Antigone essay samples

Written around 441 BC, Antigone is one of the seven surviving plays produced by the Greek playwright Sophocles and is considered to be the classic example of hubris, meaning extreme pride or arrogance that is ultimately a person’s undoing. This play, however, has several other important themes including Sophocles perspectives on human rights and women’s rights. Both are quite fascinating considering ancient Greece practiced slavery and certainly was a male dominated society, but the burial of Polyneices by the hand of Antigone, as well as her rejection of Creon’s decree denying those funeral rites, illustrate Sophocles felt people automatically possessed specific rights to act as they should in certain situations. Also women did not need to be subservient to men and were not inferior.
The daughter of an incestuous marriage between King Oedipus of Thebes and his mother Jocasta, Antigone’s brothers Polyneices and Eteocles perished battling each other in the Theban civil war. The new monarch, Creon declares Eteocles will be honored, while Polyneices will be shamed. He orders Polyneices body to be left outside the city where it lay to be ravaged by animals, insects and the elements. Antigone beseeches her sister Ismene to help her perform the burial rituals for their brother, but Ismene refuses out of fear of Creon’s wrath. Antigone entertains no such concerns and is intent on doing what is right by her brother, no matter what the cost, even if Creon snuffs out her breath. She says to Ismene,
“ Yes. I’ll do my duty to my brother-and yours as well, if you’re not prepared to. I won’t be caught betraying himBut he has no right to keep me from what’s mine.” Antigone buries Polyneices, openly defying Creon, who then orders her punishment to be imprisonment within a cave for the rest of her life. Flouting Creon again, Antigone hangs herself rather than suffer her fate.
Creon, the new king of Thebes and Antigone’s uncle, is nothing short of a tyrant and is the tragic character in this work as through his pride, which is represented by him not tolerating Antigone’s disobedience of his edict, even if it is unfair at best, he loses his son Haemon and is cursed by his cherished wife Eurydice. By not allowing Antigone to bury her brother, Creon loses all that is dear is to him simply because he cannot let go of his own self-importance.
Portrayed as beautiful and submissive, Ismene refuses to aid her sister, yet when questioned by Creon as to her role, she lies and says she was in on the plan. Antigone refuses to allow her to be punished when she never had a hand in Polyneices burial. To the end she was the strong sister that stood up for what she believed was right, while Ismene was content to save her skin despite her Polyneices being her brother.
Although it was written thousands of years ago, the themes of human rights and women’s rights in Antigone still hold true in our modern world. Antigone’s defiance of Creon over her brother’s basic human right to a decent burial show and her steadfast determination not to be denied illustrate these themes. They are even more apparent by using Ismene’s weakness of character as a foil. Antigone is one of the first works in the history of the world to address both these concepts.