Antigone And CreonIssue of male authority and challenges to that authority in the play “Antigone”. In the play “Antigone” by Sophocles, Creon and Antigone have distinctconflicting values.
Antigone first demonstrates feminist logic when she choosesto challenge a powerful male establishment. This establishment is personified byher uncle Creon, who is newly crowned as the King of Thebes. Creon poses to be amajor authority figure in a patriarchal society. Creon’s regard for the laws ofthe city causes him to abandon all other beliefs.
He feels that all should obeythe laws set forth by him, even if other beliefs, moral or religious, stateotherwise. Antigone, on the other hand, holds the beliefs of the gods in highreverence. She feels that the laws of the gods should be obeyed above allothers, especially when in respect to family. The bold, tradition-brakingcharacter of Antigone clearly clashed with the overpowering patriarchaldominance of Creon. This collision between characters gives rise to the conflictbetween the sexes in Sophocles’ “Antigone. ” The denial of burial toPolynices strikes directly at her family loyalty.
This enormous sense of loyaltyleads to her simultaneous violation and observance to the duty of women of thetime. It is precisely this loyalty that makes her an active rather than a staticfigure. Antigone herself represents the highest ideals of human life — courageand respect for the gods. She believed that the law of the gods, which dictatesthat a body be given proper burial rights, was more important than the law ofthe King. Throughout the play, Antigone amazingly retains the traditional roleof women, while at the same time boldly challenges this depiction.
The challengeoccurs as both a defiance of Creon’s laws in Antigone’s burying Polynices and asa direct verbal assault on Creon himself. Creon becomes angry that a womanquestions his sovereignty and condemns her to death even though she was thedaughter of his sister, Jocasta. Creon believes that if he does not followthrough on his word the people of Thebes will not respect his authority as king. Thus Creon’s patriotic values clash with Antigone’s ethical values to makeconflicting roles. Creon, being a new king, wants to prove his abilities as afirm and strong administrator.
Creon wants to be respected and feared as a kingbecause this will prove him to be the ultimate authorative figure in Thebes. Hestands for obedience to the State. Surely it is his voice the townspeople shouldobey. Creon abuses his power to force others to accept his point of view.
Thisextreme dominance conflicts head-on with Antigone’s bold unwomanly challenge toCreon’s authority. Creon made many convictions insulting womenkind. Hisconvictions seemed true a large population of men. He uses her to set an examplefor the entire city of Thebes, for Antigone is the first person to everdeliberately disobey Creon’s order not the bury her late brother, who has beendeclared a traitor of the city. “Imagine it: I caught her naked rebellion,/the traitor, the only one in the whole city. / I’m not about to prove myself aliar,/ not to my people, no, I’m going to kill her!”( 94,ll.
731-734). Creonrefuses to compromise or humble himself before others especially women. Hestates ” Better to fall from power, if fall we must,/at the hands of aman-never to rated/ inferior to a woman, never” (94, ll. 759-761 ).
Antigone does not give Creon additional respect either because he is a man in apatriarchal society or because he is king. In such way, she argues an equalityof the sexes, as well as equality under God. In the prologue, Antigone tellsIsmene that she will take action pertaining to their brother, whether or notIsmene agrees . Antigone, persuades her to help bury their brother, “He ismy brother and-deny it as you will-/ your brother too(61, ll.
55-56). ” Thetwo sisters argue, but in the end their differences in opinions stand out. Ismene being too weak is afraid to defy the king. On the other hand, Antigone isbrave enough to go ahead with her decision. Even without her sister’s help, sheis willing to risk her life to give her brother what he deserves and what thegods say should be done, despite Creon’s edict. Thus unlike her sister, Ismenerefuses to challenge the male authority, even if it means to not fulfill herduties as a sister.
Ismene states: “Remember we are women,/ we’re not bornto contend with men. Then too,/ we’re underlings, ruled by much stronger hands,/so we must submit in this, and things still worse” (62, ll. 74-77). Thesewords stated by Ismene, express her extreme fear for and subordination to man. Her view of the inferiority to men came from the many laws restricting the livesof women. After Antigone carries out the deed, Ismene now feels responsible todie with Antigone.
This sense of responsibility is probably the result ofAntigone’s earlier pleas for help and Ismene’s fear of being without any family. When speaking to his son, Haemon, about his fianc?e’s act, Creon stronglyemphasizes the important relationship and obligation of a man to his fatherrather than to his wife. Moreover, he emphasizes the importance of males indecision making by stating, ” Oh Haemon, never loose your sense of judgementover a woman” (93, l. 723). Haemon’s defiance to his father lead Creon toproclaim him a “woman’s slave,” a man who is unfortunately sided witha woman. According to Creon, this act was close to committing a sin.
HadAntigone been born the son of Oedipus, rather than his daughter, it would not behis place to decide, as his crown would rest upon Antigone’s head. And even ifCreon were king, and Antigone a male, her opinion on the matter of Polynices’burial would likely have been taken more into his consideration. Antigone’sgender made her situation even more difficult than it already was, as the Kingtotally disregarded Antigone’s judgement over the matter. In conclusion,Antigone in Sopocles’s Antigone demonstrates feminist thoughts in several ways. She first challenges a powerful male establishment headed by her own uncle. Creon is devoted to his laws, while Antigone is loyal to her beliefs.
Antigoneas a woman acting out of obligation and duty, to the gods, her family and herconscience is the exemplum for her society. Antigone did not run from her deathsentence suggest an inherent bravery and obstinacy which the chorus recognizesbefore her departure to her death. Her legacy will live on, and inspire manyother rebels to stand up for their beliefs. Antigone’s strong feminist stance indefying a patriarchal tyrant shows how individualistic ideas and actions can bevery effectual.
BibliographySophocles, “Antigone”. The Three Theban Plays. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York.
Penguin Group. 1982. 58-128.