28-01-2021 Literature 15444

Antigone. Sophocles’ tragedy

Antigone. Sophocles’ tragedy


New horizons of tragedy. For sixty years of fruitful work Sophocles wrote about 123 dramas of which only seven have retained to this day. He was an innovator of the genre of tragedy.

Sophocles was the first who abandons the practice of combined trilogies which contributes to the brevity and swiftness of development of the action. The poet chooses simple episodes of the mythological cycle in order to provide the tragedy with clarity, transparency and ease and to reveal the inner world of characters.

Sophocles introduces a third actor, allows abandoning the descriptive parts, but depicts the dynamic of the action. Besides giving great importance to the characters, Sophocles changes the role of chorus. The chorus is a mouthpiece of policy as a union of liberal citizens. So, the stasimon that elevates a person in “Antigone” carries the idea of equality of the power of two freedoms (Antigone and Creon) which collide inevitably due to different understandings of such concepts as duty, devotion, justice and love. Sophocles “removes” the chorus from action deliberately because he believes that the citizens of the democratic society differ from other ones as they give the individual the opportunity to decide and act. Sophocles’ chorus almost never acts as a judge. The position of the chorus of Sophocles’ tragedies can be formulated as follows: “to judge does not mean to condemn, justice does not mean punishment”.


Oedipus’ daughter. “Antigone” shows the conflict between King Creon and his niece Antigone. What is the reason? In the war for power the brothers die.

The new King orders to bury the nephew Eteocles – the defender of the city with honors and leave his brother Polinices as an attacker without burial. Antigone violates Creon’s order and buries her brother according to the laws of the gods.

In stasimon the chorus sings the famous “hymn to human” in which it enumerates the achievements of the mankind. Behind Antigone’s back it glorifies her, mourns over her future. And it is sad about Creon. It says that glorious one is that who respects the oaths of power, parental covenants and the wrath of the gods, and the one who takes the path of resentment is inglorious. Can we say for sure who the chorus is talking about? Perhaps it is talking about Antigone and Creon at the same time, that both “sin without guilt”. She wants to save the conscience of the city, he – its calmness. Both exceed a boundary in the desire of achievement their aim.

Who do we sympathy with? The infringer is brought to Creon. She does not hide or deny her deed. A tragic conflict starts before our eyes. It can’t be solved with reconciliation or compromise. Creon and Antigone stare at each other. And we feel the inner similarity of their tempers. The characters look like in the mirror from the opposite sides. This similarity kindles them more. It is not just a conflict, but it is a competition. The flame of love burns in Creon and Antigone, but King’s love is egoistic, craving for possession, and Antigone’s love is humanistic, responsive, love of giving. The girl says: “I was born to love, not to hate”. However in this struggle one more their general peculiarity becomes obvious. Neither Antigone, nor Creon can forgive. The King feels that Antigone’s convictions are more balanced, the authority of the ruler does not withstand the challenge, and Creon resorts to the means that mean defeat – uses force. He orders to brick up alive Antigone in prison. The heroine dies.

The tragedy Antigone. Sophocles

The likeness of the audience is at the side of the injured Antigone. But Sophocles would not have been Sophocles if he had not forced us to change our attitude towards the offender. At the end of the tragedy Creon loses his family. The grandeur of the owner disappears from his face. In the peak of his sufferings Creon as Antigone becomes a part of our soul.

The philosopher Aristotle wrote that Sophocles depicted people as they should be. Unlike the titanic figures of Aeschylus, Sophocles’ characters are endowed with universal human traits. The viewer does not choose his favorite hero, but at the same time he is fond of everyone, discovers a similarity with one or another character in him or her.

The originality of the tragedy Antigone:

  • Deep humanism, glorifying of democracy;
  • Transparency of the plot, a dynamic action;
  • The third actor (here a leading figure / a coryphaeus);
  • Rethinking the role of the chorus;
  • The characters are endowed with universal human traits;
  • Ambiguity in attitude to the characters.

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