Antigone Essay Prompts

As Creon’s political rhetoric unravels, his gender ideology further emerges as a dominant reason for insisting on Antigone’s punishment.In a passionate outburst, he insists that he “not let [himself] be beaten by a woman.” (248), he assumes that transgression – a political act – is possible only by a man.

Creon’s declaration that, “[no] woman rules me while I live” (525) reveals his belief in a gender hierarchy where the prospect of submitting to a woman is experienced as cognitive dissonance, the mental discomfort one experiences when confronted with new information that contradicts one’s entrenched beliefs (Festinger 93).According to Helene Foley, ancient Greek culture “reinforced symbolic links between female, ‘nature,’ domestic/private, emotion/the irrational, and passivity and male, culture, public, rational/the self-controlled, and activity” (232).Such a systematic dichotomization of gendered characteristics, while seemingly arbitrary, has systemic political consequences – the political structure “identifies itself with a limited group of free men…Sophocles presents a skewed power dynamic between men and women in Thebes as the conflict between Antigone and Creon unfolds.Ismene’s advice to Antigone, “we two are women, / so not to fight with men” (61-62) points to the inferior power position that women hold in Theban society and the gendered assumptions that inform civil obedience.Creon’s sexual analogy also implies that Antigone’s function as Haemon’s wife is merely procreative, a passive recipient of Haemon’s sexual advances rather than an agent of free will.Furthermore, the image of Haemon working the land portrays the masculine figure as an exploiter of nature, while the image of Antigone as soil to be tilled aligns femininity with nature and portrays the feminine figure as an inevitable object of exploitation.While the plot of the play seems to explicitly reaffirm the gender essentialism prevalent in ancient Greece, do the characters themselves endorse the same gender ideology?In particular, does Creon – the most explicitly misogynistic character in the play – base his political decisions upon essentialist assumptions?Gender essentialist distinctions, while seemingly neutral, skew the power dynamic away from the feminine and towards the masculine, so much so that “the culture does not normally permit adult moral autonomy to the female agent” (Foley 126).Such restrictions on female independence can be seen in while Antigone and, to some extent, Ismene, struggle to assert their will in the political sphere, they are overwhelmed by various male actors including Creon and the Chorus, who chastise the women for acting out of line.

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