HUMA 1825 Note 2
- Tragedy is defined by moral rights and moral wrongs
- Tragic heroes must suffer: their suffering is result of their arrogance and
inflexibility. They realize their wrongs when it’s too late
- Laius and Jocosta begin the family. They give birth to Oedipus. He then
unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother. They give birth to four
children: Antigone, Ismene, Polynices, and Eteocles. Creon is married to
Eurodycies. Two sons. Haemon lives and is to be married to Antigone.
- The play begins with the fallout of civil war. Oedipus leaves Thebes in exile.
Antigone leaves. The two sons stay and want to share in rule. The brothers
then twiglet with one another. There can only be one king. Civil war. Eteocles
wins. Polynices is sent to exile. Argos allies him. He plans to sack city, and lay
claim for himself. Oedipus’ curse comes to fruition because brother kills
brother. Creon takes throne. First thing he does is; make a law: no burying
- This is how traitors will be treated here (Thebes). This is only part of the
message. Sympathizers (those who would oppose this law, and might be
tempted to bury the body) will be punished by death.
- Play opens with Antigone and Ismene discussion. Her name translates into
Anti-Birth. She remains defiant; she’s convinced that the law is an unjust one.
She is set to bury her brother. Her sister strongly disagrees. This is the first of
many ethically and moral conflicts: between two sisters. At least from them,
what have we learned (the children of Oedipus) form the various tragedies
that have fallen upon our family? What lessons can we take from that
tragedy? Oedipus is a puzzle solver who couldn’t solve his identity because
until it was too late. The next tragedy was the death of two brothers. Ismene
now thinks they should act reasonably. She defends her position first by
ridiculing her sister’s want of the impossible. She attempts to be both noble
and cautious. Greeks can’t have it both ways. She attacks Antigone as a way of
justifying her own uncertainty in taking a stand in the unjust law that has
affected her family. On the other hand, Antigone is defiant and her world is
black and white: with or against. Antigone defies the law and sets into motion
her fate. She’s accepting of consequences: civil disobedience.
- The sentry presents the news to Creon. Conflict and Creon’s awareness of
bad choice. He attempts to convince himself that a rebel or mercenary has
broken the law for financial gain. Money, must be the motive. The only
reason someone would defy this law, is because they were driven to
corruption through money. Money corrupts. Money, not reason, makes
people do ennoble acts. Money is the base motivation for criminal or wrong
doings. Creon resorts to money as being the motivation because he cannot
entertain the idea that the intention behind the unlawful act may be noble.
Maybe it’s questioning the morality and justice of his own law. This makes
him jump to the conclusion money. His niece is the outlaw in question. She
finds pride in it. She’s locked up with Ismene. Her first defense for herself is
that she appeals to an egalitarian sense of justice: says the dead irrespective
of their actions in life are all equal and should be treated as such. Passage of burial rights told her. Furthermore, the customs of the city are directly
determined by the will of the gods. Political, objective, and moral. She appeals
to a higher law. She’s sentenced to death. She’s to be walled alive.
- Creon’s decision is challenged: By Antigone, by Haemon. Haemon introduces
two arguments why this is an unjust law: political and deeply personal.
Political: Haemon tries to argue on behalf of objective justice in a well-
ordered society. You can’t rule a city as if it belongs to you. The interest of
other (well being of city). He doesn’t want to rule under the opinion of others
(Am I not king?). The city is to be ruled by a singular. He also tells his dad “If
you do this, you ruin my chances of me having a family.” Creon says: “There
are other fields to plow”. Women are disposable, interchangeable. Don’t put
all eggs in one basket.
- The Chorus also presents an argument to Creon, that his decree is a bit
offside. The function of the chorus is to express the sentiments of the
audience. It’s a more sophisticated version of you communicating with your
TV. They know how things will end they want to appeal to best sense of
judgment. Throughout the play it changes. At first the Chorus agree with
Creon’s decree given the initial justifications. Creon doesn’t council Chorus
and his son.
- Tiresias makes Creon aware of the consequences: the horror that will come
upon his house. The gods are judging him for being arrogance. Creon now
wants to act, because it’s not in his self-interest. This awareness of this is too
late. Creon, blinded by pride (hubris) sets tragedy in motion. He learns of the
error of his way, but his awakening is too late. A simple thesis could be this:
the proud have been punished. Antigone is dead. Creon is miserable and
- Defense of Creon through a series of questions:
o What is Creon’s position at the beginning of the play? What is his
frame of mind?
This city needs a strong ruler. We need to revamp/resuscitate
a sense of patriotism. Polynices was a traitor. We wouldn’t
treat him in the same way as a patriot. He’s not equal. I also
want to send a message to those who would sympathize.
Traitors will know a general message (Genera Deterrence).
o At first Creon believes that what he’s doing is just. Interested in
justice, what’s good for his city? He’s doing what he assumes the Gods
would want. The reason the war e