I decided to read three essays for the assignment with them being: Cropp – Antigone’s final speech, Ledbetter – Sophocles, Antigone and Margon – The Death of Antigone.
The first essay i read was ‘Antigone’s final speech’. What i got out of this was the amazement that Antigone’s final speech is one of the most discussed passages in one of the world’s most famous works of literature. It was also interesting the learn that little attention has been given towards discussing the rhetorical design of Antigone’s final speech. It was interesting to read and learn about people’s different opinions about the subject and the most interesting point of it being the debate of Antigone’s reasoning about her decision of burying her brother, which incidentally has been going on since the year 1821. This is the most interesting argument to me among other things discussed in the essay concerning the matter because it is a reason why surprisingly little attention has been given to the rhetorical design of the speech as it is the problematic central section of the speech.
Some of the critics who were involved in the debate as of Antigone’s reasoning to bury her brother rejected 904-20 in the speech.
“Still, to those with good sense I did well to honour you. Never if it were children and I their mother, nor if it were my husband dead and decaying, by no means then would I in defiance of the citizens have shouldered this burden. What law do I satisfy in saying this? With a husband dead i would have had another, and a child from another if bereaved of this one; but when my mother and father are hidden in Hades, no brother could ever be bred for me again. Yet now that I have done you special honour because of this law, I have in Creon’s judgment done wrong and acted with deadfall audacity, dear brother. And now he takes me, manhandling me in this way, unbedded, unwedded, getting no share of marriage or children’s rearing – no, thus bereft of dear ones, thus ill-fated, i go still living to the cavern’s of the dead.”(904-20)
It is understandable why some critics may not see how 904-20 or in some cases only 905-13 served the purpose of proving to Antigone’s fellow citizens that she acted for good reason. But i think that some critics have failed to see the rhetorical design of the speech. I also think that the speech may have been overtime lost in translation, which complicates things. For example the greek word on page 140 line 11 the meaning of the word is not clear.
The second essay i read was ‘The Death of Antigone’ by Joseph S. Margon. I find the discussion whether Antigone’s death was indeed inevitable or if her death could have been avoided if it were not for Creon’s decision to bury Polyneices beforehand very interesting because i myself cannot decide. I think all scholars involved in the discussion make valid points as that the time it took Creon to bury Polynices, and when Antigone committed suicide. If she had killed herself immediately after being immured it would have been unlikely that Creon be able to save her even if he didn’t decide to bury Polynices first. The simplest thing to do may to be to agree with Jebb, who believes that there is no way of ascertaining whether Antigone could have been saved. Another point discussed was whether Teiresias’s warning had really offered Creon the chance to fix the matter or if his failure and suffering had already been determined and was indeed inevitable. Others like Ivan Linforth thinks that the warning given to Creon by Teiresias was simply a chance to improve his character and/or spirit, but the consequences of Creon’s actions could still not be avoided.
In the essay Margon refers to Haemon’s death as a suicide, which i do not think is correct. A suicide would imply that Haemon took his life at his own will but Haemon’s death was indeed an accident as he fell on his own blade piercing him through the heart and killing him. Eurydice’s death may be referred to as a suicide as she killed herself at her own will shortly after the discovery of her last son’s death.
The third essay i read was Sophocles, Antigone by Grace M. Ledbetter. I chose to read this essay among others because the topic that Ledbetter writes about is a very interesting topic i find. She writes about Creon’s words when he discovers Antigone dead and Hamon next to her. Creon’s words “Unhappy boy, what a deed you have done! What came into your mind? What disaster destroyed your reason?” are very curious and I have been very curious to know what Creon meant with his words ever since i read it in the book. Discussions have brought up several ideas as of why Creon had such an outburst. Claims have been made that what caused Creon’s outburst is Haemon’s entry into Antigone’s tomb and others have claimed that it is because Creon knows that Haemon intends to kill himself. Creon’s words may also have been directed towards Antigone as it would be strange if Creon had no reaction to Antigone’s death as he expected to find her alive. Ledbetter explores many reasons for Creon’s reaction that are worth considering but it may be impossible to justify the exact reasons for his reaction. The scene is surrounded by an atmosphere of great confusion after all. I have already considered lots of these options on my own before ever reading the essay but one possibility that Ledbetter explored that has never occurred to me and i find very interesting is the possibility that upon finding Antigone dead, the painful distress that Creon felt when he discovered Antigone dead does not indicate a change of heart. He has not acquired a new fondness for her but the face that she is dead means inevitable disaster for him. This a was very interesting point and makes a lot of sense to me because of Teiresias’s previous warning and freeing Antigone was his only hope of redemption.
I enjoyed reading the essays and i have learned a lot about the play by reading the different discussions and opinions stated by different people. Through reading the essays i have developed a better understanding of the story and the different meanings behind different aspects of the play. I was surprised to learn that different discussions have been raging on for so long and i think a reason for this is because the play must have been lost in translation over time, which complicates certain things causing some things to maybe even be impossible to justify the reasons for certain things.