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Theories On Tragedy In Antigone Essay

2699 words - 11 pages

Theories on Tragedy in Antigone

Many dramatic theorists have documented their opinions of Sophocles' tragic play

Antigone. They have presented their interpretations as to the motives and moral

character of Antigone and Creon. I will attempt to encapsulate the basic logic behind the

arguments of the critics Brian Vickers, A.C. Bradley (who interprets Hegel), and H. D. F.

Kitto, and venture my own humble opinion as to their validity.

Brian Vickers clearly favors the character of Antigone. He challenges Hegel and

Hegel's view that both Creon and Antigone were essentially right in their beliefs. Vickers

sums up Hegel's theories in a single diagram (Vickers 526), showing Creon and Antigone

as forces in antithetical opposition. I believe that Hegel's theories of tragedy, as explained

by A.C. Bradley, encompass much more than a simple diagram. Hegel thought that Creon

and Antigone represented these forces, but not necessarily that they were diametrically

opposed. Hegel thought that the tragedy of Antigone was that the beliefs of Antigone and

Creon forced them into opposition, because their beliefs were valid and just, though they

did not go about practicing their beliefs in a valid and just manner.

Vickers presents the notion that Sophocles himself favored the character of

Antigone, since Sophocles never criticized her. With this I must disagree; there were

many aspects of Antigone's character that Sophocles would not have included had he

viewed her as above reproach. For instance, she is dreadfully overbearing and righteous.

While Sophocles clearly showed he could paint the picture of a sympathetic character if

he so chose in Oedipus the King, I believe that he deliberately made Antigone, frankly, a

much more bitchy character than Oedipus.

Oedipus displays sympathy and is emotive in ways that Antigone simply isn't, and

that makes Oedipus the King much more tragic than Antigone. Here, Oedipus

demonstrates his compassionate nature when he tells the plague-stricken citizens of

Thebes how he feels for their distress (Sophocles 48):

Poor children! You may be sure I know
All that you longed for in your coming here.
I know that you are deathly sick; and yet,
Sick as you are, not one is as sick as I.
Each of you suffers in himself alone
His anguish, not another's; but my spirit
Groans for the city, for myself, for you.

Oedipus will not be deterred in his search for the truth, no matter who tries to

persuade him to abandon the quest (Sophocles 64):

Oedipus: Do you know anything about him, Lady? Is he the man
we summoned? Is that the man this shepherd means?
Jocasta: Why think of him? Forget this herdsman. Forget it
all. This talk is a waste of time.
Oedipus: How can you...

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