Blood Bonds, Antigone, and The Eumenides
Every human on this earth has a bond to another. These bonds, as well as their significance, differ between people. This paper will focus on the bonds of marriage and blood, and their role in the plays Antigone and The Eumenides. How do they relate to each other? Is one more important than the other? How does the divine and mortal world interpret these? Through a review of the two plays and a comparison of their presentation of the bonds of blood and marriage, this paper will answer these questions.
Upon initial examination, the bond of blood seems to be the prevailing one in Antigone, but upon closer examination, it is obvious that the bond of marriage plays a strong role as well.
Sophocles introduces these bonds through Antigone's troubled ancestry; she was born of an alliance between her brother and her mother. (This alliance also produced Ismene, Polyneices, and Eteocles.) This disobedience of natural laws clearly shows the disrespect that this family has for bonds of marriage and of blood. This disobedience may be innate, as some argue that Oedipus knew nothing of his wife's relation to him when he killed the king, his father. (Coles Notes, 20-21)
In any case, this disrespect has been passed onto Antigone. She sees marriage as a kind of death. (Sophocles, 504-508) She also states that she would not have buried her husband against the city's orders, as she did for her brother. (Sophocles, 960-964) Her logic is that although she may have another husband or child, she will never have another brother, since her parents are dead. (Sophocles, 966-969) This leads to the conclusion that the death of her parents has strengthened the blood bond. (In other words, the destruction of marriage causes stronger blood ties, where marriage weakens blood ties.) This is why Antigone sees marriage as a kind of death, and why she believes that it will weaken her ties with her family. (Sophocles, 506-512)
Antigone first expresses her sense of duty to her siblings in lines 81 to 89:
"Be as you choose to be; but for myself
I myself will bury him. It will be good
To die, so doing. I shall lie by his side,
Loving him as he loved me; I shall be
a criminal-but a religious one."
This conviction is tested indirectly many times throughout the play, but most strongly in a confrontation with Creon, where she maintains and restates her original beliefs. (Sophocles, 509-515) This is especially noteworthy considering the times in which she lived. Her place is in the household, or oikos, not to look for glory or bravery, or challenge authoritative figures.
The lines are not as clearly drawn in The Eumenides. The divine and mortal worlds have different opinions about the sanctity of blood and marriage bonds. The issue here is one of justice, as it is in Antigone, but in a different respect. In addition, a complicated family history leads up to the conflict. During the Trojan War, King...