Essay Example on Antigone: A Tale of Clashing Themes and Gender Roles

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1166 Words
Date:  2023-02-23


Antigone, by Sophocles, is a tragic play that was written in 441 BCE by the ancient Greek Playwright (Meineck & Woodruff, 2003). The play majors in distinct themes, providing the drama with possibilities of many different interpretations. The most significant themes which can be identified in this play include; conscious versus law, individual versus state, divine law versus human law and the position of the female as a gender. The themes and ideas in the play have a significant relationship with politics, society, and specific aspects of intellectual concepts studied in the classroom. If the Athenians were watching this play, they would have noticed the horror of tyranny as illustrated by the actions of various characters like Creon and Antigone. This essay focus on addressing the themes in Antigone, message by Sophocles to his audience and the reaction of the Athens if they would be watching the play.

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Sophocles message to his Audience

Antigone poses questions on the nature of political power and that of citizenship. In the play, Sophocles infuses ideas, stories, and issues of his own relevant time. At the time, citizens were motivated to convey loyalty to the polis and to adhere to its rules, and to place the loyalty of the laws against the interests they had towards their families. At the time, the public could cast votes and communicate as they wanted, and most public officials were held responsible for their actions. In the community, some dangers were present like the aristocratic figures that were thought of possibly re-establishing the tyrannical rule. Traitors in Antigone were not allowed to bury their bodies within certain lines in the polis. Sophocles audience would probably have held many political, moral, and religious beliefs (Meineck & Woodruff, 2003).

In the play, the prestige and wealth of Athens drew a distinct group of thinkers in the city. The sophists spread the ideas of relativism and challenged traditional ideologies. The conventional population allowed people to pose questions like; the cosmos of nature, religious practices, and the moral rules of civilization. Sophocles, through the distance setting, engaged his audience in questions which pertained the society, including the aspect of revenge against enemies, human-divine laws, and the limits of the authority of the state. In all these questions, there is no particular answer offered to what is wrong and what is right, making the audience to debate when the play reaches the end.

The message of Sophocles to his audience would be that fate is essential and that the gods control what is in their lives. Destiny can be fulfilled, but it all depends on a person's actions towards their life. The gods do not control everything, but they set up an individuals' fate before they are born (Meineck & Woodruff, 2003). Sophocles succeeded in portraying this message since the Greeks knew nothing about free will in all aspects of their lives, but only believed in fate. Every Greek respected him and did not question him.

The Themes and Message the Athenians would notice first seeing the play Sophocles' Antigone

The tragic stage of Antigone would be an ideal place for Athens to look into political issues of interest (Meineck & Woodruff, 2003). The purpose of the Athenian theatre was a heroic myth. Before the fifth century, fictitious people and invented plots were very few. In the audience of Athens, the world of the epic was very recognizable. Epic poetry would be performed every year in the Athenian theatre, meaning that the age of heroism was a shared possession for a considerable audience.

The audience of Athens lived in a universe which was engaged in a shifting and complicated relationship. The play portrays the effect of a tragic world where the heroic past and present meet. To both the Athens and democracy, not all tragedy is political, neither are all the questions unique. The Athenian drama could explore actual areas of political tension; which is well illustrated in the play, Antigone. It is hard for anyone watching the play and listening to the newly appointed King, Creon, not to notice the present ideas about loyalty to the city. Sophocles presents the rhetoric of devotion to the city to sound like the rhetoric of the democratic statesman Pericles in the historian Thucydides (Hall, 2006). Besides this, Pericles emphasizes people loving the city. In this world, people are expected to participate n war for the town, and even die for the sake of the city. As mentioned by Creon, "this land, our land is the ship that preserves us, and it is on this ship that we sail straight and as she prospers so will we" (Meineck & Woodruff, 2003). He insists on the allegiance to the state that he is, in the end, robbed of his own family.

In Sophocles Athens, those who were executed for treason could not be buried in Attica. In Antigone, how the dead are treated is prominent (Hall, 2006). The play, Antigone is not about how the bodies are buried or about the ideologies of democracy, but it focuses on a clash of loyalties, wills and principles, power, integrity, tenacity and limits of legitimacy. While it can lay in the Greek world theatres, for the audience of Athens, what would give the play intensity would be its echoes of tension.


The play, Antigone, offers a representation of imagined consequences of conflicts of both principle and character and exemplifies the virtues which Aristotle portrayed in the plots of the great tragedies. To support the perception that Antigone and Creon are an embodiment of contradicting principles, the enactment of cosmic justice might be taken. The actions of both Antigone and Creon can, however, be explained as mere human motivations. Antigone does not fear death and shows it through her suicidal thoughts, while Creon is not confident he will be accepted as a new ruler, and ends up worrying and undermining his authority. While the play offers a representation of the conflicts of character and principle, it fails to give an ultimate solution to these. The play lacks political propaganda and the references to Athens, betraying its patriotic interests, given the fact that it was written in Athens. Antigone stresses the themes of law and duty and that of civil disobedience by believing that the law is absolute and that civil disobedience should not be buried. In most current debates, people have argued that the reason as to why Antigone had such a strong desire to bury Polynices in the play is due to the idea that by pouring dust over the body of her brother, she would be fulfilling some religious obligations. While to some audience, it is an act of dramatic inconvenience on the part of Sophocles, to others, it remains an act of distraction on the behavior of Antigone and her state of obsessiveness. Th play critically outlines the rejection and acceptance of authority.


Hall, E. (2006). The theatrical cast of Athens: interactions between ancient Greek drama and society. Oxford University Press.

Meineck, P., & Woodruff, P. (2003). Theban plays. Hackett Publishing.

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