Essay, Research Paper: Antigone On Women

Literature: Sophocles

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Although ancient Greece was a male-dominate society, Sophocles’ Antigone,
portrays women as being strong and capable of making wise decisions. In this
famous tragedy, Sophocles uses the characters Ismene and Antigone to show the
different characteristics and roles that woman are typical of interpreting.
Traditionally women are characterized as weak and subordinate and Ismene is
portrayed in this way. Through the character of Antigone, women finally get to
present realistic viewpoints about their character. The sexist stereotypes
presented in this tragedy address many perspectives of men at this time. Creon
the arrogant and tyrant leader is, the very character that exemplifies this
viewpoint. Antigone’s spirit is filled with bravery, passion and fury; which
allow her to symbolize the very essence of women. She is strong enough to do
what her conscious tells her despite the laws of the land. Many examples in the
play prove that Antigone’s character is very capable of making her own
decisions in the name of justice. First, Antigone opposes Creon’s law and
buries her slain brother; because in her mind it was immoral not to. She does
this because she is compassionate and loves her brother very much. Creon,
however, believes that his laws must be upheld and would do anything to prevent
any type rebelling. He is even more infuriated when he learns that a woman has
broken his laws. He tries to show Antigone who’s in charge by sentencing her
to a life of imprisonment. Secondly, Antigone shows how determined she is by
accepting her consequences with pride. She does not try to hide that she is
responsible for breaking Creon’s laws, moreover, she takes all the credit. All
the while she maintains her strength because she truly believes in her actions.
These sorts of actions ultimately prove that Antigone is courageous and willing
to stand up to men, which was completely against the norm at this time. Her
spirit refuses to submit to the role of a helpless woman like her sister
Ismene’s character does. Ismene is a coward and refuses to help her sister
because she feared men. This fear propels her to turn her head to the disrespect
that is been shown to her brother, Polyneices. Her character is a close
representation of the viewpoints of the male gender regarding women. She is
subordinate and weak-willed. She refuses to stand up to Creon even though in her
heart she knows that his laws are morally wrong. This type of demeanor in famous
works of art is very common for women to behave like, according to the position
of men. Ismene proclaims, “We are only women, we cannot fight with men,
Antigone!” (Sophocles, pg.187) Proving that she is unwilling to do the right
thing if it means standing up to a man. Another example of how spineless Ismene
is portrayed is when she tries to take credit for burying her brother with
Antigone. She is so scared that she will be left all alone with out Antigone
that she is willing to die with her. Creon demonstrates his lack of respect for
women again when he tries to accuse Ismene of aiding Antigone. Then when he
realizes she had no part in the crime does he describes her as, “….she never
had a mind at all.” (Sophocles, pg.208) The play is also filled with instances
of a sexist male viewpoint. Creon is the leader of the Theben throne a position
he highly regards. He believes that he has a divine rule and therefor his laws
are just and fair. He rules the kingdom with an iron fist and demonstrates his
prejudices towards women throughout the play. First, Creon is so upset that his
laws are broken by Antigone that tries to hurt her as much as possible. He tries
to act as prideful as possible, he states, “No woman shall seduce us. If we
must lose, Let’s lose to a man, at least. Is a woman stronger than we?”
(Sophocles,pg.212) This is proof that Creon does not see women as equal to the
authority of men. He feels that women have no common sense and, therefor, must
be punished for their irrationality. He eventually realizes that he has offended
the Gods with his actions as ruler of Thebes. It is not until his own wife kills
herself because of his tyranny against humanity does he realize his mistakes.
This of course is way too late to redeem his lost loved ones or take back his
contempt toward women. The Greek tragedy Antigone by Sophocles is one of the
first dramatic plays that demonstrates the different roles women play in
society. The two sisters Ismene and Antigone portray major female
characteristics. While Antigone plays the role of a strong and sensible woman,
Ismene portrays the typical meek and mild role. The character of Creon
demonstrates through his tyrant rule, the sexist male viewpoint of the ancient
Greek world. This play proves that gender difference has always been present in
society.
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