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Play Analysis: Antigone by Sophocles - Essay Sample

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Wesleyan University
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Sophocles Antigone is one of the authors interesting tragic plays written around 441 BC. The play forms part of the chronological set of plays written by Sophocles and is the third having been preceded by others like Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. Having been recognized as the greatest Greek tragedian, Sophocles intertwines his creativity with a lot of elements that drag along towards the tragic endings for his major characters. Antigone, one of the Oedipus daughters and who the book is named after, is the central character in this play in addition to others. Her choice to follow personal, traditional and familial beliefs rather than those of the state leads to her death, which in turn causes the death of Haemon, her fiance. This in turn results to the death of Haemons mother which leaves Creon miserable. In this case, it is fair to say that the conflicts that exist between the state laws and personal, traditional, and religious beliefs are responsible for all the series of suicides and tragic endings that befall the characters in the play Antigone.

The beginning of this analysis traces back to the Oedipus prophecy that his two sons, polyneices and Etiocles would face each other in combat so that the winner would inherit the throne. The prophecy comes to pass as the two brothers kill each other in the battle; Etiocles who fought for Thebes was to be honored by Creon, the present king of Thebes. Polyneices on the other hand fought for the Theban enemies and so his body would not be buried as a show of honour. That was the law of the state; that anyone who fights for the enemy should not be buried and anyone who buries the body would be stoned to death. Antigone, who respects her family traditions and stands by her personal and religious beliefs, is moved by compassion to fulfill the familial traditions and show her love for her brother, Polyneices. She sneaks and buries her brother but is seen by the Messenger. This act anger Creon and he orders Antigone to be buried alive; an act which angers the gods as no one should be buried alive. In this instance, Antigone gets in trouble due to the internal conflict between upholding personal beliefs and acting as per the state laws. The fact that she kills herself for this can be rightly blamed on the conflicts between the two choices.

Creons directive of not burying Polyneices and also killing Antigone represent a state law but goes against the religious laws or those that represent personal obligations or choices. For this reason, the gods send Tiresias, the prophet, to warn him against such stances citing that he will lose his son if he disobeys what the gods want. When Creon defies this order, Haemon stabs himself after hearing of Antigones death. Creons wife also becomes grief-stricken and kills herself with a knitting needle. The deaths of his family members cripple him till the day hes killed when Thebes was invaded. This event originates from the conflict between upholding the state law and that of honoring that of the religious tradition.

Based on this analysis, it is ideal to say that Sophocles incorporated the centrality of the gods and their relevance in the lives of the ancient Greek. The ancient Greek honored around twelve gods and any defiance to the religious duties was heavily punished by the gods (Sourvinou-Inwood 134-148). Tragedies would befall those who went against the religious rituals. That element is what Sophocles incorporates in the play of Antigone through the life cycle of his characters.

Works Cited

Griffith, Mark, ed. Sophocles: Antigone. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane. "Assumptions and the creation of meaning: reading Sophocles' Antigone." The Journal of Hellenic Studies 109 (1989): 134-148.

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