Antigone Analysis

  • Creon and Antigone represent opposing sides in the thematic tension between loyalty and rebellion and between civic duty and familial loyalty. Each character loses either their family or their life.
  • Antigone is a classic example of Greek tragedy. Traditionally, a tragedy describes how a hero is ruined by their tragic flaw. Both Antigone and Creon are considered tragic heroes.
  • Sophocles uses the Greek chorus to interpret and comment on events in the play. In Antigone, the leader of the chorus is a character rather than a background figure.

Analysis

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Last Updated on June 4, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 297

Sophocles wrote Antigone, as well as the other two installments of his Oedipus trilogy, Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus, for an audience that he could justifiably assume was well-versed in the broader mythology surrounding his characters. As this is not necessarily the case for today’s audience, it is important to consider some background information. Fate is a major theme in all of Sophocles’s works, including Antigone, and each character should be understood as fulfilling divinely ordained trajectories that are often generations in the making.

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As such, the events of Antigone are the culmination of a fated and divine justice stemming all the way back to the acts of Theban King Laius, Antigone’s grandfather, who kidnapped and raped Chrysippus, the son of King Pelops of Pisa. This act resulted in King Laius being cursed to give birth to a son, Oedipus, who was fated to kill King Laius and marry Jocasta, his own mother.

This curse of King Oedipus, however, did not end after Oedipus famously tore out his own eyes and became banished from Thebes. Oedipus and Jocasta gave birth to two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene. After Oedipus’s banishment, Polynices and Eteocles fought one another over the throne of Thebes and were cursed by Oedipus to die at one another’s hands. This event caused Creon, Oedipus’s brother-in-law (and uncle), to become king of Thebes. Creon subsequently issues an order to leave Polynices unburied, which is the inciting incident of Antigone.

The ultimate tragedy of Antigone, and the end of the Oedipal line of Theban kings itself, may be seen as the fated result of three factors: Laius’s crime, the unnatural (incestuous) births of Oedipus’s children, and Zeus’s divine justice for Thebes.

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Style, Form, and Literary Elements