What is the analysis of the play Antigone?

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Among the many notable elements of Antigone that might be discussed in analyzing the play, we might look at (1) the essential and highly important thematic differences between the characters of Antigone and Creon and (2) some similarities in theme between Antigone and Oedipus Rex

Antigone vs. Creon

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Among the many notable elements of Antigone that might be discussed in analyzing the play, we might look at (1) the essential and highly important thematic differences between the characters of Antigone and Creon and (2) some similarities in theme between Antigone and Oedipus Rex

Antigone vs. Creon

There are many differences in perspective between Antigone and Creon, but they spring for the most part from a single well. While we might at first think that the main difference between the two has to do with Antigone's dead brothers Polynices and Eteocles, the principal difference is instead related to a larger, philosophical outlook.

Antigone wants to bury Polynices because that is what the gods decree as the right thing to do. Creon wants to leave the body of Polynices to rot, unburied, because he places a higher value on the state (on politics, on government, and on his own position therein) than on the decrees of the gods.

This issue animates the central conflict of the play as Antigone goes to great lengths, even sacrificing herself, to fulfill the duties demanded of her by the gods.

...you see me now, the last

Unhappy daughter of the line of kings,

Your kings, led away to death. You will remember

What things I suffer, and at what men's hands, 

Because I would not transgress the laws of heaven.

Creon refuses to see the folly of his ways and claims repeatedly that his choices are made with the integrity of the state in mind. Thebes, for Creon, is more important than the rites of the gods. 

This division is an interesting one. In the context of a Greek tragedy, the question of which figure is acting rightly probes a deep question regarding the extent to which special circumstances, political exigencies or complex times might remove individuals from their religious obligations.

Translating the question at its face into today's terms is actually rather straight-forward: Is there ever a time when a person's religious beliefs can be validly subordinated to the needs of the state? Or, is there ever a time when the needs of the state can validly be subordinated to the religious beliefs of an individual? 

The question is far from simple, which is perhaps one reason that the play is so thorny in its complexity and so fascinating in its themes. 

Spending some time analyzing the specific differences between Antigone and Creon may yield some interesting insights into what ideas these characters stand for in the narrative in light of the civic/religious schism we are looking at here. 

Oedipus Rex and Antigone

These two plays hinge on the fault of hubris in man. Both Oedipus and Creon attempt to place themselves before the gods, judging that they can determine the best course of action regardless of soothsayers' advice, prophecies and the like. 

In choosing to escape his prophesied fate, Oedipus acts on a deeply rooted pride (hubris) and ultimately he suffers for this choice. 

Creon may attempt to justify his decisions with political discourse but he too is punished for failing to give the proper credence or respect to the decree of the gods.

The final chorus of Antigone could very well stand as the final words for Oedipus Rex as well, speaking again to the dangers of human hubris in a Greek world commanded by gods. 

There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;

No wisdom but in submission to the gods. 

Big words are always punished, 

And proud men in old age learn to be wise. 

In following this line of analysis, you might focus on the character of Creon in Antigone and look for examples of pride and rash decisions. If you are familiar with Oedipus Rex and would like to fully pursue this thematic connection, you might compare Creon's reasonable attitude and good advice to Oedipus in Oedipus Rex to his uncompromising and dictatorial attitude in Antigone

The particular about-face that Creon's character undertakes from one play to the other is telling in the context of an analysis of hubris as a theme in each play.

In addressing just Antigone, you might still look to make comparisons between Creon and other characters, identifying wisdom and folly as they are highlighted in the play in connection to humility and pride. 

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