.. riend that I love. Ismene: And what life is dear to me, bereft of thee? Antigone: Ask Creon; all they care is for him. Vickers says that Creon was lawful in decreeing that Polyneices not be buried, but this is the only issue that Creon is right about. He believes that Creon is repugnant to the reader, because Creon gloats over the future fate of the corpse.
(Vickers 528). I must disagree again. Creon was never repugnant to me personally. Had I been in his position, and a nephew of mine committed treason against my kingdom and killed my second nephew, I would have done much the same thing: let his corpse rot and be consumed by scavengers. Neither would being challenged by a willful, bratty child bring out my compassionate, loving side.
Antigone feels a duty and a necessity to bury her brother Polyneices, but rarely does she mention any kind of suffering or loss. She seems concerned only with doing the righteous thing. Meanwhile, Creon makes his decree out of passion and anger, and that makes him more human to me than Antigone could ever be. Antigone becomes distraught over her brother only when she discovers that he has ben re-buried, and it seems that her distress springs from her actions being undone; the fact that that action is burying Polyneices is only a coincidence. Vickers believes that Creon has a sadistic enjoyment of his brutality, (Vickers 531) such as when Creon challenges the guard who reports that Polyneices has been buried and threatens that guard with death if he does not uncover the culprit.
I don’t see Creon as enjoying his threats here. I believe that he is furious at being disobeyed. He is enraged that someone cannot see things the way he does: a traitor’s body should receive no special treatment. Vickers also says that Creon is especially angry at being challenged by a woman; to this, I say: so what? The traditional role of women in ancient Greek society, aside from the polis of Sparta which was the exception, was to stay indoors and raise children. It stands to reason that Creon would indeed be angrier at being opposed by Antigone, whose mission in life seems to be instigation anyway.
I can definitely relate more closely to H.D.F. Kitto’s interpretation of the play. Kitto believes that Creon is the main character, and that Sophocles deliberately portrays him as such. Creon has more dramatic forces deployed against him than Antigone, who only has to face Creon’s wrath. Creon’s tragedy grows before our very eyes, while Antigone’s doom is forseen and swift.
(Kitto 127). The real conflict of the play, according to Kitto, is the gods against Creon. Unfortunately, Kitto goes on to say that Hegel’s view of Antigone is preposterous. Hegel says that something is seriously wrong with Antigone, while Kitto counters with the statement that only Hegel can tell us what Antigone’s blemish is (Kitto 129). I have to agree with Hegel here.
Antigone takes a principle, valid or not, and rams it down everyone’s throat with her words and deeds. She is a glory hound and a would-be martyr. She does not need to announce her deed, or be caught doing it; she chooses this course of action. She invades a camp of guards and manages to bury a body and leave no tracks. She surely must know that the body will be uncovered at some point, so why does she not consider her duty done after the first burial? Or, since she is so adept at sneaking around, why not remove the body and bury it somewhere it will never be discovered? Did she intend to check the body every day to make sure it was still buried? Her actions are nonsensical and illogical unless they are specifically engineered to say, Here I am, the only one doing the right thing, so punish me! I am better than all of you! There in no loyalty to her brother in her behavior.
On to Hegel: Macbeth is as far removed as possible from Antigone, but is still of one nature (Bradley 89) with it. The death of Macbeth is much less tragic than Antigone, because Macbeth wasn’t essentially a good man. Antigone was following the edicts of the gods in burying her brother and was doing rightly as far as she knew. I would agree that Macbeth’s death is less tragic, yet I feel worse for him than I do for Antigone. At least Macbeth was an emotive, passionate man, not a righteous machine. Hegel believes that all other things in tragedies being equal, the tragedy with the hero as a good man is more tragic than as a bad. The more spiritual value, i.e.
Antigone doing her deed for spiritual purposes, the more tragedy in conflict and waste. The more evil a character, the less tragic his circumstances. Moral evil diminishes the spiritual value of personality. Because Antigone and Creon are trying to do what they feel is right at heart, their conflict has much stronger implications than the conflicts in MacBeth, since MacBeth was a murderer who wanted to ascend to the throne. Which is not to say that MacBeth isn’t a tragedy, because it is much more than just a conflict between good and evil. Hegel believes that ethical or universal ends and justice have nothing to do with catastrophe.
A tragic action is a self-division, or internal conflict, and the catastrophe is the annulment of this division, but this is only half of Hegel’s ideas. A catastrophe has two aspects, negative and affirmative. It is a power which is irresistible and inescapable, and negates anything incompatible with it. But if a catastrophe were only such an unintelligent, characterless force, it would invoke feelings of horror, with is not a feeling associated with tragedy (like pity and fear). It is also the source of our feelings of reconciliation.
The catastrophe is the violent restitution of the divided spiritual unity, and some sort of projection of the division in the hero. So that there is some sort of paradoxical feeling in the inevitable death of the hero, when we die with him, yet exult or feel that his death means nothing. The hero escapes the power which killed him. Of the three critics and theorists, I relate to Hegel the most. He knows that Antigone and Creon are flawed beings, though they do what they feel is morally right.
He realizes that they take their morality and let it become their personalities and define their actions, instead of just influencing them. And therefore, though worthy of sympathy, they are the masters of their fates, and choose their respective dooms. Hegel believed that the tragedy of Antigone lies in the conflict between the rules of the state and the rules of man. It is unfortunate that these two forces must be in opposition, and therefore their practitioners or champions in this particular case have to be in opposition as well. I agree with this; the tragedy is in the circumstances that pit two essentially right forces against each other. The morality of the characters determines the course of the tragedy, and their personalities and convictions determine the emotional power for the reader.