Essays On Antigone

Essay/Term paper: Antigone: a tragic hero

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Antigone

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Antigone: A Tragic Hero


Heroes come in many forms. Some such as immense in size and strength as
Hercules, some in the form of people that are shunned upon, such as Harriet
Tubman, and some that are only valorous heroes to some, such as Kurt Cobain.
These heroes have many characteristics that make people flock to their side and
follow them without a thought of hesitation. In Sophocles' Antigone the hero
is a women that believes in her heart far stronger than that of her leader's
rule. This brings up many characteristics that are shown within her that are
also seen in other heroes. One being that she is up against an impossible enemy,
one who does not fit well into society's mold, and is destroyed by her own pride.

For these characteristics Antigone is given the title of an epic Heroin.
Antigone is one of the lucky townsfolk to be born of a royal house, yet is
unlucky to be born in the House that she is born into. As Antigone defies
Creon's law, she is cast into a pool of danger between what she believes is
right and what the state's law decrees is right. As Antigone is charged with
the burying of her brother, an action which the King has declared unlawful, she
holds like stone to her undying gratitude for her deceased brother. She holds
to this thought because of the fact that she believes that her, who died
fighting against the state, must be interred with the same honor as her brother
who died defending the state. She believes that this will help lift the curse
plagued on the household. The curse in which there father tried to hold at bay
and failed. Her sister Ismene warned Antigone by exclaiming "Sister please,
please! remember how our father die: hated, in disgrace, wrapped in horror of
himself, his own hand stabbing out his sight. And how his mother-wife in one,
twisted off her earthly days with a cord. And thirdly how our two brothers in
a single day each achieved for each a suicidal Nemesis" (166). This has
already gave Antigone the mind set that even the Gods are against her will. She
is also up against a great foe in fighting that of Creon's edict. Ismene has
said this: "The rest, if we defy our sovereign's edict and his power. Remind
ourselves that we are women, and such not made to fight with men. For might
unfortunately is right and makes us bow to things like this and worse" (167).
So as one would believe Antigone sees herself as not only on who can defy the
power of the Gods but the power of the state. Thus she would be up against an
force greater than her own. Second, another characteristics of a tragic hero is
that the person does not always fit into society's mold. The tragic hero is
usually one who wants change, yet also needs the peace that goes along with
stability. The fact that the tragic hero also usually thinks that they are in
there right mind when yet the rest of the society thinks that they are mad.
Antigone has said "Say that I am mad, and madly let me risk the worst that I can
suffer and the best" (168). this shows that although Antigone thinks she is
doing is right, she also does not care how the other members of society deem
her for her action. Antigone also must believe that she must be different from
not only society but members of her family. Creon notes on this when he is
asking her about his proclamation "O, she's the man, not I, if she can walk away
unscathed! I swear I hardly care if she be my sister's child, or linked to me
by blood more closely than any member of my hearth and home (181). This should
also show one that Creon does not care about her nobility and that he will treat
her just like one any other member of society. Lastly, Antigone is inherently
destroyed by the one thing that is her tragic flaw: excessive pride. This was
also a downfall of her father Oedipus. This pride could also be confused with
honor. Antigone not only defies Creon's edict but also makes a mockery of it
when he asks her about it. When asked if she knows the edict her exclamation is
"Of course I knew. Was it not publicly proclaimed?" (179). This line clearly
shows that Antigone has knows that she broke the edict and also is not shamed to
admit it to the creator of the edict himself. She almost revels in telling
Creon about it. Antigone also shows that she choose what to do not based on the
law of the state but on the laws of the Gods. Antigone also embellishes her
statement by telling Creon that he is a fool to judge her on what she has done.
"I feel no twinges of regret. And if you think I am a fool, perhaps it is
because a fool is judge" (180). If anything this clearly states that she has
excessive pride for what she has done and will make sure that Creon knows this
and her unfeigned gratitude for her dead brothers. As one can tell the role of a
tragic hero is one that Antigone plays well. Although she dies at the end of
this play, Antigone feels no regret in what she has done. She also shows that
she is proud of the fact that she never denied burying her brother. One would
infer that although of her death, Antigone died for what she believed. This is
the utmost characteristic in the portrait of a tragic hero.



 

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Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for Antigone by Sophocles that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in Antigone and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of Antigone by Sophocles in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from Antigone at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Agency Versus Inaction in Antigone

Ismene and Antigone vary greatly in their respective attributes, Ismene is breathtakingly beautiful, while Antigone is plain; Antigone is brave while Ismene is frightened. The core difference between the two of them lies in Antigone’s willingness to create change and Ismene’s hope that she can make it through life without creating waves. This difference manifests itself most brilliantly in the burial of Polynices. Antigone is willing to risk anything to have her brother buried with honor, while Ismene worries solely for the safety of her sister. This behavior continues throughout the novel, with Ismene acceding to Creon’s demands, and Antigone taking brave but stupid risks. In the end of the play, Antigone even takes her life in her own terms. What can be said about the desire to make life happen, the ability to not sit idly by? Does Sophocles seem to advocate this position, despite the death of Antigone?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Function of the Chorus in Antigone

For most plays, the role of the Chorus involves a small number of people, usually between 7-12, who make commentary on the unfolding events and serve as foreshadowers to the action to come. They are usually apart from the action, yet also apart from the audience; they function best as an uninvolved narrator. However, in Antigone, the chorus breaks most literary conventions. Instead of being portrayed as a group of people, the chorus is merely one person, who aligns himself with the audience. He quite frequently refers to the audience and himself as the collective “we" and by doing so, makes the audience a part of his chorus. Why is this important? What feelings towards the play are created when the audience takes on the role of the chorus?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Antigone and Sisterhood

The rivalry between Ismene and Antigone is strong, because both girls are similar in age with very contrasting personalities. Antigone is decisive, moody, brave and impulsive, while Ismene is beautiful, timid and beautiful. The two are set up as classic “good girl" and “bad girl" stereotypes, with Antigone eventually tying Ismene to a tree, and stealing her sister’s makeup and other items to make herself more attractive to Haemon. However, despite this fierce rivalry between the two sisters, when Creon is threatening Ismene with death and imprisonment if she does not stop her attempts to bury her brother, Ismene is quick to jump to her defense, stating that if Creon locks Antigone up, Ismene will simply take over and die alongside her for their treason. What can be said about the juxtaposition of their past relationship and Ismene’s sudden willingness to die for Antigone? Is their rivalry perhaps less fierce than expected because of their bond of sisterhood?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Individual Versus the State in Antigone

The role of the individual in Antigone is very important. Obviously, Antigone herself is a strong individual character, who is not willing to allow her brother to be dishonored, no matter what the cost is to her own body. Creon is also a strong character, and while he knows the law and is convinced that he must follow it, he has sympathetic feelings for Antigone and tries to get her out of trouble. In which ways are Creon and Antigone both destroyed by the power of the law? How do they try to get around the laws that have been set down by Creon, and in which ways do they fail at that attempt? What is the meaning behind their failures?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: Tragedy in Antigone

As the reader progresses through Antigone, it becomes obvious by the plot twists that the play is a tragedy at heart. However, to make the nature of the play even more clear, the Chorus appears halfway through the production to tell the audience that the tragedy has begun. This statement proves the inevitability of the coming tragic events, and takes the pressure off of the characters to attempt to stop such things from occurring.


This list of important quotations from Antigone by Sophocles will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Antigone listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for Antigone above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Sophocles they are referring to.

“I didn't say yes. I can say no to anything I say vile, and I don't have to count the cost. But because you said yes, all that you can do, for all your crown and your trappings, and your guards—all that your can do is to have me killed." (18)

“My nails are broken, my fingers are bleeding, my arms are covered with the welts left by the paws of your guards—but I am a queen!" (19)

“If Haemon reaches the point where he stops growing pale with fear when I grow pale, stops thinking that I must have been killed in an accident when I am five minutes late, stops feeling that he is alone on earth when I laugh and he doesn't know why—if he too has to learn to say yes to everything—why, no, then, no! I do not love Haemon!" (14)

“As for those three red-faced card players—they are the guards. One smells of garlic, another of beer; but they're not a bad lot. They have wives they are afraid of, kids who are afraid of them; they're bothered by the little day-to- day worries that beset us all. At the same time—they are policemen: eternally innocent, no matter what crimes are committed; eternally indifferent, for nothing that happens can matter to them. They are quite prepared to arrest anybody at all, including Creon himself, should the order be given by a new leader." (17)

“Every kind of stillness. The hush when the executioner's ax goes up at the end of the last act. The unbreathable silence when, at the beginning of the play, the two lovers, their hearts bared, their bodies naked, stand for the first time face to face in the darkened room, afraid to stir. The silence inside you when the roaring crowd acclaims the winner—so that you think of a film without a sound track, mouths agape and no sound coming out of them, a clamor that is not more than picture; and you, the victor, already vanquished, alone in the desert of your silence. That is tragedy." (9)

“I'm simply powerless to act against this city's law.” (11)

“I intend to give my brother burial. I'll be glad to die in the attempt,– if it's a crime, then it's a crime that God commands.” (7)

“Isn't a man's right to burial decreed by divine justice? I don't consider your pronouncements so important that they can just.overrule the unwritten laws of heaven.”(12)

“These signs portend evil for Thebes; and the trouble stems from your policy. Why? Because our altars are polluted by flesh brought be dogs and birds, picking from Polynices' corpse. Small wonder that the gods won't accept our sacrifices.” (18)

Source: Sophocles, Antigone. New York: Ivan R. Dee, 1998.
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