Antigone Essay Questions
1. Although Sophocles called his play Antigone, many critics say that Creon is the real tragic hero, pointing out that Antigone is absent from the last third of the play. Evaluate this view.
Antigone and Creon, both had a tragic flaw and both were able to invoke fear and pity due to which, both can be regarded as tragic hero. Both of them brought their own downfall. However, the loss that Creon faced appears bigger than Antigone. Creon wanted to establish his dominance and control over Thebes as the king, but Antigone challenged his authority. Resultantly, Creon tried to punish Antigone, which eventually brought Creon’s own downfall. He was a tragic hero as per the definition of tragic hero. Antigone kills herself and the play ends with Creon facing his downfall making him a tragic hero because of the hardships that he faces because of his own decision.
2. In some Greek tragedies, fate plays a great role in bringing about the downfall of the tragic hero. Though there are references to the curse on the House of Oedipus in Antigone, do we feel that Antigone goes to her death as a result of the workings of fate? Do we feel that fate is responsible for Creon’s fall? Is the Messenger right to introduce the notion of fate (Exodus, line 4)? Or are both Antigone and Creon the creators of their own tragedy?
It appears that Creon and Antigone are the creators of their own fate, but they are left with no choices, but to do what they are destined to do. Antigone has to make the burial of her brother, which was against the law and Creon was to punish Antigone as she did a crime. Fate is responsible for the downfall of Antigone and Creon as they did what was their fate.
3. Do the words harmatia and hubris apply to Antigone? To Creon?
The words harmatia and hubris apply to both Antigone and Creon. The tragic flaw or harmatia of Antigone was her arrogance and inability to judge her actions. Creon’s harmatia was her wrong decision and lack of human values against his decisions. Antigone showed her hubris or self-centeredness by doing what appeared right to her and only considering herself and her obligations while Creon’s hubris was rejecting everything and every emotion against his dominance. Creon recognizes his hubris while Antigone fails to do so.
4. Why does Creon, contrary to the Chorus’s advice (Scene V, lines 96-97) bury the body of Polyneices before he releases Antigone? Does his action show a zeal for piety as shortsighted as his earlier zeal for law? Is his action plausible, in view of the facts that Teiresias has dwelt on the wrong done to Polyneices, and that Antigone has ritual food to sustain her? Or are we not to worry about Creon’s motive?
Creon tried to do the right what he had wronged first. But, he delayed in taking the right action due to which, further wrongs could be seen. He was advised to bury the body of Polyneices after Antigone’s release but he did contradictory. Creon’s motive was right, but he was destined to receive an ill fate. He realized that Teiresias predicted right and he should not act as stubborn and haughty and against gods. Considering this, he went for the burial of Polyneices with considering nothing wrong about Antigone.
5. A foil is a character who, by contrast, sets off or helps to define another character. To what extent is Ismene a foil to Antigone? Is she entirely without courage?
Ismene is a foil to Antigone. Antigone is hot blooded and courageous, but Ismene is peace loving and forgiving. Both of them are contrasting in terms of their personalities. Ismene sees no justification in carrying on the strife and lasting peace in Thebes comes because of Ismene while Antigone not only commits suicide herself, but makes Creon’s son to die as well.
6. What function does Eurydice serve? How deeply do we feel about her fate?
Eurydice, wife of Creon and mother of Haimon, killed herself after knowing about her son’s death. She fulfills the prophecy made by Tiresias as he said that Creon has to give corpse for corpse and his house will be full of weeping men and women. Eurydice’s death and her curse to her husband for his guilt made her husband to ponder over his sins. Her role is crucial.
7. Aritstole’s rules for drama: catharsis, dramatic unities, hamartia, hubris, recognition and reversal; how do they apply to the play, Antigone?
Antigone follows all the Aristotelian rules for drama. Catharsis is there when the deaths of strong characters such as Antigone, Haimon and Eurydice invoke pity and fear in the audience. The play follows the dramatic unities of time, place and action. Thebes is the place and all the events relate to the main plot, Antigone’s defiance of King’s order, King’s dominance and rejection, punishment to Antigone for breaking the law and aftereffects of his actions, everything is linked and there is no subplot. The tragic flaw or harmatia of Antigone was her arrogance and inability to judge her actions. Creon’s harmatia was her wrong decision and lack of human values against his decisions. Antigone showed her hubris or self-centeredness by doing what appeared right to her and only considering herself and her obligations while Creon’s hubris was rejecting everything and every emotion against his dominance. Creon recognizes his hubris while Antigone fails to do so. Recognition can be noticed when Creon tries to rectify everything because he recognizes his wrongs. Reversal can also be seen in Creon’s actions. What he perceives appears to be otherwise. His imprisoning of Antigone appears to be for law and order in Thebes, but results in killing of his son and wife.
8. Would you use masks for some (or all) of the characters? If so, would they be masks that fully cover the face, Greek-style, or some sort of half-masks? (A full mask enlarges the face, and conceivable the mouthpiece can amplify the voice, but only an exceptionally large theater might require such help. Perhaps half-masks are enough if the aim is chiefly to distance the actors from the audience and from daily reality, and to force the actors to develop other than facial gestures. One director arguing in favor of half-mask, has said that actors who wear even a half-mask learn to act not with the eyes but with the neck.)
I am not in favor of masks. However, if they are essential, I will use half masks because enlargement of faces of characters is not necessary. Antigone, Creon, Ismene, Haimon, Eurydice, all will be masked, but only on their half faces.