What are Antigone's positive traits and what are her negative traits?

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kat-draney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Antigone is considered one of Sophocles' most prominent works. A play of tragedy, Antigone was written around the year 441 BC. It is the third of a set of three plays. The set of three plays, titled the "Theban Plays," depict the city of Thebes and the drama that follows Oedipus' rule as king. 

Although the three plays are each about Thebes, Sophocles wrote them for separate playwriting festivals. Dionysia, the name of the festivals, is an ode to the Greed god Dionysus--the god of wine, ecstasy, and theatre. The festivals actually were competitions where playwrights such as Sophocles would present their plays in order to vie for the award of "best tragedy."

Sophocles won a City Dionysia tragedy competition with his play Antigone.

Part of the prowess of Sophocles' play comes from his well-developed main female character, Antigone, for whom the play is named. A strong-willed woman and sister, she defies the decree of King Creon to leave her traitorous brother Polynices to rot on the battlefield. The conflict here is that the Greek gods that the people of that time were devoted to would absolutely not want Polynices left without a proper burial. Antigone chooses to place her religion and devotion to the gods over her adherence to the laws of the King of Thebes--so she goes out and gives her brother burial rites.

Ismene, the sister of Antigone, is unwilling to help her sister. One could consider Ismene a foil because she places the law over the will of the gods, while Antigone does the opposite.

Although Antigone is betrothed to Haemon, Creon's son, King Creon still decrees that Antigone must be put to death for her actions.

Antigone is marched to a cave to be imprisoned until she dies. By the time King Creon changes his mind, due to the words of the prophet Tiresias, Antigone has committed suicide in the cave.

Antigone not only defies the decrees of the King in order to praise the gods, but also she defies the King again by committing suicide instead of allowing herself to have the death he chooses for her. She proves through these actions to be a stubborn and independent woman.

Many critics laud Antigone for being a true female "hero" because she makes her own decisions and does not allow the men to make choices for her. She chooses to honor her brother's body, and she chooses her death. The defiance and strong-willed personality that she shows through her actions makes her a true heroine. 

Some do choose to see Antigone as being "too stubborn." It is through her own actions that she commits herself to death. She could have listened to Ismene's pleading, and she could have pleaded with Creon for her life with apologies. She could have passively waited in the cave for her death. Any of those actions would have saved her life. However, living was not Antigone's goal; Antigone wanted to honor the gods, no matter the cost to herself.

lizbv eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Antigone's positive traits are her loyalty and independence.  Though her brother is considered a traitor by their Uncle Creon, the reigning king, and though Creon's decree is that he is not to be buried, Antigone still displays her family loyalty when she goes against her uncle's decree and buries him. Burial upon death was extremely important to the Ancient Greek Culture because they believed a soul could not rest until the body was buried.  Her independence is also shown here, as well as courageousness, in that she does what she thinks is right, even though her own sister Ismene tells her she is crazy for her actions, and even though she knows she will surely face death for her actions.

Her negative trait would have to be her stubbornness.  Perhaps if Antigone had considered a different way of getting her brother's body buried without having gone against her uncle, she could have lived and made bigger changes in the kingdom.  She did not agree with her uncle's rule, believing that he was more concerned with the city instead of his own family and cared more about how the people of the city viewed him.  If she had remained alive then perhaps she could have accomplished more.  Instead, her stubborness caused her to act before thinking and eventually to commit suicide.