Antigone Review

When plunging into the creative universe of drama, a reader hopes to be pulled in to the world of the play and lose himself in its parallel reality. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Sophocles’s Antigone, a Greek tragedy that never succeeds in transporting the reader from New Jersey to Thebes without being constantly aware of its plodding pace and unrealistic characters. While waiting for the meat of the play, things never picked up sufficiently and failed to draw me in. The play features a young princess, Antigone, who is determined to defy King Creon’s decree and bury her deceased brother, Polyneices, a traitor to Thebes, the land in which the play takes place. After Antigone performs a proper burial for her brother and Creon is informed of her betrayal, he hastily sentences her to death after a brutal argument in which they dispute the priority of fulfilling the laws of the gods – one of which is to provide everyone with a proper burial regardless of any mistakes he may have made throughout his life – over Creon’s edict. Once he determines her fate, several people who chastise him for his decision approach Creon. At the culmination of the play, Creon’s son, Haimon, who had been engaged to Antigone, commits suicide when she hangs herself, and Creon’s wife, devastated by her son’s death, also commits suicide. Unfortunately, when

Creon finally comes to realize his mistakes, he is too late; his family is dead. Though the play is short in length, it manages to drag on monotonously, losing the reader’s attention within the first few pages. Its clichéd message of not allowing one’s hubris to cloud his better judgment is poorly portrayed through unrealistic characters, and in the end, it fails to shed any new light on what hubris is about. In a time and society where women were granted few rights, one is expected to believe that Antigone had the audacity to speak in such a shrewd and insolent manner to the king, a man who could easily request her as a dinner appetizer and have his wish. While one must respect her confidence and loyalty, one would be ludicrous not to rebuke her stupidity in performing a proper burial for her already dead brother, fully aware that digging his grave meant digging hers as well. Throughout the tragedy, the play teases the reader’s interest but fails to grasp it completely, like a swimmer on a calm summer day, waiting to be pulled in by a forceful wave, but disappointed by the lack of motion, the spark that he so hoped would be there. When the wave finally kicks in, it washes him out, leaving him cold, confused, and bitter. This unpleasant affect is similar to the pungent taste left in the mouth of Antigone’s audience when the play comes to a close, (or its lack of such an ending). While the play does end, it does not provide the reader with a feeling of closure; rather,

it leaves him with an unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach, confused about what just took place. After witnessing Creon’s epiphany, the future of Thebes still hangs in the balance, and the reader cannot help but feel abandoned at the peak of his experience. Although this unclear ending could be interpreted as intentional literary ambiguity, it leaves all of the characters dead, except for Creon, whose life is essentially over. Therefore, the reader is left without anything to take away from the experience. Instead, he is stopped short and deprived of a satisfying farewell, much like Polyneices after Creon’s decree. Though the intended lesson in Sophocles’s Antigone, i.e. that great hubris leads to terrible consequences, is one of great importance, it makes less of an impact upon the reader because of the play’s faults. Since both tragic heroes, Antigone and Creon, suffer from hubris, (Antigone is blunt and outspoken despite Creon’s royal status, and Creon cannot admit that he could ever be wrong) the reader has no one to root for or upon which to hold. As a result, in the end, when most of the characters are worse off or dead, the reader is not emotionally devastated and therefore, does not receive the play’s message effectively. Although Antigone is a literary work that has stood the test of time, for this reviewer, it is one that will stand, untouched, on my shelves for the foreseeable future.