In what respect was Antigone a leader?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Antigone serves as a moral example for others to follow—whether they choose to follow her, however, is an entirely different matter. That said, there's little sense that Antigone is trying to lead some kind of mass political movement or uprising against Creon; she's conventional enough to know her place in that regard. Antigone simply wants to do right by her late brother and by the gods. Her leadership is moral, not political.

With her brave, stubborn act of defiance, she stirs a profound sense of unease among the Theban people concerning Creon's cruel edict. It's unlikely that anyone will attempt any kind of regime change as a consequence, but such widespread discontent among his people should still be a cause of grave concern to Creon. Even if no one chooses to follow Antigone, her defiance has set a dangerous precedent that Creon must take seriously if he's to maintain his grip on power.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the play by Sophocles, Antigone takes a moral stand that shows she values her commitment to family, kingdom, and the gods above obedience to a ruler. She embodies the responsibilities of the individual to these larger social ideals. Antigone is not a queen nor a military officer; she commands no subjects or troops. Antigone leads by example.

King Creon’s order that Antigone’s brother Polynices’s body be left unburied precipitates the play’s action. Antigone had already decided that she needed to step up and get his body properly buried with all the appropriate rituals. There are unresolved issues of rulership in that Creon assumed the throne because her two brothers were engaged in a civil war. Although she is the daughter of the former king, Oedipus, because of the organization of Theban society, Antigone, a woman, could not ascend the throne.

In Greek society, legitimacy of inheritance was an important factor and royalty was divinely ordained. Antigone’s duty was not only to her family but to what it represented, the legitimate royal rulers of Thebes. By choosing to bury her brother, Antigone was demonstrating her continued loyalty to the legitimate social system, and implying her lack of support for her uncle’s claim. In this regard, although she defied his order, she helped sustain society and called attention to the threat he could present. Within her vision of the larger common good, her act was not of rebellion but of loyalty to what she, and other Thebans, believed. In this she led her people to make proper decisions as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Antigone is a great leader, because of two reasons. First, she was a woman of great courage and principle. A little background might help. In the play, Creon stated that Polynices, the brother of Antigone must not be buried, because he attacked the city of Thebes. Creon also gave a sentence of death to anyone who would seek to bury the body. However, for Antigone to do nothing would bring great shame on the dead body of Polynices. So, what does Antigone do? She seeks to bury the body, even at the pains of death. By this, incredible courage is shown.

Second, Antigone is a great leader because she does the right thing, no matter what. To leave Polynices' body unburied in that context was the height of impiety. According to Greek thought, Polynices would never find rest. So, Antigone commits to a course of action, which is right, even if she will pay the ultimate price.

A person who will do what is right in the face of danger to his or her own hurt is a great leader.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team