HUMA 1825 Note 21
Final Exam – It’s Cumulative
- The details are yet to be provided.
- This is a closed book exam – no outside materials.
- This is Sunday, April 14 from 2-5 in the Rexall Center
- She’s a mythical figure, but her story is very appropriate for our purposes
because it capture a lot of the themes in the course.
o She’s a mythical figure who acts against injustice
o Her example from Sophocles is exemplary because her act in
protesting against injustice takes place in a tyrannical regime (not a
- The context is that of a kind of dictatorial tyrannical regime. Her act makes
her an enemy of the state. Being the enemy of the state, her act is punishable
- Even though she’s a mythical figure she becomes the paradigm case in the
20 and 21 century who are political rebels. She becomes a kind-of
prototype for the figures of the French resistance.
o She’s also a prototype for modern dictatorial regimes.
- Considered to be a tragedy: What is a tragedy?
o This is a conflict where everybody is in the right and in the wrong.
Therefore, everybody is both right and wrong.
- Sophocles’ play is filled with binary compositions and contrasts:
o Between male and female, young and old, living and the dead,
individual conscious and public good, and overarching all of these
conflicts is the conflict between human law and divine law.
- Sophocles makes a strong argument for Antigone – but of course, he
undercuts her position insofar as the Chorus does not totally approve of her
stance and she herself dilutes her position when she says that she would not
have defined the law for a husband or a child, but only for her brother.
- The play is a tragedy with right and wrong, the heroine’s position is undercut
- Four aspect of the play:
o Sociopolitical context of Thebes
o The form and content of Creon’s decree
o Creon’s rationale for his law
o The nature of Antigone’s response to Creon’s decree.
- First: Thebes is a totalitarian regime because all the power is concentrated
into one person: Creon (he has total control of all branches of government).
o In Creon’s regime, all of his subjects are subordinate to the State, and
he is the champion of that state. In his view, the survival of the State
requires the loyalty of all of its citizens, especially in time of war
Therefore, he proclaims in war-torn Thebes “country first” Therefore, anyone who opposes or rebels against him is
an enemy of the State.
Under conditions of terror, most people will comply –
some will not.
o The question is who are the people who will not comply when most
around them do comply?
This aspect is what is so appealing about Antigone – when
everyone around you is being silent and saying “Yes” by being
silent, and others who actively say “No”, what becomes of the
moral make up?
The dictatorial regime puts into high relief into high moral
make up of those who say “no” to injustice
- Second: Creon’s decree is the law. The law is about a specific action – the
forbearance of an action. It forbids the burial of a specific person and
attaches a specific punishment to the forbidden act.
o Its target audience understands the law – the citizens of Thebes.
o The law, although it is general, actually targets the two sisters, since it
was the female family members who performed the burial rights in
Therefore, despite that decree being acted upon all of Thebes,
it was specific against her
The law is general, and is directed against all citizens of Thebes
o Using Fuller’s criterion, you can say that the law is internally
consistent, it is published (no one can claim ignorance of the law), and
the law is capable of being performed by everyone (it is within the
power of everyone not to bury Polynices), the law is perspective in
nature (it doesn’t punish an act before the law came into existence.
Therefore, the decree is a valid, positive law on the books.
o The Content, however, forbids the burial of a dead body – it states that
that body is to be left unburied and subjected to the indignities visited
That content is against the mores of all civilized people in all
countries, in all times.
Therefore, Creon has engendered great hatred from others
(Tiresias tells him), and no one approves of the dead being left
However, they “keep their tongues in leash” and as
Ismene points out “what’s the point anyway?”
o There would be no practical difference in
speaking out – the act would accomplish nothing,
therefore they would sacrifice their life for an
action that will change nothing
- Third: His position makes sense – it is not unreasonable to say that after
Thebes’ trauma of the shape of State, it is not unreasonable to preserve the
safety and security of society o Creon thinks that if he passes the law, it will not only establish
credibility of the King, but it would also deter other traitors like
o There is an obligation on his part as the ruler to ensure the safety of
the State, and only then may the citizens enjoy liberty
Safety and security are the preconditions of liberty – this is the
argument that was made after 9/11 that justified the passing of
certain legislation – the necessity to return safety and security
to the state
o Although he needs to restore order to Thebes, he is deemed to be
sacrilegious and a tyrant to prevent a burial to Polynices.
- Fourth: Antigone defies Creon – she buries her brother. In Sophocles text, her
motivation is clear. She has two types of motivation
o Her devotion to the law of the Gods
o Her devotion to her family
o Both of these (religion and family) propel her forward
o Even though her motivations are clear, there is no universal approval
of her stance (The Chorus thinks she went too far).
They claim that her own blind will has destroyed her.
She also dilutes her conviction in saying that not all blood
relations would make her disobey the law – her repudiation
makes it puzzling, similar to Creon’s repudiation to his original
o Modern day interprets claim that not only are religion and family her
motivation, but it is through her inner force.
There is therefore an internal necessity to rebel and say no. A
lot of commentators have spoken very highly of this Antigone,
notwithstanding the ambiguity of her position
“She is the star that has shone brightly through the millennium
and shown emulators like Gandhi, etc. – those who stood
against injustice and said “no”,
Anouilh takes Antigone and transposed that story into his time
and place and for his purposes.
- This is essential to understand Anouilh’s point of view
- You can read the play without knowing the historical and political aspect, but
it would be detrimental. The historical background gives it its resonance. It’s
impossible to understand the play without the understanding of the context.
- France’s role during WWII is unique in all of Europe – the war began in Sept.
1939 with the German invasion of Poland.
o By June 1940, the great army of France that had defeated Germany in
WWI was defeated.
o The Maginot line on the border between France and Germany had
been breached. o There was an armistice signed between Germany and France
o France was defeated on June 1940
- On July 1940, the French government dissolved itself, and Philippe Petain
was held back to be head of State, and he very reluctantly came back to do
the job that “had to be done”
o So began the government’s policy of cooperation with the Nazi
Most countries did not collaborate with the Nazi power.
(Governments went to exile)
The Netherlands government came to Ottawa
- The seat of the government was moved from Paris (capital) to Vichy, France
– in news reels, all the French flags went down from the buildings, and
France was divided into two: The Germans occupied the northern half, and
Petain governed the southern half.
o Pippen had the country’s motive transformed from Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity into Country, Work, and Family
o Eventually, all of France was occupied by all of Germany
- In 1942 Hitler brought down the armistice and occupied all of France.
o This was a terrible time in France on all levels
They had to pay for the costs of the occupation – The Germans
requisitioned most of the food. The average French person had
a little over 1000 calories of food.
The young French were sent to Germany to work. The entire
French economy was put into service of the German War
- In the 1930s there was Leon Broun, Jewish politician, and he lead the
o He eventually became prime minister – his policies didn’t make sense,
and therefore some people preferred Hitler.
- There were the French militia who complied with all of the orders of the
Nazis – they were actively on the forefront of the movement, the background
who were in acquiescence of the movement, and those who were in the
- “Sweet Francais” – a book in