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Mythology In and Around Sophocles’ Antigone

How extensive and deep are the mythological roots in the Greek Sophoclean tragedy Antigone? Research indicates that both within the drama and around it there are numerous mythological influences.

The use of mythological elements in Greek tragedy is very compatible with the Greeks’ sense of history surrounding a drama. Martin Heidegger in “The Ode on Man in Sophocles’ Antigone” comments on the Greek audience’s sense of history and a drama:

Polis means, rather, the place, the there, wherein and as which historical being-there is. The polis is the historical place, the there in which, out of which, and for which history happens. To this place and scene of history belong the gods, the temples, the priests, the festivals, the games, the poets, the thinkers, the ruler, the council of elders, the assembly of the people, the army and the fleet. All this does not first belong to the polis, does not become political by entering into a relation with a statesman and a general and the business of the state. No, it is political, vile. at the site of history. . . . (91).

C. M. Bowra in “Sophocles’ Use of Mythology” gives the rationale behind the Attic dramatists’ preference for myths in their plays:

Myth provided the framework of drama, which illustrated in a highly concrete and cogent way some important crisis or problem, and that is why Greek tragedy can be called symbolical. The old stories are indeed told again for their own sake, and there is no lack of dramatic tension and human interest, but they also exemplify some far-reaching problem, which is admirably presented in this individual shape (31).

Antigone, the drama, begins with the main woman character and protagonist, Antigone, inviting Ismen…

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…l Themes.” In Readings on Sophocles, edited by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1997.

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. Translated by R. C. Jebb. The Internet Classic Archive. no pag.

http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/antigone.html

“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.

Woodard, Thomas. Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Antigone – The Tragic Flaw

Antigone – The Tragic Flaw

Antigone, Sophocles’ classical Greek tragedy, presents tragic flaw as the cause of the destruction of Creon, the king of Thebes. This essay examines that flaw and the critical perspective on it.

Robert D. Murray, Jr. in “Thought and Structure in Sophoclean Tragedy” gives the perspective of the Greek audience, and thereby the reason why there has to be a tragic flaw in Sophoclean tragedy: “A Greek of the fifth century would, of course, have felt. . . . that moral instruction was a vital and valuable function of tragic drama, in particular, and that the voice of the poet was the voice of morality and wisdom as well as of beauty” (23).

In Antigone the new king, Creon, brings down the wrath of the gods because he does not possess the virtues of humility and respect for the gods. Supporting this view is Herbert J. Muller, who in his essay “How Sophocles Viewed and Portrayed the Gods,” maintains that Sophocles in his tragedies condemns selfish or tyrannical pride as the tragic flaw in his heroes: “He [Sophocles] does not plainly condemn their pride unless, as in the Creon of Antigone, it is purely selfish or tyrannical” (56). E. R. Dodds says: “I shall take Aristotle as my starting point. . . . From the thirteenth chapter of the Poetics we learn that the best sort of tragic hero is a man highly esteemed and prosperous who falls into misfortune because of some serious hamartia. . . .” (18-19). Abrams states that the hamartia or tragic flaw is sometimes the vice called hubris (322).

Antigone, the drama, begins with the main woman character and protagonist, Antigone, inviting Ismene outside the palace doors to tell her privately: “What, hath not Creon destin…

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…Tragedy.” In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

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. Translated by R. C. Jebb. The Internet Classic Archive. no pag.

http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/antigone.html

“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.

Woodard, Thomas. Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

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