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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.
APOLLONIAN
DIONYSIAN
Reason
Order
Passion
Spontaneity
Clarity
Moderation
Imagination
Excess
Control
Analysis
Frenzy
Intuition
Research
Rule-Oriented
Feeling
Faith & Ritual
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