The Tragedy of Antigone Essay

It is plain to see what about the character of Antigone it is that makes this a tragedy. Tragedy is defined as a dramatic composition dealing with a serious or somber theme, and this story fits all these criteria. First of all, it involves a tragic course of events that involved both of her brothers dying and then being completely disrespected even in death. She felt she had to rectify this mistake, even though it was against the law, and the opposition was too great. Because of her attempt to rectify the injustice, even more tragic things happened to her and her family. This is why she is a tragic heroine.

First of all, there was a tragic series of events that caused her to become involved in them by disrespecting her own brother. She had two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. Upon Oedipus’ death, it was agreed that they would alternate rule of his throne each year. However, after the first year, Eteocles refused to step down from the throne. This led to a duel between the brothers, which resulted in both the brothers killing each other. Because of this, Antigone’s uncle, Creon, took the throne, and ordered Eteocles buried but for Polynices to remain above ground. He also ordered that any attempt to bury him would cause the culprit to be put to death. This was the injustice that set off the whole tragedy, although the events before it were slightly tragic as well. 

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Despite the death sentence threatened to be carried out on anyone who attempted to bury Antigone’s brother, Antigone viewed it as such an injustice that she felt she must rectify it at all costs. A tragic series of events unfolded because of this feeling that helps define this story as a tragedy and Antigone as a tragic heroine. When the story begins, Antigone is talking with Ismene, her sister, about what Creon had done. She starts by making the point of how unfair it was, and when Ismene agrees, but asks what she can do to change it, Antigone informs her of her plan and tells her that she can help if she wants. Antigone says, “I will do my part,-and thine, if thou wilt not,-to a brother. False to him will I never be found,” as well as that it is wrong for her brother to have been left above ground, “unwept, unsepulchred, a welcome store for the birds, as they espy him, to feast on at will.” In Greek times, these customs of burial were even more important than they are today, because of beliefs about luck, religion, and what would happen to the spirit or the family if the body was left unburied. This is why it was used as a punishment by Creon, and was so hurtful to Antigone that she was willing to risk her life to undo it. Ismene explains to Antigone the reasons that she will not take part in such a proceeding. Herein lies another example of the tragedy aspect of this play, as Ismene reminds Antigone of how her father, mother, and both her brothers had already died. Anyway, Ismene said she wouldn’t go with Antigone to bury her brother, and initially tries to talk Antigone out of it, but then simply wishes her luck and promises she won’t tell anyone. In the next scene, Creon explains, “Polynices,-who came back from exile, and sought to consume utterly with fire the city of his fathers and the shrines of his fathers' gods,-sought to taste of kindred blood, and to lead the remnant into slavery,” and that is why no one can grace him with burial. The guard then comes in and explains that he found the corpse strewn with dust, which is in defiance of Creon’s decree. Later, Antigone is found to have been the one that committed this crime, to the surprise of everyone except Ismene. The guard goes on to explain that him and his men had uncovered the dust on the body, then kept watch over it, and that Antigone had come back to finish her work. This is another part of the tragedy of the story, because when Antigone came to the body, “she cried aloud with the sharp cry of a bird in its bitterness,-even as when, within the empty nest, it sees the bed stripped of its nestlings.” She expressed deep anguish over her work being undone, seemingly because of the injustice she believed it to represent, and called curses upon whoever had done. When questioned as to the reason for this law breaking, she explained that she couldn’t answer to the gods for breaking the “unfailing statutes of heaven”, and that dying before her time for this cause would be a welcome end, rather than live surrounded by such evils. The dialogue goes on, and then Ismene comes in and declares that she would like to go down with Antigone if Antigone will let her, but Antigone tragically refuses. This shows Antigone’s dedication to her cause, and that she doesn’t want anyone but herself to suffer the consequences, since it was her beliefs that inspired this disseverance. To add to the tragedy of this scene, Ismene explains that she wishes to die with Antigone, because if Antigone does this, there will be no further life to be had. Antigone was sent to prison, and that was the end of her efforts to bury her brother and rectify the evil that had transpired.

Her rebellion had far reaching and terribly tragic adverse consequences in the people around her not even just including her family members. It began with Haemon, who Creon denied his marriage partner and lover, which had a considerable effect on him. He was very in love with Antigone, and like Ismene although for a different reason entirely, he did not see any value in a life without her. Initially he tried to convince the king to see things her way, but when it only makes the king angry, Haemon leaves. Creon decides that the method of Antigone’s death will be locked in a tomb with a bit of food and the ability to pray to Hades. He carries this out, and thus unfolds the most tragic part of the whole play. It turns out that Haemon found Antigone and after she hung herself, he committed suicide by stabbing himself to death as well. As Creon came to the tomb, he heard Haemon’s voice and came up to the sight of Haemon with his arms around his betrothed, and when Haemon saw Creon, he stabbed himself while embracing Antigone. As if that alone were not enough, because of these deaths, the queen also killed herself shortly after. Thus, because of his misdeeds, Creon had to bear with the death of his daughter, his son, and his wife, all in the same day. This is the most tragic part of the whole story.

In conclusion, not only because of the amount of deaths of loved ones in this story, but in the fashion that they transpired, is this considered a tragedy and Antigone a tragic heroine. Antigone had to endure the loss of both her brothers, and while that in itself may have come along in everyday life, one of her brothers was deemed to have abandoned the state of his origin, and was not allowed to be buried properly. While trying to rectify this injustice, as she felt was necessary to do by honor, she was sentenced to death, and because of this, her family and betrothed bound themselves to her by committing suicide as well. This is a story of not only tragedy, but also extreme passion and honor, which is not found in today’s world. We can all learn something from this story, because none of us could even hope to display the dedication that Antigone did to her brother even in death.

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