How is idealism shown through any of the characters in the play Antigone?

In Sophocles's Antigone, idealism is shown through the character of Antigone herself in terms of her moral idealism regarding familial duty and the will of the gods. Antigone's idealism is contrasted with her sister Ismene's moral relativism, and with her uncle Creon's authoritarian pragmatism and his idealistic interpretation of the role of the state.

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When Antigone is confronted by Creon after being caught trying to bury Polyneices in Sophocles's Antigone, she's unwavering in her belief that she's done her right and moral duty. By that she means she's obeyed the will of the gods.

CREON. Now answer this plain question, yes or...

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When Antigone is confronted by Creon after being caught trying to bury Polyneices in Sophocles's Antigone, she's unwavering in her belief that she's done her right and moral duty. By that she means she's obeyed the will of the gods.

CREON. Now answer this plain question, yes or no,
Wast thou acquainted with my decree?

ANTIGONE. I knew, all knew; how should I fail to know?

CREON. And yet wert bold enough to break the law?

ANTIGONE. Yea, for these laws were not ordained of Zeus,
And she who sits enthroned with gods below,
Justice, enacted not these human laws.
Nor did I deem that thou, a mortal man,
Could'st by a breath annul and override
The immutable unwritten laws of Heaven.

Antigone is equally adamant about her familial duty.

ANTIGONE. Lend me a hand to bear the corpse away.

ISMENE. What, bury him despite Creon's decree?

ANTIGONE. My brother, and, though thou deny him, thine.
No man shall say that I betrayed a brother.

Antigone's sister Ismene's reaction to Antigone's request that she help her bury Polyneices is pragmatic, in a sense. Ismene adheres to no moral principles, and her pragmatism is far from idealistic. Her moral sense is changeable. The choices she makes are entirely relative to and dependent on the situation in which she finds herself.

ISMENE. Wilt thou persist [in burying Polyneices], though Creon has forbid?

ANTIGONE. What right has he to keep me from my own?

ISMENE. . . .Bethink thee, sister, we are left alone;
Shall we not perish wretchedest of all,
If in defiance of the law we cross
A monarch's will?--weak women, think of that,
Not framed by nature to contend with men.
Remember this too that the stronger rules;
We must obey his orders, these or worse.
Therefore I plead compulsion and entreat
The dead to pardon. I perforce obey
The powers that be. . .

ANTIGONE. As for thee,
Scorn, if thou wilt, the eternal laws of Heaven.

ISMENE. I scorn them not, but to defy the State
Or break her ordinance I have no skill.

ANTIGONE. A specious pretext.

Ismene gives only lip service to familial duty, morality, and the will of the gods. She pragmatically defers to Creon's decree to avoid punishment and save her own life. She has some concern for Antigone's life (which also sounds like lip service) but is unwilling to risk her own life under the same circumstances.

Once Antigone is apprehended and sentenced to death, Ismene tries to redeem herself by asking Creon to punish her as well. In response, Antigone rebukes her.

ANTIGONE. Who did the deed the under-world knows well:
A friend in word is never friend of mine.

ISMENE. O sister, scorn me not, let me but share
Thy work of piety, and with thee die.

ANTIGONE. Claim not a work in which thou hadst no hand...

ISMENE. Is e'en this boon denied, to share thy lot?

ANTIGONE. Yea, for thou chosed'st life, and I to die.

Creon's view of the state and of his role in maintaining and enforcing order in it are pragmatic, idealistic, and, to a considerable extent, based on his own pride.

Creon isn't concerned with morality, but with power and political expediency. He wants to establish himself as the unquestionable ruler of the state of Thebes.

CREON. For since I caught her openly rebelling,
Of all my subjects the one malcontent,
I will not prove a traitor to the State...

Whome'er the State
Appoints must be obeyed in everything,
But small and great, just and unjust alike...

Creon rejects the advice of the Chorus, his son, Haemon, and the seer-prophet, Teiresias, who all tell him to honor familial duty and the will of the gods and rescind his order for Antigone's punishment. It's not until Teiresias tells Creon of the dire circumstances that will befall him and his family if he doesn't release Antigone that Creon swallows his pride and hurries to save Antigone from death. He arrives too late.

In contrast to Antigone's moral idealism in Sophocles's Antigone, in Jean Anouilh's Antigone, written in 1944, Antigone's idealism is shown more in terms of an ethical rather than moral dilemma.

At the beginning of the play, Antigone has already buried Polyneices. The issues of fulfilling familial duty and obeying the will of the gods don't arise. Instead, Creon—still the authoritarian pragmatist—tries to convince Antigone to participate in a cover-up of her burial of Polyneices.

Antigone refuses, and Anouilh's play resolves in much the same was as Sophocles's play. Antigone is thrown into a pit—rather than being walled up in a cave as is Sophocles's play—where she hangs herself. She's joined by Haemon, who kills himself while lying next to her. As in Sophocles's play, Eurydice kills herself at the news of Haemon's death. Creon is left alone, a broken man.

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