Gender Issues in Ancient Greece as seen in Antigone
Uploaded by cevster on Dec 29, 2004
Gender Issues in "Antigone"
One of the most devastating problems for the Classical Greeks was the women's issue. Women in Classical Greece were not citizens, held no property, and indeed were not even allowed out of the house except under guard. Their status differed from that of the slaves of Greece only in name. This alone, however, was not a problem -- the problem was that the Greeks knew, in their hearts, that this was wrong. Indeed, their playwrights harangued them about it from the stage of Athens continually. All of the great Grecian playwrights -- Sophocles, Euripedes, Aristophenes -- dealt with the women's issue. All of them argued, in their various ways, that the women of Greece were not nearly as incapable and weak as the culture believed them to be. All of them created female characters of strength and intelligence. But in "Antigone," the discussion reached its peak. Antigone herself, as she stands upon the Grecian stage, represents the highest ideals of human life -- courage and respect for the gods. A woman, she is nevertheless the exemplum for her society. But how are we to know this? Does the author let the audience know that it is Antigone herself, not Creon, the "noble-eyed imperator" (453), who is to be believed? It is almost inconceivable that the audience would be meant to ignore Creon's apparently skillful arguments, for he appears to represent all that the Athenian should strive for. He stands for obedience to the State. Surely it is his voice we should obey. Sophocles does let us know where the truth lies, and he does this, amazingly, partly through his characterization of Creon. Though Creon seemingly says intelligent things, there are clues that he is not to be trusted. One would be his discussion of incest with Ismene. Torn between her duty to God and her duty to the State, Ismene, in the third act, has run to Creon, planning to tell him of Antigone's actions in the graveyard: "O, not for me the dusty hair of youth, / But let us now unto the palace go" (465), she cries. But Creon, ignoring the supposedly important information she has to tell -- he has, after all, emptied the Theban coffers, spending money on his advanced spy network in search of the miscreant -- asks her, instead, to come home with him. "How long, O Princess, O! How long!"...