What are Creon's views on women and femininity? 

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Creon's view of women were very much grounded in the society in which Sophocles was raised. Ancient Athens was what is sometimes described as a strongly "homosocial" culture, one in which men primarily associated with other men and women with women. In general, men delayed marriage until they were economically established and had completed military serrvice, usually when they were in their thirties. Due to high infant mortality rates, women were married when they became fertile, at the ages of 12 or 13, leading to a large inequality of age in marriage. Women tended to be raised in isolation from men, and most were educated only in household management. What that meant was that few Greek men had any experience of associating with women of their own age other than prostitutes, and generally had a low opinion of the intellects and abilities of women.

Creon was typical in considering women as having a purely subordinate role in the family and the city. He thought them lacking in intelligence, swayed by emotion, and incapable of making independent judgments. Creon, and the original audience of the play, would have considered Ismene the ideal woman, as she has a mild and pliant nature, and Antigone unnatural for her defiance of an older male relative. Creon believes that men should simply give orders to women rather than listen to them and criticizes his own son Haemon for being too easily swayed by Antigone. 

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Creon's views are very much those of his time. Like all men in ancient Greece, he regards women as inherently inferior. A woman's place was in the home; women were to be seen and not heard. Although they could be very influential in the realm of political affairs, women were actively excluded from any formal role in public life.

So when Antigone defies Creon's express orders not to bury Polyneices, she's not just challenging his authority as king; she's threatening his masculinity. In ordering Antigone's execution, Creon is asserting both his sovereignty as king and his dominant role as a man within a male-dominated society. If Antigone is allowed to get away with her brazen defiance, then a dangerous precedent will have been set, one that could well be followed by countless other women.

Just how much of a challenge Antigone poses to existing gender roles can be seen, not just in the meek demureness of Ismene, but in the chiding tone which the chorus adopts towards Antigone's stubborn defiance. The implication is that although Antigone's veneration for the gods and for her brother's memory is morally right and acceptable, her defiance of traditional gender roles is not. If anything, this represents a greater danger to society, a danger that Creon fully acknowledges.