Throughout history, cultures from around the world has set hat standards for women to abide to. Up until the twentieth century, women were viewed as second class citizens by society and had less freedom and rights than their male counterparts as compare today in the modern world where women can be more involve in society.
Although women still face discrimination such as the glass ceiling in the business corporate world, the quality of life of the western woman today has drastically improve from what women used to face on a daily bases for example a Greek woman from the classical era of the tragic play Antigone by the Greek writer, Sophocles. Antigone portray the role of women of in a Greek society by having two opposing characters, Antigone and her sister, Ismene, with two different contrasting perspectives of morality vs. law on opposite sides of the spectrum in addition having a male view of how women should and should not act .
Sophocles accurately shows how much power women held, which was little to non-exist, during his lifespan. A Greek woman at the time Antigone was written were not considered citizen, therefore they could not participate in politics let alone vote. They would have to stay inside their house unless it was a festival and be accompanied by a guardian. For Sophocles to have a bold resilient character such as Antigone, many people at the time were most likely astonish by Antigone behavior and her resistant to powerful men such as Creon. Antigone went against want society thought she should act.
Antigone was determined to obey the law of the gods regardless of the consequences she would face including death. “I’ll still bury him. It would be fine to die while doing that. ” (Sophocles, 89-90) Antigone is very religious and rather die an honorable death than to live knowing her brother did not require a proper burial. The fact Antigone is a woman has intense effects on the meaning of her actions. Creon stated the need to punish Antigone because of her gender. The independence of classical Greek women was exceedingly restricted. Antigone’s uprising against Creon’s decree became threatening because it onflicted against society view of how women should act.
By rejecting to be submissive, Antigone upsets one of the ultimate rules of Thebes. Ismene is Antigone’s antagonist because Ismene does not question whether or not it is wrong to not bury her brother, Polynieces, she represent the traditional woman of society to be submissive to the authority of men. Ismene declines the offer by Antigone to help bury her brother left to decay in the open for animals to feast off of, she states “We must remember that by birth we’re women, and, as such, we shouldn’t fight with men. ” (Sophocles 77-78).
Ismene believes since they are women, they should stand in their place and do not defiance the rule created by men in addition both Antigone and Ismene have suffer and loss their parents and brothers, Ismene wants to stand out of trouble with the family curse that constantly follows them. She is aware of her circumstances and the world she lives by acknowledging men are more powerful and therefore has to comply. Through the work of a literary masterpiece, Sophocles delivers the message of role of women in society to the audience by using the perspective of Creon, a powerful misogynist male character.
Creon created the law, Polynieces, Antigone and Ismene’s brother, could not be bury because he was consider a traitor to Creon stating “For I’ll never act to respect an evil man with honours in preference to a man who’s acted well” (Sophocles 247-249) for bringing an army to cause destruction and take the throne from his brother, Eteocles. Antigone passion for her religion and love for Polynieces made her determine to give honor to her beloved brother and bury her brother despite the law and being fully aware of the consequences.
When the Guard first told the king of Thebes someone had begun the burial process for Polynieces, Creon accused the Guards of burying Polynieces for money stating exactly “I well know that these guards were led astray- such men urged them to carry out this act for money” (Sophocles 341-343) The ironic part of what Creon said to the guard was it was for monetary gain which is false because the act was done out of love, in addition Creon refer to the perpetrator as a man when in fact it was Antigone who is a girl .
Creon would never in a million suspected Antigone to have broken his law because Creon views women as being submissive to men and not brave enough to do such as a bold act. Once the Guard capture Antigone caught in the act of trying to finish the burial of Polynieces, Creon is in disbelief because the perpetrator of the ‘crime’ is not a man but a girl.
When Creon asks Antigone if she bury her brother, she answers “I admit I did it. I won’t deny that. ” (Sophocles 500). She does not hesitate when she tell Creon that she bury actually she proudly admits what she did and justify her act because it is the will of the gods which upset Creon even more “ Here she again displays her proud contempt- having done the act, she boast of it” (Sophocles 546-547).
Creon does not even talk directly to Antigone at first but face the Chorus Leader because is still in shock a girl would be brave enough to break the law and disobey him. Later Creon and Antigone began to argue whether or not it is right or wrong for Polyneices not to be bury. One of the things Creon says to Antigone “No woman’s going to govern me- no, no- not while I’m still alive” (Sophocles 600-601).
When Haemon, Creon’s son, first approach his father, Creon state the best the thing a man can have is children to take their father advice and be on their side, “That’s what men pray for- obedient children growing up at home who will pay back their father’s enemies” (Sophocles 727-729) Creon is referring to Antigone as being an enemy for going against him and burying her brother. The statement Creon made to Haemon is filled irony because he does not agree with his father and believe his bride, Antigone, is justify for her actions because it is the will of the gods.
Creon becomes enraged by what Haemon said and began to argue. Creon insults his son by making several misogynist statements including “It seem as if this boy is fighting on the woman’s side” (Sophocles 843-844) “You foul creature- you’re worse than any woman” (Sophocles 852-853) “You woman’s slave- don’t try to win me over” (Sophocles 860-861) Creon’s view of women and stubbornness leads to his downfall. Creon give the viewpoint of men in general in the society of which Sophocles live in to give an outlook they thought of women and their purpose in life.
One of the most fascinating component of the play, Antigone, is that the playwright is a man and was written way before there was a feminist movement hundreds of years later down the line. Perhaps without directly vocalizing his opinion of what exactly the roles of women should be, he discreetly stated his opposition of the treat of women in play without blatantly announcing a need for reformation for women’s rights because his views would have been look down upon since many of the Greek men most likely had the same perspective with Creon regarding Man vs.Woman.
He used his superb writing skills to bring attention to certain issues such morality vs. law and the role of women. By having characters like Antigone, Ismene, and Creon, it gives the audience a vivid picture the scrutiny women face if they did not obey men. Hundreds of years later, people are still reading and discussing how the conflicts in Antigone apply to real life today.