Antigone and Western Cultural Ideals “[Antigone is] the one literary text” that expresses “all the principal constants of conflict” in the human condition. --George Steiner, as quoted by Bernard Knox
2.5.T • Turn your homework in your class’ tray • Take a yellow handout. After your warm-up, you should place this in the “Terms” section of your binder. • On your paper, summarize the points about tragic heroes. • Next, identify two characteristics of a tragic hero and discuss how those are articulated in Antigone. You should use blended quotes while doing so.
Antigone • Antigone (441 BC) was produced at the zenith of Athenian imperial power and cultural hegemony. • Antigone is a harsh critique of Athenian society and the Greek city-state. • What statements in Scene 3 prove the previous statement? What specifically is being criticized? • What have you seen in literature or film that serves as a critique of our society?
Questioning Military Authority • Aristotle reminds us of Athens that “All offices connected with the military are to be elected by an open vote.” • What is martial law? • How does a police state operate? • Consider the role the “police state” plays, as well as the role the citizens play.
Faith in the Average Citizen • Haimon warns Creon to consider the opinion of the “common man . . . the people who share [his] city.” • What are some examples in the play where citizens try to speak out against Creon? • Is the common man’s voice heard in our society? • Note that the messengers in the play are endowed with a refreshing degree of common sense.
Constitutional Government • Haimon – “No polis is the property of a single man.” • Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? • What example have we seen in the last century? • Creon turns out to be a tragic figure, an utterly Western rational creature who devotes himself to the law above every other human and divine concern.
Religion Is Separate from and Subordinate to Political Authority • In Antigone, the seer Teiresias, who through his supernatural craft possesses greater wisdom than Creon, is slandered and dismissed by the king. • Find examples of this in Scene 5 • It is not Creon’s sacrilegious abuse of the holy man that dooms him; rather it is his paranoia and political extremism in rejecting the sound, rational advice of family and friends alike. • Who are some figures who try to warn Creon? • Central to the play is the conflict between what we attempt here on earth and what fate has in store for us. • Identify examples of this sentiment.
Free Speech and Acts of Dissent • Antigone attacks Greek culture on a number of fronts: tyranny of state over the individual, the mindless chauvinism of a male supremacist, apathy etc.. • Should you have the right to defy your leader if you believe he is wrong? • Your generation – and mine – has been accused of being apathetic to the issues of your day. Do you agree with this claim?
Conflicts • Struggle between the state and the individual • Struggle between human and natural law • Struggle between what we attempt here on earth and what fate has in store for us • Struggle between youth and age • Struggle between men and women