Antigone is a play written by Sophocles at the time when the Greek city-states were transitioning. It mainly majors on the various social issues which have been reflected in the Greek states political landscape. These states had significant social structures which shaped the destinies and lives of the citizens. These social structures are based on various ideals like governance, science, and religion. Most of the Greeks are preferring a government ruled by the people instead of monarchial government. There exist various social structures in the play which have a great significance and have affected the game in different ways as discussed below.
An example of the significance of social structure in this play can be depicted in the conflict which exists between Creon and Antigone, which is as a result of their diverse conflicting ideas. Antigone stands for respect for the dead according to her religious beliefs, while on the other hand, Creon believes in the rule of law and embodies science. This can be seen in Antigone's ideas and actions, and especially in her belief that she needed to bury her brother according to her heavenly-bound rights and moral duties. She believed that according to social stratification, Creon was wrong to ignore his responsibilities to the heavens and the gods. The author of the play quotes that she never knew that Creon's edict was so influential to the extent that he would even disobey the laws of the heavens and gods yet he was only a mere human being. Antigone believes that according to social structure, god is the only superior being whose responsibilities should always be given priority. Her personification of Creon's degree, which she claims that it is against the will of the heavens clearly shows how social structure in the play is significant. The Greek city-states made sure that the mandate of the ruler or the king was clearly defined in respect to the freedom of each individual. Antigone and Creon's conflict shows the extent of social structure in the city-states involving both religious intolerance and patriotism.
Another significance of the social structure in the play can be seen in the ideal among the Greek states that believed that the heavens and religious beliefs were not to be controlled by any other non-religious powers not even the government. This clearly exhibits that neither the government nor any additional non-religious authority was supposed to interfere with the people's religious practices and beliefs. It was due to the social structure in Antigone that pushed Antigone to be obligated to bury Polynices since according to her as well as the social structure she believed in, Creon did not have any power to deny his brother a proper burial. This, therefore, made her disobey the orders given by Creon which resulted to her death since she always held her belief that is important for social structure to exist in the city-states and ensure that there is a separation between governance and religion.
The importance of the issue of pride and honor in the Greek city-states also demonstrates the relevance of social structure in Antigone. According to the social structure in the play, it is essential for the rulers to guard and protect the cities which can be achieved only if they lived above their personal convictions due to the hierarchy existing in the cities. For instance, when Creon ordered that Antigone must die, she examined that she had been made a prisoner by Creon because according to her, she used to honor everything that deserved to be acknowledged which implied that Creon did not deserve to be accepted. Additionally, the decision made by Creon about the capture as well as the decree towards Antigone lacked some crucial things since it was not backed or supported by the majority, and it was not also administrative. Therefore, according to the significance of the social structure in the Greek city-states, these states were very keen in ensuring that there was no abuse of power and primarily through taking most of the tasks personally. The social structure in the states has provided that there are some checks which have been initiated to ensure that the powers of the leaders were moderated.
The social structure or the chain of command in Antigone promotes patriotism which ensures that the Greek city-states were defended and that all the citizens who were led by the kings knew that they have a moral responsibility to protect their states. In the play, Antigone Creon clearly exemplifies this by ensuring that all the citizens in his country had a moral obligation of protecting as well as defending their state. The chorus by the author of the play Antigone states that nothing was beyond the powers of men. Creon had a hierarchical belief that there was something in the good of a man and according to him, this was more than the gods. Precisely, he believed that the gods could not be compared to the ideal of a man. Therefore, he used this social structure to ensure that none of the enemies who resided in his state claimed to be his friends and clearly demonstrated this by denying his brother a decent burial as a way of showing respect to the Thebes. Creon did this because his brother had tried to disobey the Thebes by invading it in an attempt to conquer them; hence, he did not deserve to be honored by the state.
In the play, Antigone by Sophocles, the significance of social structure can also be seen in how women have been portrayed. The women in the game have been classified in three distinct ways; first, the traditional woman, second, the non-traditional woman and third, the moderate woman. According to the author, Antigone can be classified as the embodiment of all the strong-willed women while as of Ismene, she can be classified as the submissive women whereas Eurydice who is Creon's wife can be classified as a moderate woman. There are diverse choices, and personalities of the various women who have been affected by the multiple events with regards to the different characters involved. It can be seen that Eurydice and Antigone have some similar traits, while Ismene has the direct opposite of these traits.
According to the social structure, Antigone, who is classified as an embodiment of the other strong-willed women, is portrayed as a bold and daring woman who can face Creon as well as his imposed laws. Ismene, on the other side, appears to be somehow preserved. Antigone openly defies Creon as she goes against the law and she is even ready to face any consequences which come as a result of her deviance. Antigone accepts her action by clearly stating that "yes, I confess, I will not deny my deed" . She is very strong-willed and brave, despite the fact that she is not consistent. Eurydice, who is a moderate woman, is obedient to her husband, and she is very faithful to him regardless of what he does. She supports each and every decision made by her husband until when the action by her husband made Haemon commit suicide. She was really affected by her son's death such that she also ended up committing suicide. It can be concluded that although not much has been said about her in the play, she was a brave woman to commit suicide just the same way Antigone did.
Regardless of the social structure in the play which expected women to behave in a certain way, Antigone defied the gender roles which were imposed on women through her bravery as well as her death which seems like a sacrifice to all the women who were oppressed. She was a daring woman who died for something she believed in. On the contrary, Eurydice also committed suicide because someone else had also died; hence her death is less significant since it shows that her bond with Creon was weaker as compared to that she had with Haemon. As for Antigone, she had given up her life with the main aim of saving her brother, who was living in the underworld. Unlike the two, Ismene, who is reserved hardly shows bravery, and she is very submissive to all the authorities of the city-states. According to the social structure, she is classified as a subordinate woman, and this is a role which is played by the traditional women in most of the times. This is seen as she tries to advise Antigone by telling her that "you ought to realize that we are only women not meant in nature to fight against the men".
In conclusion, the social structure ensures that Creon tries to use his power as the leader to decree death sentences with the main aim of stopping the rebellions. However, his influence cannot override the moral frameworks in natural law, prevalent morality as well as divine rights.
Griffith, Mark, ed. Sophocles: Antigone. Cambridge University Press, 1999.
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