Sophocles’ Antigone: Critical Analysis


The play Antigone is one of the best Greek dramatic works depicting life style of society and human relations between people. Antigone of Sophocles can be characterized as an astonishing achievement of world literature in which people are crushed by the entanglements of law whichever way they turn. Antigone would rather die in respecting filial ties and religious rites than adhere to the letter of the state’s law. Creon, the new ruler, would rather put Antigone – his niece and future daughter-in-law — to death in conformity with his decrees than give in to family members. His son, Haemon, having infuriated his father, would rather die with his betrothed than be an obedient son and citizen. Eurydice would rather kill herself over the loss of her son than live with a cruel husband, Creon. And the brothers Eteocles and Polynices, who started the crises of this play, preferred killing one another to working out their differences in alternate leadership of the state.

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I agree with the author of the article “Writing About A Dramatic Structure” and his interpretation of events and dramatic vision of the play. The powerful arguments by Antigone for obedience to a law higher than the state are all the more gripping because of her political helplessness, a mere young woman. Yet she is as fearless, resolute, and vigorous as any fighter for justice. Antigone is an awesome character — and not just in the eyes of Creon. She is terrifying in her honesty. Her civil disobedience at the risk of death astonishes us all. We are frightened by her because of an excess that runs in the family. It is as if she embraces death above all and fits her disobedience to it as a sure instrument. Champion of upholding one vision of law, Antigone talks herself into becoming the fatal victim of law in another sense. Creon too gives in to excess, sticking stubbornly to his image as political authority, while not heeding the humane calls of family. He is to lose family and lose face as ruler. The article allows to understand the uniqueness of the Greek play and its histocial significance, literary structure and its relation to the main theme. Antigone has been an inspirer in other times and places.

The play and the article allow to say that the historical process is also a natural growing process and hence no conflict between law and nature was theoretically possible. It arose in acute form only when the author later rejected society and its conventions as an impediment to the free pleasurable life. Clothes and language, as we have seen, tend to recur in the anthropological pattern of human ‘inventions’. Again, when he uses the analogy of what animals would do to make gods if they could, he seems plainly to be thinking in a context in which men and animals are regarded as comparable. Man in fact is only a special sort of animal, who even when he draws and sculpts represents animals, whether intended as gods or men.

In sum, these insights, of fundamental importance, are all borrowed from the descriptive anthropologists. And then with great skill he subverts them and renders each one of them innocuous. The dramatic method turns out to be spurious; it is really an analytical logical device which takes some existing composite and divides it into its ideal elements and then starts with the supposed elements and builds up the composite again.

Works Cited

Sophocles, Antigone. In McMahan, E., Day, S., Funk, R.W. Literature and the Writing Process (8th Edition). Prentice Hall; 8th edition, 2007, pp. 644-679.

Writing About A Dramatic Structure.. In McMahan, E., Day, S., Funk, R.W. Literature and the Writing Process (8th Edition). Prentice Hall; 8th edition, 2007, p. 641.