Essay, Research Paper: Antigone

Literature: Sophocles

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In Sophocles’ Greek tragedy, Antigone, two characters undergo character
changes. During the play the audience sees these two characters’ attitudes
change from close minded to open-minded. It is their close minded, stubborn
attitudes, which lead to their decline in the play, and ultimately to a series
of deaths. In the beginning Antigone is a close minded character who later
becomes open minded. After the death of her brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices,
Creon becomes the ruler of Thebes. He decides that Eteocles will receive a
funeral with military honors because he fought for his country. However,
Polyneices, who broke his exile to “ spill the blood of his father and sell
his own people into slavery”, will have no burial. Antigone disagrees with
Creon’s unjust actions and says, “ Creon is not strong enough to stand in my
way.” She vows to bury her brother so that his soul may gain the peace of the
underworld. Antigone is torn between the law placed against burying her brother
and her own thoughts of doing what she feels should be done for her family. Her
intent is simply to give her brother, Polyneices, a proper burial so that she
will follow “the laws of the gods.” Antigone knows that she is in danger of
being killed for her actions and she says, “I say that this crime is holy: I
shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he to me.”
Her own laws, or morals, drive her to break Creon’s law placed against
Polyneices burial. Even after she realizes that she will have to bury Polyneices
without the help of her sister, Ismene, she says: Go away, Ismene: I shall be
hating you soon, and the dead will too, For your words are hateful. Leave me my
foolish plan: I am not afraid of the danger; if it means death, It will not be
the worst of deaths-death without honor. Here Ismene is trying to reason with
Antigone by saying that she cannot disobey the law because of the consequences.
Antigone is close-minded when she immediately tells her to go away and refuses
to listen to her. Later in the play, Antigone is sorrowful for her actions and
the consequences yet she is not regretful for her crime. She says her crime is
just, yet she does regret being forced to commit it. Antigone now has the
ability to consider her consequences because her action of burying her brother
is complete. She knows her crime is justified, but her new open-mindedness leads
her to consider the alternative. Even though she knows she will die with honor
she is grieving for the way she was forced to commit a crime to take an action
she believes is justifiable. This is seem when Antigone says: Soon I shall be
with my own again . . . To me, since it was my hand That washed him clean and
poured the ritual wine: And my reward is death before my time! And yet, as
men’s hearts knows, I have done no wrong, I have not sinned before God. Or if
I have, I shall know the truth in death. But if the guilt Lies upon Creon who
judged me, then, I pray, May his punishment equal my own. Antigone’s statement
shows open-mindedness because she says she does not believe she has sinned but
if she has she will know in death. Before Antigone believed that her actions
were not sinful, but how she shows an open mind. She is also saying if it is
Creon’s fault that she will die then may he die also for sending her unjustly
to her death. Antigone says: Thebes, and you my father’s gods, And rulers of
Thebes, you see me now, the last Unhappy daughter of a line of kings, Your
kings, led away to death. You will remember What things I suffer, and at what
men’s hands Because I would not transgress the laws of heaven Come: let us
wait no longer. She comes from a long line of kings that were fated to die
because of a curse placed on them. She willingly leaves to die knowing that it
is an honorable death. Antigone hangs herself, in the tomb she was placed in by
Creon, using a noose of her fine linen veil. Creon, Antigone’s uncle,
experiences a change of close-mindedness to open-mindedness with his actions
throughout the play. Creon’s close-minded attitude can be seen when he says:
This is my command, and you can see the wisdom behind it. As long as I am king,
no traitor is going to be honored with The loyal man. But whoever shows by word
and deed that he Is on the side of the state, he shall have my respect while He
is living, and my reverence when he is dead. Creon is saying that as long as he
is king that this is the way it will be, and you can see wisdom behind it.
Unfortunately he is convinced that this is the right way to rule, and it is this
attitude that leads to Creon’s decline. When Choragos tries to explain why
Polyneices is now buried Creon says: Stop! Must you doddering wrecks Go our of
your heads entirely? “The gods!” Intolerable! . . . Is it your senile
opinion that the gods love to honor bad men? A pious thought! Creon does not
accept that a higher being could possibly judge Polyneices differently then he
has. This example of close-mindedness shows that Creon compares his views with
those of Greek gods. After learning that Antigone is the person who defied his
law he says: She has much to learn. The inflexible heart breaks first, the
toughest iron Cracks first, and the wildest horses bend their necks At the pull
of the smallest curb. This is ironic because he is saying she has an inflexible
heart when in fact he is the one who is stubborn or inflexible. When asked by
his niece what he wants more than her death he says, “Nothing. That gives me
everything.” The audience gets a continuous look at Creon’s close-minded
attitude. When he says Antigone’s death gives him everything he means
everything in a positive sense. In actuality her death brings him everything
negative. This is how his close-minded, stubborn attitude leads to his decline.
As a result of his inflexibility, he loses Antigone, Haimon, and Eurydice. After
the loss of his niece, son and wife, Creon’s change is sudden. While talking
to Choragos, he tells Creon to, “Go quickly: free Antigone from her vault and
build a tomb for the body of Polyneices.” Creon’s response is contrary to
his earlier stubbornness, “It is hard to deny the heart! But I will do it: I
will not fight with destiny.” Creon is now becoming open-minded. He says that
he will no longer fight destiny and this shows that he was not right to punish
Antigone in the first place. Another example of Creon’s change is shown when
the Messenger says: Take the case of Creon: Creon was happy once, as I count
happiness: Victorious in battle, soul governor of the land, Fortunate father of
children nobly born. And now it is all gone from him. This illustrates Creon’s
decline due to his stubborn, inflexible attitude. He has lost all of his
happiness, explained by the Messenger, leading towards his decline because of
his stubborn personality. The Messenger says, “Haimon is dead; and the hand
that killed him is his own hand.” Choragos’ response is, “His father’s?
or his own?” The Messenger replies, “His own, driven mad by the murder his
father had done.” Haimon’s suicide is being placed on Creon’s stubborn
murdering. He also admits to this later when he says, “I have killed my son
and my wife.” Choragos attempts to explain Creon’s newfound open mind when
he says: There is no happiness where there is no wisdom; No wisdom but in
submission to the gods. Big words are always punished, And proud men in old age
learn to be wise. This statement illustrates that Creon’s “big words” are
punished by the deaths of his niece, son and wife. Creon learns to be wise or to
become more open-minded after he is too late to stop the deaths in his family.
Creon was a proud man, but with time and consequences he learned to be wise.
Antigone is a tragedy that involves the changing attitudes of two characters. It
is through the changes made by Antigone and Creon from close-minded to
open-minded characters that the play becomes a tragedy. With Creon’s stubborn
laws and Antigone’s stubborn opinion in the beginning of the play, the tragedy
may take place.
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