Antigone Themes


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Themes are central to the play Antigone. There are many recurring themes throughout the story ranging from Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty to Fate vs. Free Will. Take a look how others formulate and defend their themes in essays written by students.

Antigone Themes

Blindness vs. Sight


In Oedipus Rex, Oedipus mocks the blindness of the seer Tiresias, who responds by telling Oedipus that he (Oedipus) is blind to the corruption in his own life, and soon will be literally blind, too. Issues of blindness and sight aren't quite as obvious in Antigone, but the same basic tension is there. Tiresias gives the current king, Creon, a warning, and the king is unable to see the wisdom of the wisdom of the seer's words



Natural Law


Creon, as head of state and lawgiver in Thebes, believes in obedience to man-made laws. But in defying Creon's command that no one bury Polynices, Antigone appeals to a different set of guidelines—what is often called "natural law." Whether its source is in nature or in divine order, natural law states that there are standards for right and wrong that are more fundamental and universal than the laws of any particular society.



Citizenship vs. Family Loyalty


The concept of citizenship and the duties that citizens owe to the state were subjects of huge importance and debate in fifth-century B.C.E. Athens, where Sophocles lived and where Antigone was first performed. Antigone and Creon represent the extreme opposite political views regarding where a citizen of a city should place his or her loyalties. In the play, Creon has a strict definition of citizenship that calls for the state to come first.



Civil Disobedience


Creon says that the laws enacted by the leader of the city "must be obeyed, large and small, / right and wrong." In other words, Creon is arguing that the law is the basis for justice, so there can be no such thing as an unjust law. Antigone, on the other hand, believes that there are unjust laws, and that she has a moral duty to disobey a law that contradicts what she thinks



Fate vs. Free Will


The ancient Greeks believed that their gods could see the future, and that certain people could access this information. Independent prophets called "seers" saw visions of things to come. Oracles, priests who resided at the temples of gods—such as the oracle to Apollo at Delphi—were also believed to be able to interpret the gods' visions and give prophecies to people who sought to know the future. Oracles were an accepted part of Greek life



Antigone Themes

Antigone Themes

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The main theme for Antigone


The main theme for Antigone is that people sometimes have to learn the hard way from their mistakes. This theme is expressed in the final four lines of the play. They read, There is no happiness where there is no wisdom; No wisdom but in submission to the gods. Big words are always punished, And proud men in old age learn to be wise. These lines are an important part of the play. They symbolize Creon’s bad decisions, his defiance of the gods, the punishment he went through because of his edict, and the wisdom he gained because of all his mistakes.

There s no happiness where there is no wisdom” demonstrates how Creon not using wisdom in his decisions affected him. By declaring that Polyneices could not have a proper burial, he went against the gods and the other citizens of Thebes’s beliefs. This was not a wise decision on his part, and because of it he lost his wife, his son, and his happiness. This is what is expressed in the line, “No wisdom but in submission to the gods. ” The edict and decisions that Creon made demonstrated that his law was more important than the laws of the gods . His defiance of the laws eventually made him believe, by talking to
Teirisias, that something bad would happen to him, so he gave in to his decision. When he gave into the gods he gained wisdom and learned that his actions would be punished. Creons edict is considered his big words. In the third line it says, “Big words are always punished. ” Creons edict was punished by his loss of happiness. In Ancient Greece, life was full of complicated questions centered on the expanding Field of science. Freedom of religion was encouraged to be exercised in the city-states and man was focused on more than the Gods or heavenly concerns.

As a result many new ideals and beliefs surfaced. These new ideals and beliefs, though good in intentions, often conflicted with One another and created complex moral dilemmas. Such was the case in Sophocle’s play . According to Richard Jebb, “It is the only instance in which a Greek play has for its central theme a practical problem of conduct, involving issues, moral and political, which might be discussed on similar grounds in any age and in any country of the world. ” Perhaps personal experience is the reason why so many people can relate to this story.
After all, the theme of the tory is personal conflict, with two stubborn people at a standstill because of their unwillingness to compromise. The conflict between the laws of the gods and those of the humans, with Antigone and Creon representing the opposite sides. Sophocles paints these two title characters are remarkably similar, and he invokes the readers’ sympathy toward them both. However, it is Creon, and not Antigone, who is the “hero” of the story, because his character suffers a tragic downfall.

The primary conflict arises when Creon declares that no one be allowed to bury the body of Polynices, one of Antigone’s brothers who was slain in battle. Antigone, who cares for her brother very much, wants to see him properly laid to rest, so that his spirit can find peace. Unfortunately, doing so will mean certain death, as Creon’s orders are not to be disobeyed. Antigone believes that Creon’s law is wrong, and that Polynices, although a traitor to the city of Thebes, should be buried. She finds it immoral of Creon to forbid such an action.
While trying to convince her sister Ismene to help bury him, Antigone says, “The time in which I must please those that are dead is longer than I must please those of this world. For there I shall lie orever. ” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) Creon, on the other hand, is a new king who wants to make sure he becomes a respected and somewhat feared ruler. He does not want to begin his reign by issuing a decree and then rescinding it the moment a conflict arises. There are many similarities between Creon and Antigone. Perhaps the most common characteristic is that both characters are very stubborn.

Neither one can back down once the lines have been drawn, even though it means certain destruction. While questioning Antigone about the burial, Creon asks, “And did you dare to disobey that law? To which Antigone answers “yes. ” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) This naturally infuriates Creon to the point where he says, “I swear I am no man and she the man if she can win this and not pay for it. ” (Sophocles, “Antigone” ) Both sides are committed to their own reasoning, and are unable to listen to other points of view. Sophocles sympathizes with both Creon and Antigone.
However, the play is more directed at Creon’s woes than Antigone’s. This is mainly shown by the amount of lines devoted to Creon compared to that of Antigone so his problems are the most magnified. It seems as though Antigone is simply the last tragedy to Oedipus’ tale, while Creon and his family are an entirely different one. Therefore, not as much attention is devoted to Antigone’s problems, while Sophocles instead makes the reader focus on Creon. This is again demonstrated by the sheer amount of lines Creon has.

It is impossible for the reader to ignore Creon’s problems. The emotional climax of the readers’ sympathy towards Creon is when the second messenger tells him what had happened right before Eurydice’s (his wife) death. Eurydice had, “cried in agony ecalling the noble fate of Megareus, who died before all this, and then for the fate of this son; and in the end she cursed [Creon] for the evil [Creon] had done in killing her sons. ” (Sophocles, Antigone ) This bestowed all guilt upon Creon, making him responsible for actions in which he ignorantly played a part.
Creon shows many heroic characteristics. A hero is a person who must survive many downfalls, and Creon has suffered many setbacks. To Aristotle, a hero is a “man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous… ” Creon meets all of these requirements. He is obviously not entirely good or just, and he does make mistakes. His greatest error is issuing the decree forbidding anyone from giving Polynices a proper funeral.

However, he does not do this entirely out of spite or anger, but instead to protect his country. Creon is of the belief that laws are necessary to retain order, even if this means going against ones family. Creon regards the family almost exclusively in one aspect; for him it is an institution related to the state as the gymnasium o the stadium; it is a little state, in which a man may prove that he is fit to govern a larger one. ” Even though Antigone is his niece, he must rule with an iron hand, and therefore cannot allow her to “escape the utmost sentence: death. (Sophocles, “Antigone” ).
As a hero, Creon suffers a tragic downfall. It does not appear that Antigone suffers as much as Creon, because Sophocles had decided to portray Creon as the hero instead of Antigone. James Hogan asks three questions to determine who is the hero: Who is the main character? Who dominates the action? Whose suffering is the primary subject? The answer to all three of these is Creon. Creon is obviously the main character because all events seem to revolve around him.

William Calder has pointed out that “Sophocles wrote no Haimon-Antigone scene… uch a scene would have shifted the emphasis of the whole from the figure whom Sophocles intended to be central: hence a Haimon-Creon scene. ” Calder also gives evidence as to how Creon dominates the entire play. Finally, Creon’s suffering is the primary subject because Sophocles explains Creon’s anguish in great detail. Creon, after finding out Eurydice is dead, exclaims, “I am distracted with ear. Why does not someone strike a two-edged sword right through me? I am dissolved in an agony of misery. (Sophocles, “Antigone” )
This suffering is the price Creon has to pay for making the wrong decision. Prior to his revelation that Teiresias provided him with, he had erroneously decided that moral laws were not as important as his own laws, and consequently suffered greatly. To Creon, protecting his country comes before anything else. According to Creon, Polynices is, “a returned exile, who sought to burn with fire from top to bottom his native city, nd the gods of his own people; who sought to taste the blood he shared with us, and lead the rest of us to slavery. (Sophocles, “Antigone” )

Polynices is a traitor who deserves none of the respect the people of Thebes have to give. Creon’s decree is simply an error of judgment, but it is perfectly understandable for him to do so. “An Athenian strategos is time of war held extraordinary judicial power and could put to death without trial any man under his command whose conduct he considered treasonous,” according to Calder. After all, Creon is the king, and the laws that he makes are meant to be obeyed. Even if they are of questionable moral judgment.

It is Creon’s interactions with Antigone that show the central issue: the conflict between moral laws and human laws. In the end, moral law supersedes human law, and Creon suffers as a result. Creon’s tragic suffering is what turns him into the hero. Sophocles thereby forces the reader to feel sympathy toward him. While feeling this sympathy, the reader also learns not to make the same mistakes Creon did, to avoid being stubborn and unwilling to compromise. Those characteristics have been shown to signify great suffering and destruction.

Antigone Themes

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