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Antigone (The Oedipus Plays) | Discussion Questions 41 - 50

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In Antigone what does Creon's response to Teiresias in Episode 5 reveal about his personality?

Creon's response to his trusted prophet, Teiresias, reveals the full breadth of Creon's blindness and arrogance. Rather than listen (as he promised to in Episode 1) to an adviser, he hears advice he doesn't like and throws a tantrum in response, accusing Teiresias of taking bribes for money. Creon's response also shows how out of touch with reality he has become, increasingly paranoid that others are out to get him. Haemon's cautions from Episode 3 begin to take hold as well, showing Creon to be a ruler who listens to no one but himself, which puts all his citizens and family at risk. Even though Creon eventually realizes his error his realization comes too late, which again shows how his hubris is a tragic flaw.

How do the Chorus's views of Creon change over the course of Antigone?

The Chorus starts out skeptical of Creon's intentions, telling him in Episode 1 that "it seems to me you now control all laws concerning those who've died and us as well—the ones who are still living." What they are politely hinting at here is that he may have overstepped his bounds with the gods, since to deny a body burial and funeral rites is to defy the gods' will. They also try to deflect the task of protecting Creon's proclamation to "younger men," realizing that the citizens of Thebes won't support it. They also advise Creon that he would be wise to listen to the advice of Haemon about reversing Antigone's punishment. By the end of the play the Chorus finds it difficult to truly pity Creon since he brought on his tragic fate through his own actions. In the Exodus they sadly remind him (and the audience) that the "boasts of arrogant men bring on great blows of punishment."

In Antigone what does Creon's preoccupation with money reveal about his character?

Creon's preoccupation with money and bribery reflect the fundamental distrust he feels for those around him who don't tell him what he wants to hear. Since he can't rationalize that the guard and Teiresias might be right in their stories, he jumps to wild conclusions in order to maintain what he wants to see and believe. If Creon has so little faith in those who are trying to help him, it makes it hard to trust him as a leader—he appears paranoid and suspicious rather than welcoming of advice and insight. He sees trust as something that can be bought and sold rather than earned.

Does Antigone provide evidence to support Haemon's argument to Creon that an act of disobedience can also be admirable?

The play supports Haemon's claim that an act of disobedience such as Antigone's can also be admirable. Though the Chorus doesn't come right out and support Antigone's disobedience—since it is their duty to support Creon—they do commend her for taking fate into her own hands. The citizens of Thebes also support Antigone over Creon and find her actions admirable since they honor the laws of the gods, who demand proper burial and funeral rites for corpses. The audience can also find sympathy for Antigone as her reaction and decisions to honor a family member are relatable even if they are unlawful.

In Antigone in what ways is Antigone a feminist by modern standards?

Antigone would most likely be considered a feminist by modern standards. Even though the concept of feminism didn't exist in ancient Greece, Antigone refuses to bow to the gender roles that were cast for men and women of that era. Ismene cautions her in Episode 1: "We must remember that by birth we're women, and, as such, we shouldn't fight with men." Yet Antigone forges ahead with her plans despite the punishment she will face, and she doesn't back down from Creon even when he tries to shame her and get her to admit her guilt. Her confidence and stubbornness align her with the men of her era, so it's no wonder Creon finds her a threat.

In Antigone what is the effect on characterization of Antigone's agon, or debate, with Creon in Episode 2?

The agon, or debate, between Antigone and Creon in Episode 2 serves to show the distance between their beliefs about justice and law and how similar their stubborn mentalities are. An agon was the traditional means by which a debate was settled in the law courts of ancient Greece, and both Creon and Antigone state their beliefs in the hope of making the other understand their position. Creon accuses her of breaking a law, but Antigone reminds him, "Zeus did not announce those laws to me." As she sees it Zeus's laws override those of mortals such as Creon's, and so she is not worried about her punishment by him. She also reveals that she doesn't see death as a punishment—rather she welcomes it and insists she's "being charged with foolishness by someone who's a fool." It's notable that Creon's response is addressed to the Chorus rather than Antigone since he feels he doesn't need to defend his laws to a woman, and he changes the debate to be about her inferiority as a woman. Creon's remark shows Antigone as the one making a logical defense rather than an attack on gender in the way that Creon does.

In Antigone in what ways can Creon, rather than Antigone, be viewed as the main character of the play?

Although Creon serves as the antagonist of Antigone, he sets much of the action of the play into motion. In some ways Antigone serves as his antagonist since she successfully thwarts his plans to be a powerful ruler. Many of the scenes feature Creon, and other minor characters play off of him. Creon also undergoes a transformation in his personality, realizing only too late the errors of his ways and the importance of his family over his laws. In this way he can also be considered a tragic hero, or a character whose error in judgment brings about his downfall.

In Antigone how are the images of burials, caves, prisons, and the Underworld linked?

A burial, and a lack of one, are what set the plot of Antigone in motion and drive much of the conflict of the play. One of Antigone's brothers is given a proper burial and funeral rites, and one is left unburied and unmourned, an action that offends the gods. Creon also punishes Antigone by burying her alive in a cave, and Teiresias points out the paradox to Creon in Episode 5 that he chose to bury Antigone alive, underground, while he allows her brother's corpse to remain unburied above ground. These motifs create a great deal of linked imagery surrounding the ways that life and death intermix throughout the play. The purpose of these linked images shows how, even in life, one can be closely affected by death and how a prison can also be a tomb in the making. In many ways Antigone anticipates and welcomes her impending death, seeing herself as a martyr who will suffer her doomed imprisonment for a cause. Antigone sees the Underworld as more important than the world of the living since the majority of her family members have died and await her there. She reminds Creon in Episode 2, "In the world below perhaps [my] actions are no crime." This link between the living world and the Underworld is also important since mortals believed that all of their actions while living would have a direct impact on their lives (and the lives of their departed loved ones) in the Underworld.

In Antigone what does Antigone's shift in attitude in Episode 4 reveal about her character?

In Episode 4 Antigone undergoes a shift in her defiant attitude once she realizes that her death is imminent. Even though she has stated that she welcomes her punishment and the possibility of death in order to please the gods and be reunited with her departed family, Episode 4 finds her forlorn and hopeless, lamenting the life she is giving up as a future bride and mother. This portrayal of Antigone as vulnerable serves to reveal her as a more human and relatable character for the audience, who can surely understand her final apprehension and wistfulness. In effect Antigone shifts from an idealized, stubborn martyr to a complex woman with conflicting feelings about her decision.

In Antigone what is the effect of Creon's final lament in the Exodus?

Creon's last lines of the play reveal a man who is tormented by grief and guilt and who finally understands the full weight of his actions. He says, "How useless I am now. I don't know where to look or find support. Everything I touch goes wrong, and on my head fate climbs up with its overwhelming load." Creon's actions have left him utterly alone and without support or love, and he has no identity anymore as a leader, father, or husband, rendering him "useless." He also understands that, even though he brought about the consequences through his actions, fate in the form of divine punishment is paying him back. These lines serve to make Creon a more sympathetic character since he seems to have come to a fuller realization of his actions and their consequences and the tragedy that nothing he can do can change his fate.

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