Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Antigone (an-TIHG-eh-nee), the daughter of Oedipus and sister of both Eteocles (who defends Thebes) and Polynices (an exile from the city who attacks it). After Eteocles and Polynices have killed each other in battle, Creon, Antigone’s uncle and now king of Thebes, decrees that Eteocles’ body shall be buried with honors befitting a national hero but that Polynices’ body shall be left unburied, a prey to scavengers. Divine law, Greek custom, and simple humanity demand, however, that Antigone see her brother buried; she must choose, therefore, between obedience to the temporal rule of Creon and the duty she owes to a brother she had loved. Although she knows that her fate will be death, she chooses to bury the body of her brother. She is undoubtedly strong-willed and defiant. Having been apprehended by the guards posted to prevent the burial, she replies to Creon’s wrathful accusations of treason with an equal ferocity. She emerges as immensely heroic, for she alone seems clearly to understand that the king’s law is inferior to divine law and that if sacrifice is required to follow the right, such sacrifice must be made. She is always aware of the glory of her deed and dies for love in the largest sense of the word, but her concurrent awareness of her youth and her loss of earthly love humanize her and make her a profoundly tragic figure.
(The entire section is 549 words.)
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