Play Antigone by Sophocles

The Symbolic Interpretation of the Play Antigone by Sophocles

A play Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most famous ancient Greek tragedies. Antigone is the main heroine of the play whose personality is used by the author in order to show important social issues. A symbolic method of interpretation of this literary text allows in-depth understanding of the messages conveyed by the author based on the male-to-female opposition. This approach provides the researcher with an opportunity to see Antigone and her opponent Creon as the two figures symbolizing femininity and the divine law in contrast to masculinity upholding the authority of the state respectively.

The symbolic analysis of this play takes into account the behavior and speech of the two main characters. Their words and deeds stand as symbols that present femininity and masculinity in accordance with the beliefs of the ancient time. The symbolic image of femininity embodied in Antigone recognizes the authority of the divine law that requires respect for deceased relatives with mandatory burial as a specific norm. In turn, Creon serves as a protector of earthly laws established by earthly rulers. His masculinity embodies the brute force that allows him to neglect the divine laws for the sake of earthly power. However, this circumstance does not stop the courageous Antigone, who says in response to the prohibition of Creon:“Wouldst thou do more than take and slay me?…/Why then dost thou delay? In thy discourse /there is nought that pleases me,-never may/there be!-and so my words must needs be /unpleasing to thee. (Sophocles).

Antigone’s image manifests the respect of ancient Greeks to the laws of the gods as the issue was depicted in ideas of thinkers who lived at that time. In order to see this, it is enough to recall the philosophy of Socrates. In fact, the theorist also points to the supremacy of the divine laws compared with the earthly ones. Without denying the importance and the need to respect the norms created by people, Socrates shows that the divine law cannot be violated under any circumstances. In defense of his opinion, Socrates constantly refers to the will of the gods and justice, making it clear that the divine law must always be honored: “Let the event be as God wills: in obedience to the law I make my defense” (Plato). Socrates tells a story, which clearly indicates his position on this issue. One day, he refused to participate in the trial that was assembled by the Thirty to execute an innocent person. Guided by “the fear of doing an unrighteous or unholy thing,” Socrates left the trial (Plato). Thus, Socrates emphasizes on the fact that justice and divine law are the same, and they cannot be rejected for the sake of compliance with the earthly laws chasing someone’s personal interests. Divine laws can be grasped only when a person learns to separate the truth from the erroneous knowledge (Plato).

The reader has an opportunity to make sure that in the name of the divine law as well as in the name of women’s independence from the majority’s opinion, Antigone violates generally accepted standards of behavior towards women. When her sister asks her to keep the situation secret, Antigone rejects this proposal: “Fear not for me: guide thine own fate aright” (Sophocles). “Within the house, the women of her family would have taught her place as a woman and prepared her for the grim business of readying a philos’ body for burial” (Tyrrell and Bennett 73). Nevertheless, all actions of Antigone are open. She not only provides a symbolic burial of her brother but also tries to fulfill all the requirements of the funeral, even though she is caught by the guard. The courage and fearlessness of Antigone that expresses all the power of the female spirit have no limits. Antigone is a young and beautiful woman who has the right to a private women’s happiness. The protagonist understands that her action is the end of everything. What is more, her disobedience is the road to death, which will deprive her of the possibility to enjoy life and be loved. Nevertheless, Antigone makes a conscious choice in favor of the divine law, thus violating traditional patriarchal foundations of the Greek society. Her last worlds are the following: “Behold me, princes of Thebes, the last daughter of the house of your kings, – see what I suffer, and from whom, because I feared to cast away the fear of Heaven!” (Sophocles). Antigone can be seen as a symbol of brave femininity while “the play repeatedly insists on posing the opposition between Creon and Antigone as one between male and female” (“Antigone, by Sophocles”).

This femininity involves the ability to love and to be faithful to love as well as self-sacrifice. For the sake of the memory of her brother and the duty to her brother, Antigone is ready to give her own life. No one can understand her, especially Creon, who symbolizes the brute male force based on the power of earthly law. Creon is a cruel ruler who denies the right of women to their own choice and their own decision: “Pass, then, to the world of the dead, and, it thou must needs love, love them. While I live, no woman shall rule me” (Sophocles). As a symbol of brave and persistent femininity, Antigone tries to show Creon “how little respect she has for him and tries desperately to make him see that he is not above the law of the gods and should not fool himself into believing so” (Schmuhl et al.). She understands that someone has to maintain the honor and dignity of her family and to bury her brother, and she takes this responsibility.

To summarize, the symbolic method of analysis of the play based on the male/female opposition allows one to see the play as a conflict between femininity that seeks to defend the priority of divine law and human duty and masculinity that insists on the authority of earthly power. Each of the characters is full of self-righteousness. Creon believes that as the governor and a man he has the right to demand compliance with the law of the earth. In turn, Antigone is determined to defend her right to the preservation of family duty and observance of the divine law. On the other hand, the play shows the tragedy of this bold femininity because its price is death. The heroine shows dedication and courage, but she realizes that her life is the price she has to pay for her impudence. Antigone does not try to escape and accepts the punishment. Her female heroism is worthy of praise because, in fact, the girl rebels against the patriarchal foundations of Greek society. Antigone is a selfless fighter for the truth; however, this struggle leads to her death. The male/female opposition thus can be considered not only as a means of maintaining the symbolic balance in the play but also as a symbolic structure that defines the development of the plot.The Symbolic Interpretation of the Play Antigone by Sophocles

A play Antigone by Sophocles is one of the most famous ancient Greek tragedies. Antigone is the main heroine of the play whose personality is used by the author in order to show important social issues. A symbolic method of interpretation of this literary text allows in-depth understanding of the messages conveyed by the author based on the male-to-female opposition. This approach provides the researcher with an opportunity to see Antigone and her opponent Creon as the two figures symbolizing femininity and the divine law in contrast to masculinity upholding the authority of the state respectively.

The symbolic analysis of this play takes into account the behavior and speech of the two main characters. Their words and deeds stand as symbols that present femininity and masculinity in accordance with the beliefs of the ancient time. The symbolic image of femininity embodied in Antigone recognizes the authority of the divine law that requires respect for deceased relatives with mandatory burial as a specific norm. In turn, Creon serves as a protector of earthly laws established by earthly rulers. His masculinity embodies the brute force that allows him to neglect the divine laws for the sake of earthly power. However, this circumstance does not stop the courageous Antigone, who says in response to the prohibition of Creon:“Wouldst thou do more than take and slay me?…/Why then dost thou delay? In thy discourse /there is nought that pleases me,-never may/there be!-and so my words must needs be /unpleasing to thee. (Sophocles).

Antigone’s image manifests the respect of ancient Greeks to the laws of the gods as the issue was depicted in ideas of thinkers who lived at that time. In order to see this, it is enough to recall the philosophy of Socrates. In fact, the theorist also points to the supremacy of the divine laws compared with the earthly ones. Without denying the importance and the need to respect the norms created by people, Socrates shows that the divine law cannot be violated under any circumstances. In defense of his opinion, Socrates constantly refers to the will of the gods and justice, making it clear that the divine law must always be honored: “Let the event be as God wills: in obedience to the law I make my defense” (Plato). Socrates tells a story, which clearly indicates his position on this issue. One day, he refused to participate in the trial that was assembled by the Thirty to execute an innocent person. Guided by “the fear of doing an unrighteous or unholy thing,” Socrates left the trial (Plato). Thus, Socrates emphasizes on the fact that justice and divine law are the same, and they cannot be rejected for the sake of compliance with the earthly laws chasing someone’s personal interests. Divine laws can be grasped only when a person learns to separate the truth from the erroneous knowledge (Plato).

The reader has an opportunity to make sure that in the name of the divine law as well as in the name of women’s independence from the majority’s opinion, Antigone violates generally accepted standards of behavior towards women. When her sister asks her to keep the situation secret, Antigone rejects this proposal: “Fear not for me: guide thine own fate aright” (Sophocles). “Within the house, the women of her family would have taught her place as a woman and prepared her for the grim business of readying a philos’ body for burial” (Tyrrell and Bennett 73). Nevertheless, all actions of Antigone are open. She not only provides a symbolic burial of her brother but also tries to fulfill all the requirements of the funeral, even though she is caught by the guard. The courage and fearlessness of Antigone that expresses all the power of the female spirit have no limits. Antigone is a young and beautiful woman who has the right to a private women’s happiness. The protagonist understands that her action is the end of everything. What is more, her disobedience is the road to death, which will deprive her of the possibility to enjoy life and be loved. Nevertheless, Antigone makes a conscious choice in favor of the divine law, thus violating traditional patriarchal foundations of the Greek society. Her last worlds are the following: “Behold me, princes of Thebes, the last daughter of the house of your kings, – see what I suffer, and from whom, because I feared to cast away the fear of Heaven!” (Sophocles). Antigone can be seen as a symbol of brave femininity while “the play repeatedly insists on posing the opposition between Creon and Antigone as one between male and female” (“Antigone, by Sophocles”).

This femininity involves the ability to love and to be faithful to love as well as self-sacrifice. For the sake of the memory of her brother and the duty to her brother, Antigone is ready to give her own life. No one can understand her, especially Creon, who symbolizes the brute male force based on the power of earthly law. Creon is a cruel ruler who denies the right of women to their own choice and their own decision: “Pass, then, to the world of the dead, and, it thou must needs love, love them. While I live, no woman shall rule me” (Sophocles). As a symbol of brave and persistent femininity, Antigone tries to show Creon “how little respect she has for him and tries desperately to make him see that he is not above the law of the gods and should not fool himself into believing so” (Schmuhl et al.). She understands that someone has to maintain the honor and dignity of her family and to bury her brother, and she takes this responsibility.

To summarize, the symbolic method of analysis of the play based on the male/female opposition allows one to see the play as a conflict between femininity that seeks to defend the priority of divine law and human duty and masculinity that insists on the authority of earthly power. Each of the characters is full of self-righteousness. Creon believes that as the governor and a man he has the right to demand compliance with the law of the earth. In turn, Antigone is determined to defend her right to the preservation of family duty and observance of the divine law. On the other hand, the play shows the tragedy of this bold femininity because its price is death. The heroine shows dedication and courage, but she realizes that her life is the price she has to pay for her impudence. Antigone does not try to escape and accepts the punishment. Her female heroism is worthy of praise because, in fact, the girl rebels against the patriarchal foundations of Greek society. Antigone is a selfless fighter for the truth; however, this struggle leads to her death. The male/female opposition thus can be considered not only as a means of maintaining the symbolic balance in the play but also as a symbolic structure that defines the development of the plot.