Antigone: Pre Feminist? Essay on Women Rights Through Ancient Literature


Feminism refers to the advocacy of womens rights in terms of political,social,and economic equality to men . Feminists seek out to bring change by fighting for what they beleive in and are considered strong minded and possess integrity. Throughout history we have learned about prominent feminists from Suan B.Anthony to Malala Yousafazi.Even though they may not be acknoweldged as they should be, there have been feminsits way before the modern feminsits we have been taught about. In the play Antigone ,by Sophocles ,Antigone has laid some early foundations of feminism through her words and her actions .She was courageous, she was a rebel ,and she was a woman .

In ancient Greece , it was evident that women were viewed as insignificant and inferior individuals. Women were always considered secondary to men.They were unable to vote ,own land ,or inherit .Their primary role was to ensure that they kept up with the household,cooking ,and bearing children .In fact, the goal of a girl’s education was to prepare her for having a family ,not intellectual development . They were expected to be a virgin by the time they got married ,and their husbands were usually chosen by their father . Girls were married by the age of 13 or 14 as it was expected ,almost like a requirement. In the Greek society, there was no place or role fit for a single female.

In terms of the law, married women were uner the authority of their husbans. They were viewed as being incapable of making important decisions for themselves. They were expected to be faithful even though their husbands could engage in adultery. If a husband found out that his wife was unfaithful with another man, he could murder the other man without prosecution.Some women managed to stand up against the traditions and rules of society and Antigone was the epitome of a woman who didnt let the laws of a male dominated society stop her from doing what she beleived was right.

Antigone grew up in a prodiminate male household with her father Oedipus ,and her brothers Etocles and Polynieces . When her brothers died going at war against each other , King Creon ascended the throne over Thebes . The first act that potrays feminsim was Antigone defying Creon’s authority. Polynieces brought onto Thebes and therefore was considered a traitor . Eteclos was given an honorable burial ,while Polynieces was left to be eaten by the animals.Antigone felt that 

It was her religious duty to bury Polenices . Not having a burial or mourning the deceased was the most severe punishment as ancient Greeks believed that the soul would wnader the Earth for eternity .In the dialogue with her sister Ismene she states “It will be good to die ,so doing.I shall lie by his side loving him as he loved me ,I shall be a criminal,but a religious one.”Antigone showed unbelievable strength of will and courage while on the other hand Ismene refused to help her .Ismene agreed with Antigone but didnt take any action because she was afraid of Creons punishment .I believe Sophocles purposely made the two women opposties to emphasize a womans role and view in society of that time .Antigones readiness to go agaisnt the powerful King showed the feminist values formed in her soul. 

Creon was also a character that set the stage so that Antigone could reveal her inner strength .Sophocles portayed Creon to be a leader consumed by pride but a ruler who has negative opinions on women .He tells Antigone “Go then the world below yourself if you must love. Love them.When I am alive ,no woman shall live”. He also states to his son Haemon , disobedience destroys cities 

During Antigone’s first interaction with Creon she stated,Now if you think me a fool to act like this, perhaps it is a fool that judges so.”Antigone calling Creon a fool indicates that she has no respect for him as a king and yet alone a man. She didnt hide her actions of burying her brother and knew the consequences and was ready to endure them .

Antigone was not only a defender of her family traditions she was a fighter against Creons tyranny.Even at her death ,she died on her terms, which could be viewed as a sign of protest. When Creon finally decided to free Antigone ,it was too late.Antigone hung herself in the cave .Through Creons stubborness he lost everything he lost his son and his wife . Antigone knew she was going to meet death,but didnt regret anything about it .She was a woman who acted on her insticts and not the will of any male.She was independent in her actions and beliefs.

According to the Ancient Greek way of thinking ,it would make sense to say that it was against the Greek norms for women to rebel against male authority.If women rebelled against the male authority,it could lead to unforgettable outcomes .Most of the women like Ismene, abided by this rule .Antigone’s steps against Creon’s power and authority have shown definite female power .Antigone followed her instict and neglected threats of authortiy which told her to act otherwise.

Antigone took responsibility for her actions,words ,and thoughts .SHe didnt even hide that she was going to rebel against the rules .She felt that it was better to die than accept male conquer .Taking all of these things to account one could surely conclude that Antigone was an early example of a feminist because she demonstrated qualities immanent to both historical and modern feminism.

 

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