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The German philosopher Hegel stated that Antigone represents the tragic collision of...

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candyluver | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 11, 2012 at 10:49 AM via web

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The German philosopher Hegel stated that Antigone represents the tragic collision of right against right, with both sieds equally justified. Discuss the moral positions of Antigone and Creon, which validate Hegel's assessment of this tragedy.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 11, 2012 at 7:20 PM (Answer #1)

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In many ways, Hegel is probably accurate in his casting of the drama as "good vs. good."  I think that the fundamental issue that comes out of the work is the basic definition of what it means to place value on beliefs in a heterogeneous social order.  It would be easier if the battle was between "good vs. bad," but where Hegel, and Sophocles, found tension and true tragedy was in the action of having to choose between two equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action.  Prior to Creon's own renouncement of his stubbornness, there is an agonizing choice to be made.  On one hand, there is Creon with the word of the law as representing justice.  On the other hand, Antigone presents her conception of justice as transcending the law.  Both carry significant implications that have to cause some level of pause within the reader/ audience.  If we validate Creon as being right, then it speaks to the absolute certainty of the political and social order, an order of individuals as carrying transcendent quality to it.  If we validate Antigone, then it speaks to the idea that anyone is able to raise question to this system, and bring doubt into a realm where certainty is needed.  At the same time, if we validate both characters, we also sanction the pain caused to those who have the unfortunate distinction of being in love with them.  These characters become collateral damage in the tragic drama between two competing notions of the good.  It is here where tragedy is evident.  For this reason, I would have to see Hegel's view as one consistent with Classical tragedy, forcing agony and pain out of choice, and being the direct purpose of Sophocles in the construction of the drama.

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rishakespeare | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 11, 2012 at 11:18 AM (Answer #2)

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I do agree.  As a context, let's consider both the author and Greek society at the time of the play.  Sophocles was a deeply religious man who held firm to the belief that the "modern" thinking of many philosophers, one in which man was slowly become a course of study, rather than a belief in the Gods as the center of the universe, was wrong. Antigone, in this sense, is more the voice of the author.  She argues that man can never usurp the Gods in importance, whereas Creon represents the view that the "polis," or society was of premiere importance.  Creon argues that there must be law and order, despite what we think the Gods are telling us about morality and common decency.  In essence, he believes that we honor the Gods more by keeping peace within the polis, even if such peace requires harsh measures.  Antigone reminds us that, even as we serve each other, we must never lose our grip on the most basic moral lessons taught from the past.

The audience was probably a good mix of the "old school" and "new school" of thinking, with many people siding with one or the other, and not exclusively with one.  The chorus even states clearly that both sides have good arguments.  Other characters eventually convince creon that he has crossed a line, but we are not told that maintaining discipline and order are bad goals, only that we should not mistake ourselves as supreme arbiters of right and wrong, as creon does in the end.

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