The play Antigone is among the Three Theban plays written by Sophocles, and it has various qualities that make it a tragedy. Just like any other Greek ancient plays, the play Antigone embraces the theory of tragedy as presented by Aristotle. The definition of tragedy according to Aristotle is that it is an imitation of actions that are grave and that possess full magnitude by themselves (Aristotle et al. 232). It simply means that any sound tragic play must tackle a significant issue that is critical and that the play should at least stick to this single issue or the audience will lose the plot. In his definition, Aristotle listed six essential elements that make an excellent tragic play, and these are plot, character, diction, thought, scenic effect and music (Aristotle et al. 232). In the play Antigone, Sophocles mainly focused on characters to bring out the tragedy in the drama.
In the scene of Antigone planning to bury her brother (Antigone 0:3:14), she holds a conversation with her sister Ismene about the issue after Creon had decided to dishonor him and extends to give a decree that whoever buries Polynices will be punished by death. In this scene, the two sisters argue about the Antigones decision to dishonor the Kings order hence revealing her character through the theme of passion. Character as an element of tragedy reveals itself at this point when Antigone decides to defy the king and bury his brother because of the love that she has for him. Within Creon's edict, this is an act punishable by death.
The other instance where the Aristotelian element of character is revealed is in the scene where Antigone and Creon debate values (Antigone 0:36:04). In this part, it is evident that Creon and his niece Antigone are arguing about what is right and the audience perceives the sense of disobedience in Creons character. Creons love for Antigone becomes evident even in her argument, building up the character as a compassionate individual. In turn, this empathetic portrayal directs the audience to see another side of the king, as a ruthless brute, and it develops the tension of the plot regarding where the debate would lead.
Creon as a character fully develops in the scene where he is visited by Tiresias after he has had a vision and made a prophesy. Creon does not believe what he is told and decides to defy Tiresias (Antigone 1:22:00). In his court, Creon argues against the message that Tiresias brought concerning the gods. His chooses to defy the law and insults the gods by dishonoring death, imprisoning Antigone, abusing Zeus and breaking up his niece's marriage to Haemon. Suddenly there is an ominous feeling in the scene as Creon takes his stand against the gods.
The last encounter of a character building tragedy is when Creons suffering leads to wisdom (Antigone 1:45:00). Creon is broken as a character after the death of his family, and he claims that he has become nothing and nobody. The scene is melancholic, and the protagonist exemplifies tragedy that has been pending throughout the play. The purpose of this character is finally revealed, and it is clear that both Creon and Antigone defined the plot by establishing the cause and effect action which produces fear and pity hence achieving the theme and significance of the play.
The two characters highlight tragedy through their passion for family ties. Sophocles uses the events in their lives, which lead to a tragic end. Based on Aristotles definition of tragedy in character, such heroes are people caught between two extremes which are not necessarily good or just and whose misfortunes are not brought about by frailty or error. The effective tragedy causes the feelings of the readers towards the characters to rise and then fall.
Antigone. Films Media Group, 1984, fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=97972&xtid=1320. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.
Aristotle et al. "Aristotle: Poetics." Phoenix, vol 21, no. 3, 1967, p. 232. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/1086753.
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