Table of Contents
The action takes place after the exile of Oedipus, king of Thebes. His son Eteocles seizes the reins. Eteocles’ brother, Polynices, is against this, and they initiate a civil war for the title, where both are killed. After the brothers’ demise, the throne passes to their uncle Creon. As king, Creon considers it proper to honor Eteocles, the legitimate heir to the crown, and to publicly disgrace the renegade Polynices. Creon orders Polynices’ body to be left unburied on the battleground for vultures and worms to devour. Antigone, the protagonist of the play, is against this. She sets out to give her brother Polynices a proper burial. Antigone’s ambition creates a conflict between her and the king, Creon.
The unfolding conflict between Antigone and Creon
Both Antigone and Creon have duties to their family and the government. Polynices, Antigone’s brother and Creon’s nephew, traitors the country by competing with his brother for the crown. Antigone decides to be loyal to her family and neglect her responsibilities as a citizen. In contrast, Creon opts for duty to the state over his family. Creon decides that everybody should abandon Polynices’ body to lie unburied on the warfield, as food for vultures and maggots. Creon motivates his action by Polynices’ rebellion against the government’s laws. He states: “There is nothing worse than disobedience to authority”. The king’s duty to the country makes him forget his commitment to his family and results in his jailing his niece Antigone when she resists his commands. Against the king’s instructions, Antigone continues to bury her brother Polynices. Her faithfulness to her family and divine principles comes into conflict with the state’s regulations. She is supposed to follow the government’s rules as a civilian, but she refuses to do so. The king made it explicit that no one must place a friend above the country, for the person will be cursed. Antigone disobeys this and forces the king to place her in a prisoner’s tomb. Antigone is extremely loyal to her family. She demonstrates this by her decision to bury her brother Polynices, disregarding the king’s commands. In contrast, Creon follows his civic duty by maintaining the state’s status. As a king beholden to his country, Creon executes the traitor Polynices, revealing what will happen to state betrayers.
The way Antigone and Creon defend their motives and the tragic ending of the conflict
Antigone explains her rebellion against the law by realizing her obligation to her family and the power of divine forces. She urges Polynices to be buried to fulfill her commitment to her family and the gods. She claims that her motives are to honor “those that are dead.” Likewise, Creon defends his decision to keep Polynices’ body unburied by emphasizing the significance of following state rules. He argues: “There is nothing worse than disobedience to an authority.” He believes that the government has to be above the family. Antigone and Creon do not come to an agreement. The drama turns out to be tragic: Antigone dies, and Creon is left alone with the deceased people in his family. Antigone and Creon could have resolved this conflict by respecting each other’s views, harmonizing their duties to the country and family, and curbing their haughty arrogance.
We can do it today.
Aristotle’s use of tragedy features in Antigone
Aristotle described the hero of a tragedy as someone who arouses feelings of dread or compassion in the public. Aristotle explained a number of features of the drama’s purpose. Among them is the reversal of the heroes’ fate from positive to negative, not vice versa. He equally determined that the hero must be ethically flawless and honorable, meaning that the hero’s shortcomings must lead to his death. These features are manifested in the play Antigone. The finale of Antigone in the play coincides with Aristotle’s description of a tragic hero, but we cannot regard her as such, since her destiny is foreseeable from the distinct beginning. In Creon’s story, his fortune shifts from positive to negative, and his shortcomings lead to his downfall. After all, he has a conversation with the prophet Teiresias and resolves to correct his mistake by releasing Antigone from the tomb where he has confined her. Deplorably, when he reaches the tomb, he discovers Antigone deceased. Creon’s son, Hemon, commits suicide upon finding out about Antigone’s death. These developments effectively captivate the viewers’ feelings and shatter their expectations of happiness. The audience condolences Creon’s misery. Therefore, this establishes Creon as the tragic hero of the play.
The deeper meaning of Antigone’s tragedy
The deeds of both Antigone and Creon are reasonable. Creon is vindicated by the fact that he defends the morality of the country and penalizes betrayers. His ambiguous act of keeping Polynices unburied hurts Antigone’s personal feelings, because she is his sister. This explains Antigone’s action, as she desperately wants to bury her brother with dignity. Antigone and Creon’s self-importance and bigotry cause them both to be losers. If they had put aside their pride, their story might have turned out otherwise.