Classic Greek tragedy written by Sophocles. It tells the story of a young girl, Antigone who defies the orders of King Creon and buries the body of her dead brother Polynices. A wonderful play that features the question of which law should one follow - the laws of man or the laws of nature?

Also, there's a wonderful modernization of the play by Jean Anouhil written at the time of the Nazi occupation of France that's well worth reading.

Antigone is Oedipus Intro: Referring to the character Antigone in line 525 of the play Antigone, the LEADER states, "Like father like daughter..." This suggests that Antigone, in some way, "takes after" her father or shares the same character/personality traits. Another way of stating this idea is, "she is her father's daughter."

This is an essay I wrote regarding Antigone's completion of her father's role. Is she Oedipus incarnate?

Antigone is Oedipus’s ultimate accomplishment. She is the one who restored her family’s reputation and rekindled the fading glory of Oedipus that once shone over all the people in Thebes. She possesses the characteristics of her father: decisiveness, courage, pride, and a sense of righteousness, and through these traits she manages to recapture the respect and support of the masses, just like Oedipus once did, through her achievements. “The daughter is as headstrong as the father. Submission is a thing she’s never learned,” remarks the Leader of the Chorus.

We see similarities between Antigone and her late father, Oedipus, in Sophocle’s Antigone. She and her father both struggle to do what is right, while knowing in advance that they are doomed. Perhaps it is because Antigone spent her entire early life at Oedipus’s side and picked up his traits, or maybe she just inherited them, or maybe both. Nevertheless, no matter how or when she attained these characteristics, it is undeniable that at the time of her death, she possessed them to as equal a degree as her father. She faced death boldly, in order to stand up for herself and what she believed in. Oedipus’s trust in the gods’ advice led to his death, when he willingly sacrificed himself in order to help his friend Theseus. Antigone sacrificed herself too, in order to provide a proper burial for her brother, even though her brother had not done many things to earn such kindness. Still, she does, because she believes it is the right thing to do. Attempts made to change her mind fail, because she knows that it is the Heaven’s law, and that it takes precedence over all laws made by mortals on Earth. “Please your fantasy and call it wicked, what the gods call good,” she says to her sister Ismene, who desperately tries to protest. Antigone’s confidence is unfailing; she is sure that there is no way that she could be doing wrong.

This is another trait of Oedipus. Some call it arrogance, but I say self-righteousness. Oedipus never succumbed to sweet talk, fear, or selfishness. Even though he could have lived a much more comfortable life when Creon offered him a chance to return to Thebes, he turned it down because he knew it was a manipulative move and in the end, possessing no virtue. When he was offered a chance to make amends with his son, he rejected it because he saw his son was worthless and pathetic. Antigone thinks similarly. When she was told by Creon that her sentence was death for the illegal burial of her brother, she smugly responded, “I need no trumpeter from you to tell me I must die, we all die anyway. And if this hurries me to death before my time, why, such death is a gain. Yes, surely gain to one whom life so overwhelms.” What courage: boldness even in the face of great danger. She taunts her uncle’s authority when she speaks of higher powers that will recognize what she has done for the dead and reward her. Such faith in one’s own actions is rarely heard of. It can only be the influence of Oedipus, who also believes himself to be infallible at heart.

In the end, we see that Antigone lived for her father while he was alive, lived as father after he died, met her doom like her father, and won back respect like her father. Yes, in the end, everyone respected Antigone. She truly was her father’s daughter: the extension of the lineage, and the only one that preserved the most defining elements of Oedipus’s character. She left in full splendor, waving to the crowd as she was marched to her death, blazing with pride for both herself and her father. At last, the great line of Oedipus had fallen. Yet the end was glorious: there was not a trace of shame left. No one could deny that...not even Creon.

Other essays of interest concerning the Theban plays:
Oedipus as a Ruler
Oedipus isn't Guilty?

Antigone the Unheroic


There are two heroines with this name.

  1. The best known was the daughter of Oedipus, sister of Ismene, Polynices and Eteocles (Table 29). The earliest legends call her the daughter of Eurygania, who was herself the daughter of the king of the Phlegeans, a people of Boeotia. But the most usual version (used by the tragic writers) says that she was the daughter of Jocasta and the consequence of the incest committed by Oedipus with his own mother. When Oedipus, enlightened about his crimes by the oracle of Tiresias, blinded himself and exiled himself from Thebes, Antigone made herself his companion. Their wanderings took them to Colonus in Attica where Oedipus died. After her father's death Antigone returned to Thebes where she lived with her sister Ismene.

    There she met with a fresh trial. During the War of the Seven Chiefs her two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, found themselves on opposite sides, the former in the Theban army and the latter in the army attacking his native land. In the course of the fighting which took place before the gates of Thebes, each brother died at the other's hands. Creon the king, and uncle of Eteocles, Polynices and the girls, granted a solemn funeral service for Eteocles but forbade anyone to bury Polynices, who had called in strangers against his own country. Antigone was unwilling to comply with this order. Believing that it was a sacred duty, laid down by the gods and the unwritten laws, to bury the dead and especially her close kin, she broke Creon's ban and scattered a handful of dust over Polynices' body, a ritual gesture which was enough to fulfil the duty imposed by religion. For this act of piety she was condemned to death by Creon and walled up while still alive, in the tomb of Labdacus, from whom she was descended. In her confinement she hanged herself and Haemon, son of Creon and her betrothed, killed himself on her corpse while Creon's wife Eurydice, for her part, committed suicide in despair.
  2. Another Antigone is also known to legend. She was Priam's sister and a most lovely girl. She was very proud of her hair, which she claimed was more beautiful than Hera's. In a fit of rage the goddess turned Antigone's hair into snakes. But the gods took pity on the unhappy girl and turned her into a stork, the enemy of snakes.


Table of Sources:

  1. - Sophocles, Antigone
    - Apollod. Bibl. 3, 7, 1
    - Euripides, Phoen. 1670ff.; Antigone (lost tragedy, Nauck TGF, edn 2, pp. 404ff.)
    - Sophocles, Oedip. Col.
    - Hyg. Fab. 72
  2. - Ovid, Met. 6.93
    - Serv. on Virgil, Georg. 2, 320

Antigone as a Tragic Character

Antigone(written by Sophocles), much like Medea, is most likely part of a larger work, as it ties in with Oedipus Rex. Greek drama, being based on the same set of myths, was largely a continuous work with plays building upon the plots of other plays. Antigone is effectively a sequel to Oedipus Rex, and the two could be compared to the Star Wars series as they build upon family lines for characters. Antigone was the daughter of Oedipus, a cursed man who killed his father and married his mother, which led to the suicide of his mother. This is where Freud got the name for the concept of Oedipus Complex. After Oedipus's mother’s suicide, he fled, leaving his children in the care of Creon. After Oedipus’s leave, there are two heirs left to the throne, who end up killing themselves in battle for the throne. This allows Creon to assume the position of King. He decrees that Eteocles, Antigone’s brother who fought alongside Creon, will have a proper burial, whereas Polyneices’s body will be left to the whims of nature. This understandably upsets Antigone, which leads to the opening scene.

The opening scene of Antigone takes place outside of the city gates. Antigone reveals her plans to bury her brother’s body to her sister, Ismene. Antigone hopes that Ismene will aid her in the burial of her brother, but Ismene fearfully declines out of fear of breaking a royal decree. This sets up the recurring theme of women being basically powerless in Greek society , as Ismene feels very powerless to do anything to aid Antigone. She even doubts that Antigone will be able to locate the body of her slain brother. Ismene tries to sway Antigone to give up her plans, but Antigone is enraged by this notion. Antigone says that she no longer would want Ismene’s help if she even decided to offer it. Ismene at least tries to convince Antigone that she should be discreet in her burial ritual, but Antigone rejects this notion as well. This scene develops Antigone as a devoted person, albeit at her own peril.

In the next scene, Antigone has an argument with Creon after the burial of Polyneices. This argument begins to show what some have called Antigone’s “love affair with death”. Antigone, as the opposite of the powerless Ismene, sees the only way to gain power in Greek society is by becoming a martyr for her beliefs. This morbid fascination with death is continued throughout the play. The reasons for Antigone to be powerless are her many obligations to men. She feels to be obligated to her brother, for she felt the need to give him a proper burial. She also is obligated to Haemon, Creon’s son, to whom she is engaged. She also feels somewhat obligated to Creon, as he was the only father figure she has ever known. This obligation to Creon as a father figure develops the theme of struggling against patriarchy in Greek society in a very literal sense. She is rebelling against the powerful father figure, and this unnerves both Creon and almost every other character in the play. In this sense, if Medea was not the first feminist in theatre, it is because Antigone predated her.

As the play progresses, the cause for which Antigone is martyring herself becomes more readily apparent. The play deals heavily with the Greek debate of divine law versus human law. Since divine law was not recorded in Greek times, Antigone only has her conscience to base her understanding of it on. She is going to become a martyr to her own conscience, which tells her that her brother should be rightfully buried, and more indirectly, that women should not be the puppets of their husbands, fathers, or any male figure. Her cause is furthered by the fact that Creon sees himself as the embodiment of human law, and inflects his patriarchal leanings into it. He makes numerous remarks that say effectively say I will not let a woman get the better of me. This develops more fully with his statements of “Is the city not the rulers?” and “Should the city tell me how I am to rule them?". After this statements, Antigone is no longer just a martyr for women, her loyalty to her brother, and divine law, but also against tyrannical government, a subject which probably did not fall on deaf ears in democratic Athens.

The play ends as it should, with Antigone dying, but a few people go along with her to cause some interesting changes in how Creon feels. After her death, Haemon takes his own life, as does his wife Eurydice, causing Creon to be flung into despair. This establishes recognition of pride leading to retribution, which eventually leads to wisdom. So effectively Haemon and Antigone were martyrs against patriarchy and tyranny, and for divine law and loyalty to family. Three of these subjects probably hit home with many of the Greek audience members, although women’s rights were far off in the future, and the feminist aspects of the play probably unnerved the crowd accordingly.

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