Friday, July 13, 2012

Antigone: Was it fate or did Creon and Antigone create their own tragedies?

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Look Before You Leap Antigone

The play Antigone has many twists to its story plot. One would believe Antigone, being a daughter of Oedipus, has a certain fate on her life that was already put forth by the gods. After reading the play, I believe that she had something to do with what happened to her, that she created her own tragedy. Creon, making the choices he did, also created his own tragedies. What happens in life has consequences. By the time Creon thought about his actions, it was too late. The tragedies had already started. Creon’s results were unexpected and hurtful to many. Both Antigone and Creon made choices that were going to have an impact on what was to come. They may have made moral or immoral choices, but they still had an action that followed them, whether good or bad.

At the onset of the play Antigone tells her sister, Ismene, about their two “own brother’s burial” (line 6). One brother, “Eteocles…has been given full military honors, rightly so - Creon’s laid him in the earth and he goes with glory down among the dead. But the body of Polynices, who died miserably - why, a city-wide proclamation, rumor has it, forbids anyone to bury him, even mourn him. He’s to be unwept, unburied, a lovely treasure for birds that scan the field and feast to their heart’s content” (lines 8-6). By that, we know what is going on and what is not to be done. Antigone, hearing of Creon’s orders of “whoever disobeys in the least will die, his doom is sealed stoning to death inside the city walls,” (lines 41-4) still wants to give her brother the burial he deserves. Antigone knows what will happen if a burial is placed for her brother,


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Polynices. Antigone then asks her sister for help with burying Polynices. Ismene asks in line 5, “you’d bury him - when a law forbids the city?” Antigone answers, “Yes! He is my brother and…no one will ever convict me for a traitor…he [Creon] has no right to keep me from my own” (lines 55, 56, 5). Ismene reminds Antigone of their fathers’ and mothers’ death and now both brothers, and tells her to think about what she is saying. Ismene says, “now look at the two of us, left so alone…think what a death we’ll die, the worst of all if we violate the laws and override the fixed decree of the throne, its power - we must be sensible” (lines 70-74). Antigone’s hamartia begins with her stubbornness stating, “I’ll bury him myself. And even if I die in the act, that death will be a glory” (line 85-86). Time after time, it is clearly stated by Antigone that she creates her own tragedy. She tells Ismene, “you choose to live, I chose to die. . . Live your life. I gave myself to death, long ago, so I might serve the dead” (line 66, 61). She gladly accepts death for the burial of her brother commenting, “O tomb, my bridal-bed � my house, my prison cut in the hollow rock, my everlasting watch! I’ll soon be there, soon embrace my own” (line 78-81).

Creon, mentioning in line 1 that he now “posses[es] the throne and all its powers” after the death of Polynices, made the decision to have his own nephew, Antigones brother, unburied. This was Creon’s hamartia leading to the tragedies that follow him. Upon finding out that Antigone was the one who buried Polynices, Creon proclaims Antigones sentence stating, death will do it for me - break [Haemon and Antigones] marriage off (line 647). This would inevitably cause confrontation between father and son. Creon outwardly admits to his son in lines 71-4, “Imagine it I caught


her in naked rebellion, the traitor, the only one in the whole city, I’m not about to prove myself a liar, not to my people, no, I’m going to kill her!” In lines 777-78, Haemon warns his father that he goes against the sentiment of the citizens of Thebes about what Antigone did saying, “No woman, they say, ever deserved death less, and such a brutal death for such a glorious action. She, with her own dear brother lying in his blood - she couldn’t bear to leave him dead, unburied, food for the wild dogs or wheeling vultures. Death? She deserves a glowing crown of gold!” Creon, surprised by his son’s lecture, demonstrates his arrogance and lashes out saying, “Am I to rule this land for others - or myself?. . . The city is the king’s - that’s the law” (lines 8, 85). It is demonstrated in these passages that despite the tragedies that may come from Creon’s decision, he persists with his death sentence for Antigone.

Further warnings will come to the attention of Creon with Tiresias’ visit. Tiresias prophecies, “you are poised once more, on the razor-edge of fate” (line 10-1100). This is stating that Creon has two different choices to make and one may cause turmoil while the other brings sanctity. Tiresias warns that the continuation of Creon’s decision to bring Antigone to death is a, “high resolve that sets [a] plague on Thebes. The public altars and sacred hearths are fouled” (lines 11-5). Although troubled with Tiresias’ warnings, Creon’s arrogance and stubbornness continues when he tells Tiresias, “You’ll never bury that body in the grave, not even if Zeus’s eagles rip the corpse and with their rotten pickings off to the throne of gods” (lines 1151-5). Angered and offended by Creon’s blasphemy, Tiresias states, “you have no business with the dead, nor do the gods above - this is violence you have forced upon the heavens” (lines 111-). Tiresias

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strictly cautions him that, “the chariot of the sun will not race through so many circuits more, before you have surrendered one born of your own loins, your own flesh and blood, a corpse for corpses given in return” (lines 1181-8). Clearly, Creon is told that his course of actions would lead to a death of his offspring. By the time Creon comes to the realization that he ought to change Antigone’s sentence, he does not want to crush his pride. Once he has overcome his pride, his actions are too late since Antigone has taken her own life within the cave. In anger, Haemon lashes out at his father for the death of his future wife. This is where the tragedy comes to its climax as the messenger states in line 14, “dead, dead - and the living are guilty of their death!“ Haemon’s life is taken by, “his own. . . raging mad with his father for the death [of Antigone]” (line 17-8). Eurydice, Creon’s wife, hearing of the message, being struck with grief, takes her own life noting in her last breath, “torments on [Creon’s] head - you killed [my] sons” (line 141).

Antigone and Creon knew what was going to happen before it occurred thus creating their own tragedies. Antigone’s stubbornness wanting to give her brother the proper burial caused her own demise. Creon, sentencing Antigone’s brutal punishment, caused disgust from his son. Therefore, Haemon, being outraged by Creon’s plan, attacks his moral and physical character causing the prophecy that Tiresias foresaw to become a reality. Creon, already anguished by Haemon’s death, comes home to hear of Eurydice’s death cursing Creon for the tragedies he has created.

Works Cited

Barnet, Sylvan, William Burto, William E. Cain. An Introduction to Literature,

Thirteenth edition Sophocles, Antigone. New York Pearson Education, 004.

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