How is the play Antigone cathartic?

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Although Aristotle does not specifically define "catharsis" in the Poetics , the term is generally used in both ancient and modern literary criticism to describe two elements of a play. The first is that the spectacle awakes pity and terror in the audience. The second is that this...

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Although Aristotle does not specifically define "catharsis" in the Poetics, the term is generally used in both ancient and modern literary criticism to describe two elements of a play. The first is that the spectacle awakes pity and terror in the audience. The second is that this results in the purgation of negative emotions.

Antigone, more than any other extant Greek play, presents a clash of wills and ideas. Many audiences have not found either Antigone or Creon particularly sympathetic, since both are harsh, unforgiving and relentlessly stubborn. However, Antigone's grim death and the devastation Creon expresses at the loss of his wife and son would awake pity as well as terror in the most obdurate audiences.

Critics such as Reginald Winnington-Ingram have also pointed out that, while the fates of Antigone and even Creon may be more severe than they deserve, there are several other characters who have done nothing wrong and are helplessly caught up in their quarrel. Ismene, Haemon, and Eurydice all suffer because of the unreasonable rigidity of both Antigone and Creon. Tragedy overtakes the patriotism of Creon, the family honor of Antigone, the romantic love of Haemon, and the maternal devotion of Eurydice. The audience, therefore, has an unusually wide range of psychological types with whom to identify, meaning that any spectator is likely to feel pity for and experience catharsis through the fate of at least one of the characters.

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