Antigone – The Acceptance of Death

Antigone proved itself to be true to the genre of tragedy, far more than I could have expected it to be. Full of fortuitous twists, the emotions this play evoked ranged from surprise to remorse as well as the many unexpected feelings in between. One page led to the next and soon enough I was engrossed in a Greek masterpiece, full of love, hate, vengeance and death. Sophocles managed to engage and enthrall me in countless ways. Perhaps it was the stubborn and strong-willed protagonist or the incredulity of the plot, yet either way this play had me intrigued.

Death, the underlying theme of many tragedies was undeniably present in Antigone. Humanity has always been fascinated with death, it has been feared, studied respected and questioned. Antigone is no exception to humanity. Sophocles’ play exploits the realm of embracing death and fearing it, to wish for death and to dread it. This fascinated me. What happens after we die? I am sure that I am not alone when I say that this question has haunted and intrigued me for many years. The play does not answer that one big question, however it discusses our relationship with the thought of dying. The two main characters Antigone and Creon have opposing views. Antigone, a character that I admire, says, “Die I must, I’ve known it all my life” (p. 81, l.513).  Throughout the play she bluntly states that she does not care about death overpowering her, she embraces death, if it means that her brother will receive the burial he deserves. This demonstrates both her view of death and why I admire her as a character. Even if she is put to death as a result of her actions, she is ready to accept responsibility and ready to die. She has a strong sense of self and is willing to risk her life for what she believes in. On the opposing side there is Creon, the man that fears death. In my opinion Creon is a coward, a man who will do anything to avoid pain and loss of power. This fear is subtle and is harder to discern from the text, however it can be seen on page 125 when Creon says, “harbor of death, so choked, so hard to cleanse!-/Why me? Why are you killing me?” (pg. 125). This passage shows the fear in a man who believes his time is up, giving Creon opposite qualities of that of a hero, and illustrating his opposing view to those of Antigone. To me, both of these cases are absolute extremes. Does anyone really want to die? And does anyone really fear death? The answer to these questions, I am sure, would differ dramatically depending on age, health status, mental health, race, religion and culture. But the one thing I cannot help reflecting upon is how these crucial questions are still very much themes in today’s society, and how an author wrote about these timeless topics thousands of years ago?

As previously mentioned, I really admire and respect the character Antigone and all she portrayed. As the elder of two siblings and a observative in nature, I’ve noted obvious differences in family dynamics based on the line up. Oldest is typically the well-behaved golden child, middle is the more spontaneous, and the last is the do-no- wrong baby. As the oldest daughter, Antigone not only stepped out of this stereotype, but strayed as far away from it as she could. Suffering death in the eyes of everyone except her, who believed in something so much she invited it in. She also earned my respect when looking at societal norms of this time, between male and female. In the eyes of the majority, including the ruler Creon, Eteocle’s fought back for what he believed in, dying with respect and chivalry. However when Antigone does something she believes in she dies the dishonorable one, why is that? She as a woman, was not expected to lay her life down for anything. Antigone was supposed to be just another obedient, pretty face, such as her younger but more compliant and favored sister Ismene. Only men were respected for dying for their beliefs, and that was shown in this scenario, being viewed as a stupid girl for doing the very same thing as her male peers. To me, Antigone died an honorable death, just as honorable as Eteocles. It may be argued that the protagonist and the tragic hero of the story is Creon, but to me Antigone took the main role.

Antigone was a play filled with issues and topics that are still relevant today, this is why I enjoyed it so much. Every good piece of writing should raise questions. Antigone certainly did. Questions about death and humans relationship with it, questions regarding the position of a women as a gender and questions about fate and its inescapability. Was Antigone really the one making the decisions or was it all the work of the gods?