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Student Essays on Antigone

Epinions, a website for selling books (and other items), currently (July, 2002) lists 3 "reviews" of a new translation.  None of the three mention the translation, but each goes on at length reviewing the story, characters, and themes.

"Destipele" mentions that the play might have been popular in its day because of the political situation in Athens, with the city edging toward war.  He also points out several themes before ending whining about how thinly the characters are portrayed.

"Nafeez" of Toronto has written an essay on Antigone and Creon, claiming they were transformed by fear from stubborn and close-minded opponents to "open-minded." But both change too late. 

The third review loses credibility by citing the wrong city--twice--as the setting for the play.  But the writer does observe that Antigone was probably a physically strong woman, as well as an emotionally strong person--although it doesn't take a lot of physical strength to scatter dust over a body.

123helpme.com shows some of the more mediocre high-school and first-year college essays in its red level.  These can be viewed for free.  Here is a selection of the thesis ideas from that collection if red level essays.  (In June and July, 2002, 88 essays were available on Antigone at this website, over a third at the red level for free viewing. Unfortunately, many of these listings are duplicates, and even some of the essays are virtually the same essay but with different titles.)  In most cases that I find worth mentioning, I am disagreeing with the essays.

The Tragic Hero in Antigone

Of the essays that follow this red herring argument over whether Creon or Antigone or another character best fulfills Aristotle's definition, a few can be seen to summarize the entire argument fairly readily.

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The True Tragic Hero in Antigone picks Creon because he changes and has a recognition of his error that was brought on by pride.  Antigone doesn't, supposedly.

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One of the yellow essays claims that Antigone could be a tragic figure in the modern sense of something happening to her but not in the Aristotelian sense because "she didn't have any faults."  Of course, there's plenty of hybris in Antigone; that's part of what causes her to commit suicide.  In addition--

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Exposing the Human Condition in Antigone points out that Antigone lacked faith that the gods would respond to Creon's abomination [as they did to the abomination of not seeking the killer of former king Lauis by putting a plague on the city until the killer--Oedipus--was found.  Of course, several years passed before that plague was sent to the city].

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Antigone, Ismene, and Haemon asserts that Ismene and Haemon act as foil characters who serve to deepen the characterization of Antigone and cause her to be seen as a person who is loved and lovable.  [Unfortunately, Antigone treats both so coldly that she appears not to be loving, and this coldness reduces sympathy for her in the hearts of many readers.]

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Tragic Hero in Antigone asserts that the title character is the protagonist and glosses over or explains away aspects of Aristotle's definition (without mentioning Aristotle) and adds other aspects of heroism, e.g. suffering hardship.

Bottom Line: After reading too many of these student essays and abstracts, I reach the conclusion that Antigone is certainly the PROTAGONIST of the play that bears her name; a case can be made that she is proud and that she recognizes in her last speech what her stubbornness will cost her.  But her wrong act was committing suicide, at least in part as an act of defiance over Creon's tyranny.  On the other hand, Creon is too malevolent to be a "tragic hero" in the Aristotelian sense of a good person who suffers a downfall due to pride and recognizes their error.  If Creon pitted Eteocles and Polynices against each other and directed a decree at Antigone to solidify his new power, he is Iago, not Othello, a tyrant, not a king.

The play itself offers nothing to support this "back story" of intrigue.  If someone wants Creon to be a tragic hero, he or she will have to write a play about Creon's years as regent to show how a good man who did not want power during Oedipus the King (if we can believe the words he said to save his neck from Oedipus' anger) became corrupted enough to plot the demise of Oedipus' spawn so that he could rule unopposed--or a sequel to Antigone in which Creon displays "wisdom" now that his stubbornness and anti-feminism (or his plotting) have caused the deaths of his second son and his wife.

Politics and Citizenship

The essays I see on politics and citizenship invariably fail to ask WHY DID CREON AIM A DECREE AT ANTIGONE.  In asserting Creon's power and overlooking the fact that Creon does reverse himself and buries Polynices himself, these essays sound no smarter than the chorus of elders, even if they acknowledge that Antigone acts justly.

That Family!

In addition to the essay that suggested Ismene and Haemon are foils who contrast with Antigone but also show that she is loved, other essays point out that Antigone and Creon are both proud and stubborn and another essay adds irrational.  Ismene and Antigone are comparable in many ways, according to at least one essay.

Antigone and Other Female Protagonists

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How are Antigone and Emily Grierson alike and different?  Both are the children of dead fathers who's family name influences their actions and how people react to them.  Both shows some personality traits of their fathers.  To consider this comparison and contrast further, take a look at Importance of Family in Antigone and "A Rose for Emily"; unfortunately, the writer uses the "block" method and so writes two character studies without drawing all of the parallels directly.

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How are Antigone and Mrs. Hale from Trifles alike and different?  Both commit acts of civil disobedience, but Antigone is brazen about it while Mrs. Hale is more clandestine.  Both are dealing with men who are fools--or worse, and both act to save someone else.

Symbolism in Antigone

One of the hidden essays suggests in its abstract that Antigone represents nature while Creon represents law--and that these correspondences are played up by shifting motifs of light (good) and dark (disagreeable to the gods).  See the abstract, but keep your credit card away from your computer--unless you know how to credit sources better than the writer of this paper.

 

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This instructional web was made in July, 2002, by Prof. Eric Hibbison, who is solely responsible for its content.