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    Gender Issues In Antigone Essay

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    Gender Issues in Antigone. One of the most devastating problems for the Classical Greeks was the issue of women. Women in Classical Greece were not citizens, did not hold any property, and were not allowed out of the house except under guard. Their status differed from that of the slaves of Greece only in name. This alone, however, was not the problem. The problem was that the Greeks knew in their hearts that this was wrong. Indeed, their playwrights continually harangued them about it from the stage of Athens.

    All of the great Greek playwrights, including Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, dealt with the issue of women. They argued, in various ways, that the women of Greece were not as weak and incapable as their culture believed. They created female characters of strength and intelligence. However, in Antigone,” the discussion reached its peak.

    Antigone herself, as she stands upon the Grecian stage, represents the highest ideals of human life: courage and respect for the gods. She is a woman, yet the exemplum for her society. How do we know this? Does the author inform the audience that Antigone, not Creon, the “noble-eyed imperator” (453), is to be believed? It is almost inconceivable that the audience would ignore Creon’s apparently skillful arguments, as he represents all that the Athenian should strive for. He stands for obedience to the State. Surely, we should obey his voice. However, Sophocles lets us know where the truth lies, partly through his characterization of Creon.

    Although Creon appears to say intelligent things, there are clues that he cannot be trusted. One such clue is his discussion of incest with Ismene. In the third act, Ismene is torn between her duty to God and her duty to the State. She runs to Creon, planning to inform him of Antigone’s actions in the graveyard: O, not for me the dusty hair of youth, / But let us now unto the palace go” (465), she cries. However, Creon ignores the supposedly important information she has to share. He has emptied the Theban coffers, spending money on his advanced spy network in search of the miscreant. Instead of listening to Ismene, he asks her to come home with him.

    How long, O Princess, how long!” he states, suggesting a time for their next meeting: “Upon the hour of noon, or not upon the hour of six.” To such a pass has the doomed line of Oedipus come. It is clearly his fault that Ismene throws herself into the sea outside Thrace. Of course, it is Ismene’s suicide that is the springboard for the rest of the action. She has shown herself to be all that Athenian society desires her to be: obedient, pretty, and sweet-tempered, but it is not enough.

    Obedience has gotten the state nowhere, and women nowhere. Outside the walls of the city, the dead are still being buried at an alarmingly fast rate, quicker than Creon can dig them up. Antigone solves the whole problem. Though she is pretty and dead at the end, she provides a clear example of what women can do when they are trusted with power, rather than kept at home. It is her newly formed women’s rights group, based on the Lysistratan model, which creates the only solution to the Theban problem.

    Although Antigone is already dead when the group devises their simple plan, her legacy informs their decision. Not upon the dead nor yet upon the living base thy worth” (521), cry the Theban women. With the creation of a new burial ground, neither within nor outside the city walls, they alone stop the civil war that threatens Thebes. Their ingenious solution provides a liminal space for the disgraced family of the late king Oedipus. In the final scene, the entire family joins Antigone, buried within the walls of Thebes, creating a physical metaphor of bonding and solidity. The traitor brother Polynices, the depressed sister Ismene, the political firebrand Antigone, joined with their uncle Creon and their hot-tempered cousin and his mother, are all together at last in harmony, united in the purpose of defending their beloved city against the Spartan onslaught, a sort of spiritual and physical mortar to the defensive structure. It is no wonder that Antigone, the prize winner of the Athenian festival in which it was performed, captured not only the prize but also the hearts of the Athenians.

    Clearly, they recognized themselves in the stage city of Thebes and recognized the importance of the message of the play and its relevance to their own situation. Indeed, without the movement that followed the production of the play, in which Athenian women were liberated from their near-slave status, Athens would most probably have lost the war with Sparta. Only the newly liberated women of Athens, bedecked with citizen status, manned the walls of Athens and kept the Spartans out in the last battle of the war, in a stirring reproduction of the end scene of Antigone, this time with live defenders rather than dead ones. The play provides us with a useful example of the importance of literature to society and an important message for our own time.

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    Gender Issues In Antigone Essay. (2018, Dec 31). Retrieved from

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