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In the historical times of Early Athens, where men predominantly ruled, women were still perceived as inferior people. However, Antigone illustrates many examples of feminism that made the play unique in its time: the relationship between the sisters Antigone and Ismene, Creon’s anti-feminist statements, and Antigone’s intrepid and courageous determination. In this essay, we will examine all aspects and elements of feminism in Antigone.
Ismene’s position on the patriarchal system
At the beginning of the plot of Antigone, it is clearly defined that Antigone and Ismene hold opposing beliefs about the role and place of women in the patriarchal system. Ismene states: “We must remember that we two are women, so not to fight with men; and that since we are subject to stronger power” (Sophocles 665). This statement clearly proves that Ismene believes that women should obey men and do whatever they say.
Creon as the embodiment of a misogynist
Sophocles portrays Creon as a fanatical king who disdains women, and this alludes to Creon’s downfall. When Creon states: “They must be women now. Now more free running.” (Sophocles 668), we begin to get acquainted with his convictions that women must obey men, and if they start acting on their own and independently of men, the city of Thebes will live in ruin. Creon further states: “I am no man and she the man instead” (Sophocles 58). This is an accurate indicator that Creon views men as being superior to women. The king then goes on to say: “I won’t be called weaker than womankind.” (Sophocles 70). This is an indication that he regards all women as feeble human beings. Creon is also a fanatic ruler since he claims: “Weaker than a woman!” (Sophocles 49). This proves the fact that the king believes that women are not more powerful or more intelligent than men. Creon is also quoted as saying: “not let myself be beaten by a woman. Better, if it must happen, that a man should overset me” (Sophocles 46). He also says, “The strongest iron, hardened in the fire, most often ends in scraps and shatterings” (Sophocles 38). This suggests that the most powerful woman will eventually succumb to men and end up with nothing.
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Feminist hints of Sophocles
In Antigone, Sophocles portrays individuals who adhere to feminist ideas, but he also punishes anyone who believes that women should be under male control. Creon, for example, believes that women should be obedient to men, and he is soon punished for his misogynistic stance. Creon notes: “May death come quick, bringing my final day!”. This demonstrates his consequences for his ideas about the role of women and the emotions he experiences after the death of his son and wife. Ismene is likewise punished because of Antigone’s actions, despite her assumption that men are the dominant gender. For this reason, Creon declares “he will execute them” (Sophocles 43). Ismene is similarly sentenced because she considers herself to “share the blame” and thinks she is “an accessory” (Sophocles 45).
The conflict between Creon and Antigone
Over the course of Antigone, the audience is presented with an eternal conflict of interest between a man (Creon) and a woman (Antigone). For Creon, it’s all about how to gain influence and what he recognizes as law. He also aims to maintain the power that men are above women. This is revealed when he states: “No woman rules me while I live.” (Sophocles 62). For Antigone, fate depends on the “unwritten laws” that have been promulgated by the gods and on what is ethically right. She is equally ambitious and ready to give her life for her beliefs. This is illustrated when she claims: “For me, the doer, death is best.” (Sophocles 37). It is also evident in her words: “And so, when strength runs out, I shall give over. (Sophocles 39).
Antigone as the embodiment of femininity
A lot of people would characterize a feminist as a person who promotes women’s rights, but I find that Antigone’s character goes beyond that description. As Antigone pronounces: “And if you think my acts are foolishness the foolishness may be in a fool’s eye.” (Sophocles 665), she demonstrates her feminist contempt for Creon by referring to him as a stupid man. This also reveals that Antigone does not admire Creon as a king and, by and large, a man. Antigone declares: “I have dared the crime of piety” (Sophocles 37). This statement might not reflect feminism, but it does reveal that the woman is brave in relation to the man. Finally, Antigone concludes by saying: “It is no shame to serve blood relatives” (Sophocles 60). This showcases her feminist rebellion when she buries her brother even though it is against the law.