Sophocles as well (Page 3). In addition
Sophocles was born near Athens, in the small town of Colonus, around 495 BC. His ninety-year life span coincided with the rise and fall of the Athenian Golden age. The son of Sophillus, a wealthy armor maker, Sophocles was provided with the best traditional aristocratic education available in Athens (Page 3). Very little is known about Sophocles as a youth, although one public record suggests his participation in The Chorus of Youths, chosen to celebrate the Athenian naval victory at Salamis, in 480 BC (Terrell 1). Much speculation exists around the life of Sophocles as a young man, but no definite record of his achievements can be found before 468 BC, the year he defeated Aeschylus in a dramatic competition. During his life as a dramatist, Sophocles won first prize about twenty times, in annual competitions usually held at the Theatre of Dionysus, and was awarded second prize many times as well (Page 3).
In addition to his theatrical accomplishments, Sophocles also served on the Board of Generals, a committee that administered civil and military affairs in Athens. He supposedly denied more illustrious positions concerning politics, and spent the majority of his time as a dramatist and civil servant until his death in 406 BC (Terrell 1).The contributions made by Sophocles to dramatic technique were numerous, and two of his innovations were especially important.
He increased the number of actors from two to three, thus lessening the influence of the chorus and making possible greater complication of the plot and the more effective portrayal of character by contrast and juxtaposition; and he changed the Aeschylean fashion of composing plays in groups of three, each of them part of a central myth or theme, and made each play an independent psychological and dramatic unity (Babette 2).In his lifetime, Sophocles composed more than one hundred plays, of which seven complete tragedies and fragments of eighty or ninety others are preserved. Of the complete works available, Antigone, Oedipus Tryannus (Oedipus Rex), and Oedipus at Colonus are widely considered to be masterpieces (Terrell 2).Antigone is a play which embodies many values held dear to the ancient Greeks: morality, pride, selfless love, the power of the Gods, and similar issues which are timelessly inherent within the human condition are pursued endlessly by Sophocles and his dramatic cast of characters, making the play as relevant to contemporary man as it once was to the ancient Athenian. The play initially appears to center around Antigone, focusing on her selfless love, and subsequent sacrifice to ensure her brothers burial. Although this is a main concept used by Sophocles to perpetuate the tragedy, the ensuing bulk of the play appears to deal more deeply with the fate of Creon. This leaves four very important issues within the play, dealing with (1) the opposition of Creon and Antigone (2) the internal struggle between Creons own authority and his overwhelming sense of pride or ego (3) the opposition between Creon and the Gods, and (4) the transcendental issue regarding personal morals and the laws of the state.
These concepts are dealt with steadily throughout the play, although the Prologue, the Parodos, and part of scene one can be viewed as an introduction, mainly used to inform the audience about actions which have invoked the plays scenario, while also acting as a vehicle for Sophocles to deliver his thoughts regarding morality.The Prologue sets the stage for the action in the rest of the play. It explains the battle between Eteocles and Polyneices armies over Thebes, and Polyneices subsequent death. The fate of Polyneices body is announced, and this immediately begins the conflict between Creon and Antigone. This also incites the opposition of Antigones views against the laws of Thebes, while also showing Antigones compassion for her brother, although the latter is often viewed as simply a catalyst for the larger issues in the play.
The Parodos is also concerned with action that has occurred prior to the play, and informs the audience about how the Gods and the native citizens of Thebes feel about the state of their city. Both the Gods and the citizens play major, although subtle roles regarding the direction of the plot and the fate of the cast.Scene one offers little action, despite formally announcing Creon’s views regarding Polyneices burial, and thus perpetuating the conflict between Creon and Antigone.This conflict continues into scene two, and begins the opposition of Creon versus the Gods. Antigone tells Creon that she knows she has done the right thing, and that the Gods are in her favor.
Creon sentences Antigone to death, putting his laws ahead of the laws of God, and this begins the internal struggle within Creon, centered on his ego, and the external struggle between Creon and the Gods that rule Thebes.The majority of scene three deals with the internal struggle within Creon. Haimon pledges his allegiance to his father, but asks him to reconsider the fate of Antigone. Creon argues that he makes the rules in the state and all must respect these laws, regardless of situation or personal consequence. Creon must deal with his ego, and Haimon warns him that no man alone can be right. This also perpetuates Creons conflict with the Gods, making himself out to be the highest power in Thebes.Scenes four and five really illustrate Creons opposition to the Gods, and also sort of seals the fate of Antigone in death, and Creon in his own self-demise.
Tiersias informs Creon that the Gods are angry with him and with all of Thebes. In spite of this, Creon announces that he will not yield his verdict, and Antigone will remain entombed. It is not until the Choragos, representing the people of Thebes, begs Creon to set Antigone free that Creon actually admits he has wronged.The Paen and Exodus deal mainly with the demise of Creon.
With Haimon, Antigone, and Creons own wife dead, he knows that he is wrong, and is humbled in the eyes of the Gods. Antigone has been available for criticism for a very long time. Undoubtedly, opinions regarding this work have changed dramatically throughout hundreds of years. As time passes, cultures develop, and norms arise within societies, the meaning of this play can change along with the times.H.D.F Kitto feels that Antigone deals mainly with issues concerning the fate of Creon.
Antigone is not present for the second half of the play, and Kitto thinks that Sophocles purposely composed the play in this manner so that the audience can focus on the dilemma surrounding Creon. The heroine drops out halfway through and leaves us to do are best with Creon. Kitto continues to argue that the play is really focused on two main characters, and not just Antigone. He feels that the play cannot be understood in its entirety until the audience comes to the realization that the fate of Creon is just as important, if not more so, than the fate of Antigone. The last part of the Antigone makes no sense until we realize that there is not one central character but two, and that of the two, the significant one to Sophocles was always Creon.
Kitto views the whole play as a vehicle for Sophocles to show the fate of Creon. Antigones fate has already been decided before the conclusion of the first scene, and although the play does initially deal with the compassion felt by Antigone for her brother, the overwhelming bulk of the play is set up to present Creon to the audience for judgment. The conflict between Antigone and Creon is indeed vivid and poignant, but there underlies it a deeper one: that between Creon and the Gods, between the tyrant and the ultimate realities (Kitto 43).The opinion derived in the second analysis I have chosen to present differs a little from the first, however the author of this article seems to appreciate the compassion of Antigone for her slain brother.
The author of this article views the play as the opposition of two polar opposites, and argues that the play centers on this conflict. The clash is between bad law, enforced by a bigot, and the instinctive, loving devotion of a women to her dead brother (Lattimore 3). The author also thinks that the fate of Creon is a very large issue within the play, and what gives the play such suspense is the fact that Creon holds his own fate within his hands during the entire play. Creon is the maker of his own destiny, and he alone has the power to save Antigone from death, and himself from damnation. Unfortunately, bad laws, however bad, may be backed by strength. Creon, enforcing his will, may or may not pull disaster on his own head (Lattimore 4).The third opinion I have chosen to present seems to deal more with the larger, more intangible issues within the play.
The author of this article views the whole play as a vehicle for Sophocles to deliver his views regarding the opposition of personal morals against the laws of the state. According to the author, Antigone represents the classical statement of the struggle between the law of the individual conscience and the central power of the state (Sheppard 120). The author continues to reason that the fate of Creon is used by Sophocles to show the audience what happens when a leader of a state dismisses the concerns of the citizens and involves his/her pride when making important decisions. And it is not very striking that such a large share of the Antigone should be devoted to the conclusion of the conflict, as far as Creon is concerned, and to the destruction of his human happiness (Sheppard 122).I think that Antigone is a very well written play. It is composed on many levels, and tackles subjects that are extremely relevant on a human level, while also developing and presenting subjects on a larger scale as well. Sophocles uses the play to not only show the misfortune of a young woman honoring her dead brother, but he also develops the play to center around broader issues.
Sophocles spends a considerable time throughout the play developing the character of Creon, and this is probably what intrigues the audience most of all throughout the play. Antigones fate has been determined before the conclusion of the first scene, and the rest of the play deals with the fate of Creon. Sophocles leads us in to this dilemma, and the key to the success of this endeavor is giving Creon complete control of his own demise.
Antigones fate is handed down to her; it is out of her control. The fate of Creon however, lies completely within his own control. The audience is directed to Creon, and the majority of the play focuses on his internal conflict. It is Creon who must decide right and wrong. The audience is purposely meant to focus on this conflict, and they cannot help but watch him dig his own grave.Sophocles also uses the play to deliver his statements concerning morality. It is made very clear throughout the play that the laws of Gods are more powerful than any ordinance created by man.
Antigone defies the state, but it is clear that the Gods, representing all that is truthful, sincere, and inherently good, favor her.Bibliography:Babette, Clarence. Sophocles: His Work and Influence. Sep. 1999.
*http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/6681/sophoclb.htm*(13 Apr. 2000)Kitto, H.D.
FLattimore, Richard. The Complete Greek Tragedies. Ed. David Grene.
New York City: The Modern Library, 1982.Page, Jeffery M. A Brief Biography of Sophocles and Comments on Major Works. June.
1997.*http://www.watson.org/rivendell/dramagreeksophocles.html* (13 Apr.
2000)Sheppard, J.T. Aeschylus and Sophocles. Ed. David Moore Robinson. New York City: Cooper Square Publishers, 1963.Terrell, Vincent.
Biographical Information on Sophocles. Sep. 1998*http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc.
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