Sophocles was born amid political upheavals within and around his city of Athens. He is considered as one of the luckiest individuals during his time to have received a formal education which helped him develop his skills in both music and literature. Because of this, he was handed a rare privilege of leading paean in the celebration of the famous Greek victory over the Persians. He was 16. Sophocles was regarded as king in Greek annual plays festivals and with such plays as Antigone and Oedipus the King, he was able to win over a dozen prizes and awards. However, his writing was seen to be controversial due to his involvement with the political and military affairs in the fight for the democracy in Athens. And despite being one of the most respected men in Athens during his time, he was an enemy of the government leading to his torture and detentions, and working at the fringes of society (Scodel and Ruth, 25). Even though the fall of Athens came to pass later after his death, reading his plays calls for more than just analysis and imagination.
In his play "Antigone," Sophocles exhibits different symbolisms through the characters and plot in an attempt to express the oppression in the society and at the same time the role of women in the fight for equal rights. The character Antigone in the play is a woman who is seen as a radical, fighting against the power structure that put man as an absolute leader in the society. She is considered a heroine in the play which not only fights for women rights but displays a certain level of bravery with her rebellious actions against the authorities (Bacon and Helen, 6-24). In his introduction of the character Antigone, Sophocles gives an impression of a young innocent girl grows up from a noble background. A sweet girl who cares for the well being of her helpless sister, Ismene, who is beaten by her vulnerability due to the societal setting. Ismene however, remains unspoken and suffers in silence. The play reveals the character of Antigone, a young woman with two personalities; she deeply cares for her family and extremely loyal to her blind father. She plays the character of a lone wolf who is ready to face the world on her own and fight for the rights of women and in the same sense, plays a role of a dutiful daughter of Oedipus. Her devotion to her family symbolizes the love in the Greek family structure.
At the beginning and the view of the title of the play, Sophocles indicates what a tragic character Antigone is with her activities against the societal setting and the rule of law. However, the plot of the play displays the wicked behavior of Creon. At the start, Creon is seen as a sensible and a responsible leader who is out to protect the interest of other people. He firmly fights against Oedipus banishment (Bacon and Helen, 6-24). However, as the plots unfold, he is seen to be vindictive and a manipulative individual who does anything in his power to have his way. In the play, he holds both Antigone and Ismene against their will without guilt or compassion. He promises to let anyone who buries Polynices stoned to death. In the end, just like Antigone, he faces a cruel death.
In the play, Sophocles uses different characters to portray certain themes and lifestyle in the ancient Greek society. He uses different symbols to show certain Greek beliefs, for instance, Antigone is ordered to be buried in a stone cave for the rest of her days, indicating the Greeks belief in the strength and durability of stone.
Bacon, Helen H. "The chorus in Greek life and drama." Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 3.1 (1994): 6-24.
Scodel, Ruth. "Sophocles' Biography." A Companion to Sophocles 91 (2012): 25.
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