. . . .

I dare say you think I’m being silly.

Perhaps you’re not so very wise yourself. (12) [ellipses added]

The last three lines suggest Antigone’s feminist stance: she almost calls Creon a…

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…erms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

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Segal, Charles Paul. “Sophocles’ Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone.” In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Sophocles. Antigone, Trans. by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. Adventures in Appreciation/Pegasus Edition. Orlando: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Publishers, 1989.

“Sophocles” In Literature of the Western World, edited by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. NewYork: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.

Watling, E. F.. Introduction. In Sophocles: The Theban Plays, translated by E. F. Watling. New York: Penguin Books, 1974.

Comparing Culture in Everyday Use, A

Culture in Everyday Use, A

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