Demise of a Hero Essay

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The play Antigone is one of the known Greek tragedies. Written by Sophocles and performed in 441 BC, the play is considered, up to the present time one of the most recognized tragedies ever written. But then, what is a tragedy and what differentiates it from other forms?

Aristotle, in his Poetics, defined tragedy as the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself.(Aristotle, VI.2) Aside from such, tragedies also have the ability to instigate a feeling of pity and fear for the character. However, these feelings will be lost due to a catharsis or purging of such emotions caused by the tragic hero.

There has been much debate as to who is the tragic hero in the play.  In Aristetolian definition , the tragic hero is doomed to fail and posseses a  tragic flaw, or fatal flaw. In the case of  Antigone, her tragic flaw, or misjudgement, that is hamartia is her higher laws of duty to the gods and ones family. She is willing to do all things for the laws she strongly abides by and fight for the family whom she is devoted to. Creon ,  on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He disregards the directives from the gods.

The characters tragic flaw takes the character down as the tragedy progresses. I quote from Antigones line Gladly will I meet death in my sacred duty to the dead. Longer time have I to spend with them than with those who live upon the earth. Seek not to argue with me; nothing so terrible can come to me but that an honored death remains.(Sophocles) Truly, Antigone is ready to face death to fulfill her duties.

In Creons case, I quote, Honoring the good and punishing the vile, as well beseems a ruler, I have assigned due funeral rites to Eteocles, who died fighting for the fatherland; but Polynices, who sought to make desolate with fire his native city and its gods, and who sought to glut himself with kindred blood and lead our citizens to slaveryto him shall no man give a tomb. Let the body lie mutilated, as a feast to dogs and birds. Therefore have I appointed watchers over his corpse, and do ye watch yourselves that no one disobey. Greed has often led men to their death.(Sophocles)

Aside from having a tragic flaw, Aristotle defines a tragic hero as having several other characteristics that invoke the emotions of the audience who are watching the tragedy. The tragic hero is characterized by four major attributes. The first, tragic flaw, or hubris has already been discussed in the earlier part. Another trait is that the character must be either born of noble blood, must posses nobility; or is born with a high degree of wisdom. In the case of Antigone, she is born of nobility. Antigone is Oedipus and Jocatas daughter. Then again, Creon is also of noble origin since he is the current ruler at.that time.

After such follows perepetia or a reversal of fortune which is caused by the aforementioned flaw. Antigone is emprisoned and starved to death, while Creon eventually loses all that he has. Creons anagorisris or realization of his mistakes came too late. When he consulted the prophet Teiresias, all of his family were dead and Antigone had already commited suicide.

Antigone was written by Sophocles a known tragedian, it was written for Greek audience and was meant to be performed on a Greek stage. Antigone is One of the 3 Theban plays or Oedipus cycle. This set contains Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus and the aforementioned play, Antigone. The characters in the play are individuals who are part of Greek mythology.

The play is set in the kingdom of Thebes at a time after the outbreak of a war in between armies led by the two sons of Oedipus. The main conflict of the play was presented in the beginning of the play. Since the beginning of the play, the conflict lies on the death of the two brothers who had apparently killed each other. Creon suggested that Polynices would not be given proper burial.

He argues that since Polynices fought against the kingdom of Thebes, he cannot be buried with proper rights while Eteocles received full military honors in his burial. Having found out what had become of his brothers, Antigone defies Creons decree and decides to bury his brother. When Creon found out about this, he ordered for Polynices remains to be dug out. At this point, Antigone accepts to be punished by death for the action she has done. Ismene claims to be part of this incident but Antigone does not allow her to admit to such act.

The Main characters in the play are: Antigone , Ismene, Antigones sister Creon, Eurydice, Haemon and Teiresias. Antigone is a woman who adheres firmly to the law of the gods as well as the protection of her family. In the course of the play, we see that Antigone holds onto what she believes in up until her death. Ismene, as she goes into a dispute with her sister, showed her resilience and how Antigones ideas had greatly influenced her. Creon is Antigones uncle.

But unlike Antigone, he is a firm believer of the laws of man. He is constrained by the ideas of simplicity and goos sense. Eurydice is Creons wife. She is silent but very significant since her suicide marked the total fall of Creon. Haemon is Antigones fianc and Creons son. He tries to convince his father to spare Antigones life. He was also responsible for speaking of the opinion of the people that Antigones decision was right. Teiresias is the blind prophet who spoke to tell Creon of his wrongdoings. Teriesias blindness and Eurydices silence tells us how significant the stillness can become.

            In our modern age, there is still debate on who should be followed. Although most laws that are created adhere to the known laws of our religion, there is still conflict between the man-made and divine laws. At times, it is very difficult to decide which laws to put first, especially when there is no absolute right and wrong. However, as what had happened to Creon, it is very possible that we make a mistake and end up much like the tragedy that is in Antigone.







Works Cited







Aristotle, Poetics.







Gregory, Justina, ed.. A Companion to Greek Tragedy, 2005







Segal, Charles, Tragedy and Civilization: An Interpretation of Sophocles (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999, new edition).




Sophocles. Three Theban Plays. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1986,           p. 35

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