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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Antigone, the daughter of Jocasta (sister of Creon) and daughter/half-sister of Oedipus (Jocasta's son/husband, King of Thebes), is a strong-willed young woman who decides to bury her brother Polyneices against the edict of her uncle Creon, the new king. Following what she calls "unwritten law," Antigone buries her brother and performs the rituals of the dead. Creon, upon discovering her guilt, sentences her to die by being buried alive. When Creon goes to free Antigone from her early grave on the advice of Teiresias, he finds she's already hung herself, and his son, Haemon, her fiancé, commits suicide to join her in death. Antigone is a representative of allegiance to family and tradition. By defying Creon's edict, she is showing her faith and sense of duty to her family. She personifies the belief that family and human relations should be placed above politics.
Antigone is committed to her ideals. When her sister Ismene refuses to help her bury their brother, she ends their relationship, and, when caught, she refuses to let Ismene share the punishment. When Creon tells her that she dishonors her dead brother Eteocles, she replies that he is dishonoring the gods by refusing to obey the unwritten laws of Zeus. Though she laments her fate, she later faces it defiantly. Antigone also represents contradictions, first defying her role as a woman, which is to remain silent and follow Creon's edict, and then lamenting that she will never be Haemon's bride. Yet...
(The entire section is 269 words.)
Creon is Antigone's uncle, brother of her mother, Jocasta. He was proclaimed regent (or ruler) after Oedipus's tragic fall from power. He has raised his sister's children as his own following her descent into madness. He was to rule Thebes until Eteocles and Polyneices could rule together as adults. After their deaths he was proclaimed king in his own right.
Holding on to power and suppressing rebellion of any kind are Creon's main objectives when he orders Polyneices to remain unburied. When notified by a sentry that someone has defied his order, he holds the sentry responsible until the culprit is caught. Creon is unbending and will not listen to the advice of his elders (the Chorus) or Teiresias, the prophet. He is an autocrat, an absolute ruler.
Creon's refusal to obey what Antigone calls the "unwritten laws" regarding honoring the dead leads to his downfall. As the body of Polyneices "pollutes" the altars of Thebes and its neighboring kingdoms, Creon refuses to listen to advice and further angers the gods by sentencing Antigone to be buried alive as punishment for her betrayal of his edict. Even the pleas of his own son Haemon, Antigone's fiance´, go unheard as he disowns his son for being less of a man for defending his love. Teiresias, the respected prophet, is branded a liar by Creon for predicting that this unbending stance will bring death to those he loves. Despite evidence that Teiresias has been right in the past, and is an...
(The entire section is 319 words.)
The Chorus is another convention of Greek drama. They, in Antigone, act as older Theban nobles who comment on the actions of the characters in the play and underline moral points. They also fill in the background of the civil war that pitted brothers Eteocles and Polyneices against each other.
One of the choral passages in the play is called the "Ode to Man," which glorifies humankind's accomplishments but warns against ignoring the gods. The Chorus, however, supports Creon's decisions until it becomes evident that his rule has resulted in tragedy. Creon reminds the Chorus that they too signed Antigone's death warrant by supporting his policies.
Eurydice is Creon's wife and Haemon's mother. She appears late in the play, when she senses something is wrong with her family, and is then informed of the deaths of Antigone and Haemon by a messenger. She takes refuge inside the palace, and, as the messenger tells Creon: "She stabbed herself at the altar, then her eyes went dark... then with her dying breath she called down torments on your head—you killed her sons."
Haemon is the son of Creon and Eurydice and is engaged to be married to Antigone. He tries desperately to persuade his father to see reason by allowing Polyneices's burial and the release of Antigone, but Creon refuses and accuses his son of being a...
(The entire section is 854 words.)