At a Glance
- Creon and Antigone represent the opposing sides of the conflicts between male and female, loyalty and rebellion, and one's civic duty vs. one's family obligations. In each case, neither side wins, and both characters wind up losing their families.
- Antigone is a classic example of Greek tragedy. Traditionally, a tragedy follows a hero who is ruined by their tragic flaw, such as Creon's arrogance. Both Antigone and Creon are considered tragic heroes, with Antigone's tragic flaw being her disobedience.
- Sophocles uses the traditional Greek chorus to comment on and interpret the events of the play. In Antigone, the leader of the chorus is a character, rather than a background figure, and the chorus' primary function is to express loyalty to either Antigone or Creon.
Ancient Greek playwrights in Athens wrote plays for the Great Dionysia festival that was held every Spring. It was a civic duty to attend these plays, as they dealt with moral and social issues important to the community. Sophocles based Antigone on the Theban myths of the legendary rulers of Thebes, using what was, even in his time, an old story to comment on such issues as the absolute rule of kings and the status of women in society.
Antigone is a traditional Greek tragedy. A tragedy is defined as a drama about a noble, courageous hero or heroine of excellent character who because of some tragic character flaw brings ruin upon himself or herself. Tragedy treats its subjects in a dignified and serious manner, using poetic language to help evoke pity and fear and bring about catharsis, a purging of these emotions. In the case of Antigone we have two characters at the center of the conflict—Antigone and Creon—who are both tragic figures. Antigone defies a royal edict to bury her brother and pays with her life, while Creon ignores the gods and loses his wife and son to suicide. Both characters evoke pity, and each meets a tragic end.
Catharsis is the release or purging of emotions of fear and/or pity, brought on by art, usually tragedy. It is an act that brings spiritual renewal. One of the conventions of Greek drama was to have all violence occur offstage and then conveyed verbally to the audience. This occurs in Antigone, as the messenger relates the story of the deaths of Antigone and Haemon to Eurydice. The words of the messenger in Antigone are designed to provoke catharsis in the audience without directly exposing them to the violence of the events. With Antigone, Sophocles hoped to illustrate to audiences the emotional price of his characters' actions, inspiring in his viewers new perspectives and a sense of caution regarding similar actions.
Another convention in Greek drama is the chorus. Strictly defined, a chorus is a group of actors who comment on and interpret the action taking place on stage. The Greek word choros means "dance," and sometimes the chorus actually functioned as a character in the play, or portrayed a group of citizens very similar to the audience....
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