Antigone Analysis – literary techniques

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After hearing the final verdict of Antigone’s grim fate, Haemon calmly confronts his father Creon – giving the impression of being fully devoted and supportive of his father’s will and wisdom. A somewhat astonished Creon, praises Haemon’s reverence and acceptance for what seems like compliance to Antigone’s death. He then launches into a brief speech detailing his strong belief in misogynist rule and his deep disdain for traitors like Antigone. This speech proves an essential role to the play as it emphasizes Creon’s major flaws of ignorance and selfishness, while highlighting many themes like the abuse of power and law, which ultimately leads to his wretched punishment.

In this scene, Creon is portrayed as a very patriotic, yet stubborn ruler who cannot stand to be defied – let alone have the laws of the state be defied. He proclaims, “But whoever steps out of line, violates the laws… he’ll win no praise from me.” He starts the declarative sentence with the conjunction “But” – a contrast to the previous stanza where declarative sentences are started with personal pronouns, and imperative verbs. He uses this conjunction with the triple technique to emphasize not only his confidence in his beliefs, but also to emphasize how important he feels it is for the Thebans to win his “praise.” This self-absorbed thinking ultimately escalates his ego, where all his decisions are right – resulting in his failure to recognize that other forms of justice do exist.

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Creon shows no respect for the divine law and mocks the king of gods – Zeus, in his speech. He starts by portraying Antigone in a vulnerable light to make it seem as though she is begging for help – to which Creon tells the people to “Let her cry for mercy.” Creon then continues to expand on the depiction of her weakness in the following clause: “sing her hymns to Zeus who defends… kindred blood,” as if it is a pathetic plea, a last call for any source of hope. To make his contempt feelings towards the gods more explicit, Creon goes on to claim: “if I bring up my own kin to be rebels, think what I’d suffer from the world at large,” which implies that Zeus intentionally raised his children to be rebels – as if Zeus does not think critically before he makes decisions, and does everything without fear of consequence, unlike himself who thinks “what [he’d] suffer.”

In this example, we see that Creon is either delusional and fails to see that he, himself would be considered a rebel since he is Zeus’ “kindred blood,” or that Creon does not believe in gods, or does not consider himself to be related to Zeus, whereby he feels free to make a mockery out of Antigone’s beliefs. Taking into consideration the name Zeus – supposedly the king of gods, it should be noted that this speech contains one of the five times where Zeus is referenced in the entire play. The lack of mention of his name could be a reminder to suggest that the tragic events in the play do not occur as a result of divine intervention, but rather a result of human mistakes.

Aside from Creon’s egotistical attitude and contempt towards the divine law, the audience can observe quite easily that Creon is a very commanding, and confident ruler. He starts his speech with an imperative verb followed by a colon, “Imagine it:” to command his audience to think likewise. To place further emphasis on Creon’s commanding personality, he uses anaphora to contrast the unfaithful citizen with the ideal leader (himself) with plenonasm and periphrasis: “His orders must be obeyed, large and small, right and wrong.” By using periphrasis, he stresses the degree to which he expects the law of the land to be followed and in doing this – places himself above all people. Creon especially values loyalty from the citizens of Thebes.

Creon takes great pride in Haemon’s loyalty after witnessing his son’s devotion to his decision to kill Antigone. He uses repetition of the personal pronoun, “he” to emphasize how rare it is to find someone as loyal as his son, “I have every confidence he and he alone…” He then goes on to expand on Haemon’s character: “Staunch in the storm of spears he’ll stand his ground…. at our side.” Here, Creon boasts his son’s strong character by contrasting the sibilant alliteration with the concrete noun, “ground[‘]”s plosive phonology which becomes symbolic of Haemon’s strong leadership qualities that prevail the “storm of spears.” Creon’s high regard for loyalty is not only shown through the appraisal of his son, Haemon – but also through his disdain for Antigone.

This theme of loyalty – especially ‘loyalty to the land law’ is exposed further throughout the play. Creon feels betrayed by Antigone’s actions, and decides she must be punished accordingly – regardless of whatever relationship they have. He believes that when Polynices decided to display his disloyalty by attacking the city, he chose to revoke his citizenship. Antigone on the other hand, acknowledges that although Polynices had shown signs of treason, he should have been forgiven by the city and honored with a proper burial. Antigone also believes that the state law can and should be broken in such cases that involve divine law or familial piety, and opposes Creon’s view that obedience to man-made law is of the utmost importance. Because of their conflicting views, Creon – who defines citizenship as complete obedience to the will of the state, condemns Antigone to death because he feels that she has abandoned her citizenship by disobeying him and thinking differently.

Creon also cares a lot about his reputation, and abuses his power with the intention of forcing others to think as he does. “I’m not about to prove myself a liar, not to my people, no.” He believes that if he goes back on his word, the people of Thebes will not respect his authority as king. To Creon, it is especially important that he gains the peoples’ respect because with a new reign since the Thebes’ civil war, his insecurities about his reputation provoke him to establish authority for reassurance. He therefore portrays himself as a firm and strong administrator and makes the Thebans fear him so that they see him as the ultimate authoritative figure in Thebes. This is another reason why Creon feels defeating Antigone is so important. He not only wants to attain the city’s order, but also needs to gain pride and confidence in himself as king.

Creon generates this fear in the first stanza by using an exclamatory sentence that contrasts greatly to the previous phrases filled with commas and pauses, to show his confidence in his solution to Antigone’s predicament: “I’m going to kill her!” It is a rather ironic declaration because no sense of the expected familial piety from the uncle is shown. He singles her out in the first sentence by using a hyperbole “the traitor, the only one in the whole city,” to place emphasis on the gravity of the situation – how Antigone is the first person to ever deliberately go against Creon’s orders. Creon’s hasty willingness to kill his own niece also highlights his own selfishness. He becomes so infatuated with preserving his own interpretation of the law (misogynist rule), that he purposely ignores the other option of embarking on a more progressive decision, which could clearly benefit Thebes in terms of making it less conservative.

Creon views Antigone as a threat to the gender roles of the social hierarchy – an inspiration to rebels and dissidents, as she breaks some of the most fundamental rules of her society. In this speech, he announces that he could never admit defeat to a woman, as that would displease the divine law even more so than killing his own niece. It would also be a massive betrayal to his principles. He expresses his strong belief in the misogynist rule by using many literary devices as well as tautology. He begins the third stanza, “Anarchy -” using a parenthesis to build suspense and emphasis on the idea of chaos. “Show me a greater crime in all the earth!” In this exclamatory sentence, the imperative verb, “show me” is used to generate fear, forcing the audience to sway towards agreeing with Creon’s confidence in the misogynist rule. He then goes on to personify anarchy as a woman to signify that women cause chaos, “she, she destroys cities, rips up houses, breaks the ranks of spearmen into a headlong rout.”

Here, the triple technique is used to give the impression that women provoke a numerous amount of destructive acts. The metaphor of the “ranks of spearmen” being broken into a “headlong rout” implies that women confuse even the strongest men – causing them to retreat mindlessly. He also uses a lot of dynamic verbs, which highlights the violence of women and anarchy itself as they, “rip up houses.” Creon then notes how we “must defend men who live by law,” and uses fricative alliteration to emphasize how important the laws he makes are. To make it even more explicit, Creon uses periphrasis in the last lines of this speech along with a parenthesis and puts an end focus of “never” so that the audience are left with the distinct message: “never let some woman triumph over use – never be rated inferior to a woman, never.”

The theme of sexism is further emphasized through the role of the Leader who responds immediately to Creon, “you seem to say what you have to say with sense.” This sibilant alliteration reminds the audience of what they are suppose to feel, coaxing them to become more accepting of Creon’s values. It is important for the audience to acknowledge Creon’s values and characters in order to further appreciate and understand the morals of the play. Sophocles tries to highlight this inequality of sexism primarily through the punishments Creon receives from the Gods as a result of this misogynist thinking.

This theme of pride is also one of Creon’s greatest flaws, as pride itself is seen as a despicable trait by the gods – worthy of no mercy. The gods believe that no man can ever create laws equal to or above divine right. However, in this scene, Creon not only tries to reinforce his own laws like the misogynist rule – but also, attempts to execute Antigone because she favored the honoring of her brother. He remains stubborn – bashing Antigone for being a traitor, and later in the play – still refuses to admit to his mistakes even when Tiresias makes them explicit. This speech leads to Haemon’s distrust in his uncle’s wisdom and ultimately the death of himself and Creon’s wife, Eurydice.

In conclusion, Sophocles uses many literary techniques in Creon’s speech like metaphors, tautology, plenonasm, and parenthesis to convey the main themes of pride, loyalty, misogynist rule, law and justice. He portrays Creon as a commanding, sexist, selfish, delusional, and stubborn ruler who frequently abuses his power to get people to think as he does. The importance of this speech is to better understand Creon’s character in order to fully appreciate the morals presented in the play -namely being the guilt the dramatic hero – Creon feels, realizing after he loses his son and wife, that he was mistaken to place the law of the state above the law of the gods.

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