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Gender Issues in Sophocles’ Antigone

Gender Issues in Antigone

One of the most devastating problems for the Classical Greeks was the

women’s issue. Women in Classical Greece were not citizens, held no

property, and indeed were not even allowed out of the house except

under guard. Their status differed from that of the slaves of Greece

only in name. This alone, however was not a problem — the problem was

that the Greeks knew, in their hearts, that this was wrong. Indeed,

their playwrights harangued them about it from the stage of Athens

continually. All of the great Grecian playwrights — Sophocles,

Euripedes, Aristophenes — dealt with the women’s issue. All of them

argued, in their various ways, that the women of Greece were not nearly

as incapable and weak as the culture believed them to be. All of them

created female characters of strength and intelligence. But in

“Antigone,” the discussion reached its peak. Antigone herself, as she

stands upon the Grecian stage, represents the highest ideals of human

life — courage and resp! ect for the gods. A woman, she is

nevertheless the exemplum for her society. But how are we to know

this? Does the author let the audience know that it is Antigone

herself, not Creon, the “noble-eyed imperator” (453), who is to be

believed? It is almost inconceivable that the audience would be meant

to ignore Creon’s apparently skillful arguments, for he appears to

represent all that the Athenian should strive for. He stands for

obedience to the State. Surely it is his voice we should obey.

Sophocles does let us know where the truth lies, and he does this,

amazingly, partly through his characterization of Creon. Though Creon

seemingly says intelligent things, there are clues that he is not to be

trusted. One would be his discussion of incest with Ismene. Torn

between her duty to God and her duty to the State, Ismene, in the third

act, has run to Creon, planning to tell him of Antigone’s actions in

the graveyard: “O, not for me the dusty hair of youth, / But let us now

unto the palace go” (465), she cries. But Creon, ignoring the

supposedly important information she has to tell — he has, after all,

emptied the Theban coffers, spending money on his advanced spy network

in search of the miscreant — asks her, instead, to come home with

him. “How long, O Princess, O! How long!” he states, suggesting a

time for their next meeting: “Upon the hour of noon, or / Not upon the

hour of six.” To such a pass has the doomed line of Oedipus come.

moralant confant Conflicting Values in Sophocles’ Antigone

Conflicting Values in Antigone

In the play “Antigone” by Sophocles, Creon and Antigone have distinct and conflicting values. Creon’s regard for the laws of the city causes him to abandon all other beliefs. He feels that all should obey the laws set forth by him, even if other beliefs, moral or religious, state otherwise. Antigone, on the other hand, holds the beliefs of the gods in high reverence. She feels that the laws of the gods should be obeyed above all others, especially when in respect to family.

Creon has a very strong opinion about the laws of the city and the laws passed by him. His method of enforcing them is very strict. Creon orders that Polyneices will not be buried because of his dishonor towards Thebes. Furthermore, if anyone is caught burying him they will be killed for disobeying his order. Polonieces is Antigone’s brother. He is being punished because he attacked Thebes and betrayed Creon and the people of Thebes. Creon’s harsh punishment on those who disobey the law makes many fear him and dare not to go against him.

One example is Ismene’s regard for Creon’s laws. She tries to talk her sister out of burying her brother because of what could happen to her if Creon found out that she went against him. Ismene says “We must obey them…..I yield to those who have authority”(5). Not only do the people of Thebes obey the laws of the city because of their fear but because it is a shame to dishonor the king. To go against the kings claim and dishonor the law is to die a more shameful death then Antigone’s mother and father(59-60).

Antigone does not want to let her brother be left without a proper burial. Her belief is to show respect and love towards her brother she must bury him. Her beliefs in “The sacred laws that Heaven holds in honor” are far more important than those set by the king(Antigone 78). She feels that the king cannot override her belief in the gods.

Antigone feels very strongly about burying her brother against Creon’s orders. She refused to back down from her opinion even when confronted by the king and sentenced to death. Antigone reasoning is: “It was not Zeus who published this decree, Nor have the powers who rule among the dead Imposed such laws as this upon mankind; Nor could I think that a decree of yours- A man-could override the laws of Heaven Unwritten and unchanged”(450-455).

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