Gods in Antigone Luc, Nikhil, and Nolan
Gods and Goddesses Tertiary heavenly descendents: Gaia → Titans → Gods/Goddesses Greeks at the time saw the Gods as embodiments of feelings or thoughts; they thought that the Gods existed in a parallel to themselves.
Sophocles • Background for Sophocles • Innovator of Greek drama • Was born in Colonus, near Athens • Father was a businessman, cultivated Sophocles musical interest • Was politically and artistically savvy • Also became a priest of Amynos, a healing deity • Sophocles play was a resounding success, but it did not achieve notoriety to the degree that some of his other plays had. • His plays were too transcendent for the time period; they investigated social issues such as the role of women domestically and societally as well as critically analyzing the faults of an authoritarian system of government. • His plays also looked at the nature of religion of ancient Greece and the message that the Gods were trying to convey to humans.
Sample Gods and Goddess In Text “Nor were there wings on my feet” line 244 “Merciless Aphrodite” line 656
Zeus In Antigone Zeus is frequently referred to during the play. “For myself, I call to witness Zeus, whose eyes are everywhere” (Sophocles 284-285). • This quote is said by Creon, who wants to preserve law and order in Thebes in the midst of the deterioration and decay of the city. This also shows the futility of Creon’s attempt to have power, when it Zeus that controls everything. • Creon’s hypocrisy shows; he tries to control everything in Thebes just like Zeus can; in the end of the play, the Chorus warns others that following in Creon’s footsteps will result in the Gods bringing the person down. “Or do you see the gods as honoring a criminal” (Sophocles 318-319)? • This shows the arrogance of Creon; he presumes to know what Zeus is thinking during certain points in the play and manipulates the people of Thebes to follow his wishes and believe his orders. • Social commentary on the nature of a dictatorship; Sophocles shows that dictatorships lead to a self-destructive cycle; dictatorships will eventually consume themselves. This was an appeal to his Athenian audience.
Significance of Zeus • Zeus represents the God of order and the God of law and power. He, through the other Gods, strike down the powerful and the prideful and bring them down to their knees. • Their justice is swift and harsh, and they show no discrimination, whether it be to a slave or to a king, such as Creon. In the end, the Gods always win. • This is a religious commentary on the nature of Greek religion; man will always be trampled underfoot by the Gods and his place in the universe is to obey the wishes of the Gods.
Hades Hades is the God of death; he is almost never directly mentioned in the play. Hades is referred to through other Gods, mainly the Fates and Persephone. The Fates are traditionally portrayed as three old women who have control over a person’s life through a single thread. They can end the person’s life by simply cutting the thread. “But my child, the long-lived Fates, bore hard upon her, too” (Sophocles 1032-1033). This is a reference to the underworld and Hades through the Fates when Antigone is being buried alive in a tomb. The Chorus sings about other people who have been buried alive, and lament about the terrible fate that has not only come upon Antigone, but the entire family of Oedipus because of the prophecy. Another jibe at religion; the entire family was being cursed for one sin that was fated to happen, and even Thebes was suffering under the rule of Creon. “… that the great number of people that have died, whom in their death, Persephone received” (Sophocles 940-941). This is a reference to the underworld and Hades, when Antigone is about to be buried alive. Just as Creon has excessive pride in his ability to rule, Antigone has excessive pride in the fact that she would die as a martyr. Both of their crimes result in severe punishment, but the audience is made to sympathize with Antigone.
Dionysus Dionysus was the God of wine, and religious ecstasy. “The hot-tempered son of Dryas, the Edonian king, who in fury mocked Dionysus” (Sophocles 1004-1005). This shows the power that madness can have over someone. Any ordinary person, in a moment of fury, can be driven to unspeakable lows and completely lose his mind because of a single mistake that he had made. The Gods made everyone accountable for their sins, but without giving them a second chance, man would never improve, as he would come to fear the Gods and respect them with awe (and fear), rather than love them. This connects to Antigone; she was driven to madness (can be inferred from text, she wanted to be buried alive), because she had let her emotions run wild; Creon suffered from excessive pride from power and thus, Zeus struck him down and Antigone suffered from excessive pride from her idealism and religious fervor, thus Dionysus struck her down (technically).
Eros Eros is the God of erotic love. Referenced indirectly through the text. “You woman’s slave, do not try to wheedle me” (Sophocles 814). This shows that Creon’s son, Haemon, was in the grips of excessive pride from erotic love and thus, he was struck down by Eros. Antigone died from Dionysus, Haemon died from Eros, Creon’s wife died from grief, and ultimately Creon was left alive, but with nothing to live for by Zeus. Also raises a question about gender roles; Creon obviously thinks lowly of a woman’s role in society, evidenced by the fact that the only major appearance of Creon’s wife was her suicide. This shows that Sophocles’ play was far ahead of his time.
Significance of References • All the Gods in Antigone represent a theme, and technically a vice that struck down the major characters of the play. • This shows that Sophocles play was a true tragedy; all the characters were not struck down by external, situational forces, but their own fundamental flaws.
Value of Gods to Characters Rituals and customs • “we were ready to take hot bars in our hands or walk through fire” (line 291) Explanation of Unknown • “My lord: I wonder, could this be God’s doing” (line 307) Motivation of Antigone • “I did not believe your proclamation had such power to enable one who will someday die to override God’s ordinances” (line 500)
References Effect Do the references mean more to the people watching the play back in Greece during this time period or are the references timeless?
Myths Referenced Oedipus: “...evils that stem from Oedipus...” (line 3) Gaia: “...Earth, oldest of gods, immortal, unwearied...”(line 374) Danae: “All Danae’s beauty was locked away...” (line 738)
Impact of Myths on Characters Oedipus: Curse of Oedipus still remains within the characters. Gaia: Prophets claim that things are not right with Polynices’ body, according to the Gods and the Earth. Foreshadows the falling out of Creon’s family and friends. Danae: Reference sets up the idea of Antigone being locked away as Danae was in a Bronze tower. Significance: Danae’s prophecy became complete, just as all of Sophocles’ have.
Impact of Myths on Readers Bring the reader deeper into the world of the play. Build a foundation for the mood of the play. Add sophistication to the characters by tying them into the actual world of Greek mythology.
Role of Prophets More than messenger? Tiresias: Ultimately ends up destroying Creon’s world around him; curse of Oedipus still stands upon Antigone and
Prophet Examples Teiresias “The time is not far off when you should pay back/ Corpe for corpse, flesh of your own flesh”(line 842-843). Messenger: “Fate casts down the happy and the unhappy alike”(line 905).
Impact of Prophets Teiresias: People have still not learned to just listen to him; whether or not he has influence on his prophecy, his prophecy is the most lucid foreshadowing in the tragedy. Messenger: Reminds the characters of the imminence of fate; shows the juxtaposition between power and the idea of free will and the inevitability of fate.
Interesting Use of Techniques The author will constantly allude to other stories of Greek mythology to tie in the story to the actual world of mythology; allows the reader to see it as more than a play because of their cultural devotion to the Mythology at the time.
Connection to Us These topics relate to our society by showing interconnectedness; social media today vs the continuity of stories back then. (Comparison of one facet of our lives to a universal practice in Ancient Greece.)