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Sophocles' Tragedies Essay

1733 words - 7 pages

Sophocles' Tragedies

Although Sophocles' epic story of the life of King Oedipus is widely considered a great dramatic tragedy, the last of the three plays, Antigone, deviates from the first two stories. In Sophocles' other two plays, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, we see the misfortunes and then redemption of Oedipus. He is a king who unwillingly and unknowingly breaks the law of the land and the law of civilized humanity by killing his father and marrying his mother, then punishing himself for his actions. The final play in the set, however, revolves around the struggles of Oedipus' daughter Antigone. As a play, Antigone has elements of both tragedy and victory, yet ultimately I believe that it should be seen as a great victory for humanity. To keep honor in her family, Antigone's goes against a law she feels is unjust, and that decision is punished by her death. Her compassion and bravery are qualities that are present in every human being, but they are sometimes suppressed for the purpose of self-preservation.
When one of Antigone's brothers, Polynices, dies during his raid on the city of Thebes, the reigning king, Creon, demands that the body of Polynices be left on the battle field without mourning or proper burial because of his treacherous actions. But Antigone cannot allow this to happen. Although she realizes what her brother did was wrong, her conscience prevents her from allowing him to lie dead in dishonor and shame. Polynices never did anything to help Antigone or her sister Ismene, yet her sense of sisterly duty transgresses her sense of duty for her king. "I will bury my brother; and if I die for it, what happiness! Convicted of reverence—I shall be content to lie beside a brother whom I love" (128).
That love for her brother stays with her throughout her entire ordeal. To Antigone, she has done the only right thing possible by burying her brother, and when confronted by Creon, she holds her judgement supreme over his in the matter. "I did not think your edicts strong enough to overrule the unwritten unalterable laws of God and heaven, you being only a man" (138). Her direct challenge to Creon's authority makes him very angry, not only because his law has been disobeyed, but because he sees that Antigone possesses a great deal of pride, just as he does, but also a higher sense of worth for fellow humans, something that he does not have. She has hurt his pride in himself and his authority, therefore Creon must execute her so that he can show to the public that his laws are not to be broken and that he himself is not to be crossed under any circumstances.
It is evident that Antigone must cross Creon because of her personal beliefs. To her, it is better to be put to death herself rather than see her brother's death in dishonor and shame. "My heart was long since dead, so it was right for me to help the dead" (141). The death of her brother had already left a deep emotional scar, and there...

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