Friday, September 24, 2010


Sophocles’ Antigone is a beautifully written Greek tragedy that has long captured the attention of philosophers and revolutionaries alike. It is a story of conflicting orders of values, of radical divisions and of opposition between family and state, men and women, ethics and politics, individuality and collectivism and religion and law.

In this play Antigone, the unflinching and uncompromising heroin, defies an ordinance issued by the King of Thebes (Creon) to let her slain brothers body rot and deteriorate above ground without a proper burial because of his betrayal of the city of Thebes. Antigone defies the king and buries her brother citing her duty to her family and to divine law.

"I intend to give my brother burial. I'll be glad to die in the attempt, if it's a crime, then it's a crime that God commands."

Antigone feels no remorse for her actions and refuses repentance, thereby inflaming the king who quickly decries:

“Show me a greater crime in all earth!
She, she destroys cities, rips up houses,
Breaks the ranks of spearmen into headlong rout.
But the ones who last it out, the great mass of them
Owe their lives to discipline. Therefore
We must defend the men who live by law,
Never let some woman triumph over us.
Better to fall from power, if fall we must,
At the hands of a man—never be rated
Inferior to a woman, never.”

Antigone’s sprit of defiance has long been heralded by feminists as a noble and revolutionary act in which Antigone stands in opposition to Creon in what seems to be an irreconcilable debate, Antigone becoming the embodiment of moral idealism and individuality and Creon political realism and collectivism.

Antigone espouses the ability to use social rebellion and civil disobedience to destabilize a society and traditional gender roles. As the story unfolds, Antigone exposes the falsities and failures of such oppositions and seeks to reveal and break down such false dichotomies as man and woman, individualism and collectivism and morality and law, showing a radical transcendence of an outsider living in a patriarchal society.

“I didn't say yes. I can say no to anything I say vile, and I don't have to count the cost. But because you said yes, all that you can do, for all your crown and your trappings, and your guards—all that your can do is to have me killed.”