PostHeaderIcon Character in Greek Lit: Week 6

Our reading this week in our senior seminar was Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone. Our discussion leaders and summary writers are: Kirsis Concepcion, Selecia Dean and Kelly Hunnings.

Creon and Antigone are quickly established as obdurate characters in Sophocles’ Antigone.  Antigone, however, proves to be unwavering throughout the course of the play whereas Creon’s character fluctuates.  Despite being the title character, Antigone is not necessarily the center of the story.  The play is ultimately about the downfall of the king of Thebes.

Antigone decides to surpass the law and bury her brother Polynices.  By doing this she creates the central conflict of the play by asserting that she follows a law that is above the king.  Not concerned with problems of the state, Antigone does not follow man’s law, rather she receives instruction and guidance from divine powers.  This sets up an interesting problem, one that largely distinguishes Creon and Antigone from one another: Follow the law or show devotion for family?  Antigone’s decision to defy Creon’s order reveals a rebellious side to her character.  Sophocles allows the audience to feel sympathy for Antigone and provides moments in the play where the reader can commiserate.  For example, on page 39 (484), Antigone says, “It is in my nature to form ties of love not hate.”  Antigone possesses a kind of traditional feminine role.  She, like the standard woman of ancient Greece, is responsible for funeral rites and the preservation of the family.  Antigone chooses to follow the law of philia (love) instead of a law decreed by a man.  Creon is faced with similar choices as Antigone.  He, too, must make a choice between the state or his family.  Creon chooses the state, “for if I support relatives who are lawless, then truly I must do the same for others outside my family” (619). Antigone and Creon share many similarities, yet, because of their differing priorities they arrive at different endings.

Although death is ultimately the end for Antigone, it is a purposeful death.  That is, her method of suicide is symbolic because she permanently silences herself.  By doing this she deprives Creon of any redemption and thus guarantees his downfall.  Death and marriage are both ritualized events that are witnessed by family and friends.  Both serve as a transition from one place to another and death is the ritualized event is Antigone’s choice. Antigone is more concerned with individuality rather than the state. Thus this separates her from society and makes her an outcast. This puts Antigone’s character in a liminal space and the only way she can transfer out of that state is through death.

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