There are many examples throughout Antigone of men’s claimed superiority over women, and of the lengths to which they will go to maintain that superiority, even when no such superiority truly exists.
When Antigone is brought before her uncle Creon, king of Thebes, to answer for disobeying his edict and attempting to bury her brother, Polyneices, Antigone admits to the charge. Antigone contends that, according to the will of the gods, she is right in doing so. Creon demeans her and mockingly changes roles with her.
CREON: But this proud girl, in insolence well-schooled,
First overstepped the established law, and then—
A second and worse act of insolence—
She boasts and glories in her wickedness.
Now if she thus can flout authority
Unpunished, I am woman, she the man.
When Antigone argues for love, not hatred of her brother, Creon curses her while he attempts to impose his authority and superiority over her.
CREON: Die then, and love the dead if thou must;
No woman shall be the master while I live.
Later, in Creon’s advice to his son, Haemon—who’s in love with Antigone, and who attempts to convince his father of his shortsightedness—Creon again mocks Antigone, while at the same time condemning all women by comparing them to Anarchy, otherwise known as Eris, the Greek goddess of conflict and discord.
CREON: Son, be warned
And let no woman fool away thy wits.
Ill fares the husband mated with a shrew,
And her embraces very soon wax cold.
For what can wound so surely to the quick
As a false friend? So spue and cast her off,
Bid her go find a husband with the dead. ...
What evils are not wrought by Anarchy!
She ruins States, and overthrows the home,
She dissipates and routs the embattled host;
While discipline preserves the ordered ranks.
Therefore we must maintain authority
And yield no title to a woman's will.
Better, if needs be, men should cast us out
Than hear it said, a woman proved his match.
In response to an admonition from Tiresias, the blind prophet, Creon repents his arrogance, but not before Haemon kills himself over his love for Antigone, and Creon’s wife, Queen Eurydice, kills herself when she hears about Haemon’s death.
SECOND MESSENGER: Hearing the loud lament above her son
With her own hand she stabbed herself to the heart.
Creon’s pride and his belief in his superiority to women—particularly to Antigone—proved to be his tragic downfall.