What are some examples of symbolism in Antigone?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the more complex symbols in this brilliant play is that of Antigone being entombed alive in a prison to wait her death through slow starvation. This of course on the one hand symbolises Antigone's loyalties and where they lie. She has chosen to live--and die--among the dead, and through the decision she makes to defy Creon's rule she clearly shows that, to a certain extent, the dead are more important to her than the living, such as her sister and fiance. Note what she says as she is taken to her tomb:

O tomb, my bridal-bed--my house, my prison

cut in the hollow rock, my everlasting watch!

I'll soon be there, soon embrace my own,

the great growing family of our dead...

Note how she speaks of her imminent demise with almost happiness and gladness. She would much rather live with her dead brothers and father than with the living.

However, at the same time, the tomb also is used as a powerful symbol of Creon's megalomania and his power. He buries Antigone alive in a tomb so that he can escape guilt, yet it is Tiresias who points out that by leaving a rotting body in daylight he is committing a great sin against the gods. It shows therefore how Creon is determined to assert his own power, even when it challenges and offends the gods.

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