Western society has a long history of subjugating women to men. Some cite the idea that women are somehow weaker or inferior to men as a reason for the existence of this social dynamic. In Sophocles's Antigone and, Dürrenmatt's The Visit, however, the female leads show great strength and are even able to threaten the male leads with their power. Creon and Alfred Ill's disdainful and oppressive treatment of women stems not from the supposed inferiority of women, but from the theme that man is afraid to lose control. This theme is developed through particular events in the plot: the men begin in positions of power, which are then threatened by the women. Their amateur reactions to the powerful women cause them to lose more control until in the end, they have nothing. Their redemption comes not through defeating the women, but through accepting responsibility for their own actions.
To begin with, Creon and Ill have power socially and politically. Creon is the King of Thebes and Ill is the “most popular personality” (Dürrenmatt 15) of Guellen. Sophocles and Dürrenmatt set the stage by implying that their current situation will last–– “the gods” (Sophocles 170) themselves appoint Creon as king and the people of Guellen unanimously “[agree] to nominate” (Dürrenmatt 15) Ill as the mayor's successor. Furthermore, foreshadowing of their actions towards Antigone and Claire appears as approval. The elders of Thebes assure Creon that he has power over the “living and the dead” (Sophocles 172), justifying his actions towards Polyneices's body and empowering his punishment of Antigone. Ill, on the other hand, represents Guellen's last chance for survival. “All depends” (Dürrenmatt 14) on Ill's ability to capitalize on his and Claire's past romance and the entire town of Guellen helps him to use Claire for money as it helped him in the past to use her sexually. The authors then give the impression to the audience that both men succeed in exerting their power and control over the women. Creon entombs Antigone without any immediate consequences and Ill seems to seduce Clara to the point where she admits that she will not leave Guellen “in the lurch”(Dürrenmatt 30). It gradually becomes clear, however, that since the arrival of the women, the power of the two men has been placed in jeopardy.
Despite the fact that the women are originally treated abusively, Claire and Antigone strip away Ill and Creon's power. According to the societal standards of the time, Antigone's rebellion emasculates Creon if she “[walks] away
unscathed” (Sophocles 180). Antigone's bold refusal of Creon's edict catalyzes
further disapproval of his rule. The elders agree with Antigone but “trim their tongues” (Sophocles 181) to Creon to avoid his wrath. Figures such as the Leader of the chorus “[have] misgivings” (Sophocles 174) about not burying Polyneices but merely mentioning their doubts makes Creon “furious” (Sophocles 174). Even the Sentry, who arrests Antigone himself,...