Antigone Questions and Answers
by Sophocles

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Discuss the contrast between blindness and sight in Antigone

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Blindness versus sight is a motif that appears in all three of the Oedipus plays—Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. The motif is enhanced by the appearance of the blind seer-prophet, Teiresias, who plays a major role in two of the three plays, Oedipus Rex and Antigone.

In all three plays, major characters refuse to acknowledge—they refuse to "see"—the consequences of their actions, even when seemingly everyone around them is aware of what that particular character cannot see or simply refuses to accept.

This is true of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex and Creon in Antigone. To a lesser extent, characters outside the action of Oedipus at Colonus, specifically Oedipus's sons Polynices and Eteocles, are blind to the consequences of their civil war over the throne of Thebes, which their self-blinded father can see. Polyneices and Eteocles are also unaware of the curse that Oedipus pronounces against them that seals their fate.

In Antigone, Creon's tragic flaw is one of excessive pride (hubris). His pride blinds him to the violations of unwritten laws of the gods and the immorality of his decree that Polyneices must not be buried. Pride also blinds him to the consequences of such a decree for his own family and for the community of Thebes as a whole.

Antigone's tragic flaw is not her pride or her prideful obstinance. Antigone's tragic flaw, if she actually has one, is a compelling need—in this one instance only— to confront the prevailing, established order.

This violates one of the enduring principles of Ancient Greek life: moderation in all things. In defying Creon's decree, Antigone appears to be acting immoderately. It appears that Antigone is rebelling against the prevailing power structure, as represented by Creon and his decree against burying Polyneices.

In fact, Antigone is upholding a longstanding moral and ethical tradition among the Greeks and virtually all other civilizations that requires burial of the dead, even the enemy's dead. It's actually Creon who is acting immoderately in forbidding Polyneices's burial, and it is Creon who is defying the established order.

Antigone isn't blind to the consequences of her actions or to her fate. She knows exactly what's going to happen to her. In fact, she welcomes it. She can finally escape the "curse of Oedipus" and be welcomed into the afterlife by her family, and by the gods, whose laws she upheld even at the cost of her life. Antigone doesn't want to die, but she accepts her fate as a consequence of doing what she believes is morally right and wholly justified in the eyes of the gods.

Creon remains blinded by his pride to the consequences of his decree to leave Polyneices unburied and his death sentence on Antigone until the consequences of his actions are absolutely spelled out for him by Teiresias.

TEIRESIAS. O King, thy willful temper ails the State...

Therefore the angry gods abominate
Our litanies and our burnt offerings...

Know then for sure, the coursers of the sun
Not many times shall run their race, before
Thou shalt have given the fruit of thine own loins
In quittance of thy murder, life for life...

What these have suffered thou shalt suffer too....

For, yet a little while,
And sound of lamentation shall be heard,
Of men and women through thy desolate halls;
And all thy neighbor States are leagues to avenge
Their mangled warriors who have found a grave
I' the maw of wolf or hound, or winged bird
That flying homewards taints their city's air.

Only then, when confronted with the dire consequences of his hubris and the effect of his actions on the people of Thebes and on his own family, does Creon finally "see" the enormity of his mistakes in judgment that were caused by his pride.

Creon rushes to the cave where Antigone was walled up to die, but he arrives too late. Antigone has already hanged herself. Creon's son, Haemon, tries to kill Creon, then kills himself. Creon's wife, Eurydice, kills herself when she hears about the death of Haemon.

CHORUS. Yea, king...Vengeance of the gods
Is swift to overtake the impenitent.

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