analysis of antigone and oedipus rex with respect to poetics
1Analysis of Oedipus Rex and Antigone with respect to Poetics. By Samrah Tayyab. M.phill English.
2 Analysis of Oedipus Rex and Antigone with respect to Poetics.1.Definition of Tragedy:―Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certainmagnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, theseveral kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not ofnarrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish itsCatharsis of such emotions. . . . Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which partsdetermine its quality—namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, andMelody.‖Aristotle [384 B.C.E.-322 B.C.E.] would consider Oedipus Rex and Antigone a tragedy.First, Theban King Oedipus is a hero, because he does great deeds and has great powersor strength. For example, he delivers Thebes from the beastly, bullying Sphinx. He alone knowsthe answer to the Sphinxs unanswerable riddle.Second, Oedipus is noble He‟s the biological son of Theban Royal rulers. On both his parentssides of the family, he descends from Cadmus, Thebes founder and first king around 2000B.C.E. Additionally; hes raised as the royal heir apparent by character adoptive/foster royalparents.Third, Oedipus is tripped up by tragically fatal flaws within his own and personality. For example,hes so proud that he thinks that he can beat the gods and escape his horrific fate. But the more hetries to flee from his fate, the closer his flight takes him to it because of his own flawed decisionmaking .
3Fourth, a pestilence descends upon the city of Thebes. Harvests go bad, livestock die, and moreThebans die than are born. The reason is the unsolved killing of Laius by Oedipus, who is thevictims son and subject. Oedipus needs to be purified of his unknowing but nevertheless heinouscrimes. He doesnt go through ritual purification after the killing of father and sovereign. SoOedipus pollution becomes the pollution of all ThebesFifth, theres a Purification of the hero and therefore of his environment. That purification comesabout through the heros death, destruction or downfall. The hero commits an offense against thegods. All offenses must be punished be they the result of deliberate intent or unknowing action.Oedipus cleansing by being identified and punished as the killer likewise becomes the cleansing of allThebes.Sixth, the heros story is told in verse. sets his play up as lines of verse. The lines dont rhyme. Butthe playis clearly a work of poetry, odes and music.But in antigone the case is much more different. It has two protagonists ,antigone and creon.Antigone and creon both are from same family. And conflict is between human law and divinelaw.Secondly both are from noble family. Creon is king of that region and antigone is his niece.Both antigone and creon is tripped by tragically fatal flaws. As antigone‟s excessive pride andcreon‟s stubbornness.Thyirdly, theres a Purification of the hero and therefore of his environment. That purificationcomes about through the heros death, destruction or downfall. The hero commits an offenseagainst the gods. As per described in play Antigone by tieresis that gods are angry with creon.2. Elements of tragedy:2.1 Plot.Plot is the “first principle,” the most important feature of tragedy. Aristotle defines plot as “thearrangement of the incidents”. According to him; ―The plot must be ―a single whole,‖ with a beginning, middle, and end. It must be ―complete,‖ having ―unity of action.”By this Aristotle means that the plot must be structurally self-contained, with the incidents boundtogether by internal necessity, each action leading inevitably to the next without any
42.2 Oedipus Rex and plot construction.Following the traditional structure of Greek plays, it is split into several parts, including theprologue, parodos, episodes, stasimons, and exodus. Following the unity of time and place,there are no flash backs, everything takes place in real time, and in one location. The plot islinear. The play takes place within the space of a few hours. There are parallel moments at thebeginning and end of the play, when Oedipus says “I am Oedipus.”Oedipus Rex is the finest example from plot construction point of view and it has been envied bymany of the writers. According to Aristotle, the plot of Oedipus Rex satisfies all the requirementof a good plot in a very nice way and he, in his book “the poetic”, presents Oedipus Rex as amodel tragedy from all dramatic convictions‟ point of view. When we analyse critically OedipusRex from plot construction point of view we can say that the first thing which strikes us is itsunusual plot.Oedipus Rex has an extremely unusual plot. It is the story of a King who is brought down by theunforeseen consequences of his own oath. From beginning to end it is concerned with theinvestigation of some past events. The play unites two parallel problems. One is the detection ofmurderer of Laius and the second is the identity of Oedipus himself. The two problems are one ina way and solving of either of them is like solving the both.The general pattern of the story is that of finding of a lost one. The theme can be applied atseveral levels. We can say that Oedipus finds his parents or Thebes and Corinth discover theirlost prince. This is very old theme. The foundling story has certain set features.Each of the incidents in this play is part of a tightly constructed cause-and-effect chain. Theplague in Thebes prompts Oedipus to send Creon to consult the oracle of Delphi; the oracle‟sreply that the murderer of Laius must be banished from Thebes prompts Oedipus pronounce asolemn curse on the murderer and to send for Teiresias. Teiresias states that Oedipus is themurderer, but since the king knows himself to be innocent (or thinks he knows), he accusesCreon of plotting with Teiresias against him. The quarrel of Oedipus and Creon brings Jocastafrom the house; seeking to calm down her husband and prove that oracles cannot be trusted, shetells again of how Laius died. When she mentions that he was killed ―at a place where threeroads meet,‖ Oedipus suddenly begins to suspect that he may indeed have killed the kingwithout knowing who he was. To settle the matter, they send for the Herdsman who is the only
5survivor of that attack. Meanwhile a messenger arrives from Corinth to inform Oedipus that hissupposed father, King Polybus of Corinth, has died. Oedipus rejoices that he did not kill hisfather as the oracle had prophesied but is still worried that he may marry his mother, theMessenger, seeking to relieve him of this fear, innocently tells him that Polybus and Meropewere not his real parents.―O, O, O, they will all come, all comes out clearly!‖ ―…This is what prophets and prophecies are worth! Have no dread of them.‖The proclamation which Oedipus makes about including even himself within the jurisdiction ofthe punishment which he announces for those who may harbor or have intercourse with the killerof Laius.And it is my solemn prayer That the unknown murderer, and his accomplices.If such there be, may wear the brand of shame For their shameful act, unfriended, to theirlife‘s end. Nor do I exempt myself from the imprecationAll the incidents have been arranged very skillfully by masterly hands of Sophocles and it gotpraised at every level and it is still considered to be the best plot ever contrived. The plot ofOedipus Rex fulfills all the pre-requisitions and conviction of dramatic art. It has properbeginning which can‟t be questioned with proper proceeding to suitable middle leading to climaxand catastrophe. It has various levels of meaning which can never be exhausted. In fact, there issomething mysterious about this play which is really inexplicable. Even from the purelytechnical point of view, Oedipus Rex is a marvel. Its plot-structure remains unrivalled. Itscharacterization as well as patterning of character is superb. It admirably maintains suspense inspite of the fact that its plot is well-known.2.3 Antigone and plot construction.For the plot of Antigone, Sophocles drew material from the familiar legends of Oedipus, theKing of Thebes, and also from an earlier play by Aeschylus called Seven Against Thebes.The plot of a Greek tragedy usually consisted of five parts: the prologue, the Parodos, the fiveEpeisodia (episodes), the five stasima and the Exodus (or epilogue). Sophocles follows theconventional pattern of plot construction with very little deviation from the norm.
6The Prologos (literally ‗fore-word‘) forms the prologue to the actual play. It is the partpreceding the first entrance of the Chorus and usually consists of a monologue (or dialogue)setting forth the subject matter of the tragedy and the basic situation from which it starts. In earlyGreek tragedies, the Chorus entered first and performed this function of exposition. Sophoclesprefers a later method in Antigone, by making Antigone reveal her decision to bury Polynices toher sister, Ismene.The Parodos is the second segment of the plot and refers to the song (and stylized movements ordance) which accompanies the first entrance of the Chorus on stage. The opening Chorus songserves a purely expository function in Antigone. These two initial segments of the plot are followed by five major “Epeisodia” or episodes. In these scenes, one or more of the three central actors took the major and minor roles, along with the Chorus..In Antigone, the first episode concerns Creon‟s announcement to the Chorus of Theban eldersthat he has forbidden the burial of Polynices. It also includes the arrival of the watchman whoinforms Creon of the perfunctory night burial of Polynices by an unknown hand. Creon lashesout at him and accuses him of conspiring in this act.The stasima (plural for ―stasimon‖) were expressions of emotion evoked by the precedingepisodes, given mainly by the Chorus and serving as interludes between episodes. The firststasimon follows the first episode: the Chorus sings a song in praise of the human race and of thestate. The second episode follows, during which one sees Antigone, captured by the watchman,being brought before Creon to face trial and punishment. This episode constitutes the climax ofthe play and proves the great strength of Antigone‟s character.This great scene of confrontation is followed by the second stasimon which begins: “Blest is thelife that never tasted woe.” It mentions the evil fate tormenting the house of Cadmus. In the thirdepisode, Creon is confronted by his son, Haemon, who is betrothed to Antigone. The father-sonconflict provides a secondary agon (debate) in the play, following the primary agon betweenAntigone and Creon in the second episode. Appropriately, the third episode is followed by thethird stasimon, whose theme is love:
7 ―Love unconquered in fight.‖In the penultimate episode of the play, Antigone is led to her tomb. This scene evokes profoundpity for her, as well as awe at her impending fate. Her exit is covered by the fourth stasimon,which tells of the tragic fate suffered by mythical Greek figures before Antigone: ―Even Danaë‘s beauty...‖.In the fifth and final episode, Tiresias, the prophet, warns Creon against displeasing the gods.Here, the “peripeteia,” or turn in the nature of events, takes place when Creon does a completeabout- face and decides to spare Antigone‟s life and to allow for Polynices‟ burial. There is alsoa moment of “anagnorisis” for Creon as he begins to understand that he must bow to the powerof fate:―Oh! it is hard. But I am forced to this/ Against myself. I cannot fight with Destiny.‖The fifth stasimon is a dithyramb in honor of the god, Bacchus. The Chorus prays to Bacchus,hoping that he will rescue Thebes from its present crisis.The exodus or final scene follows the final (fifth) stasimon. In this scene, the messengers bringnews of Haemon‟s and Antigone‟s deaths. It presents the denouement of the tragedy. Eurydice,Haemon‟s mother, commits suicide and Creon is left alone to mourn his fate. The leader of theChorus recites the last lines of the play as part of the Exodus and articulates the moral of the tale.Thus, in Antigone, Sophocles remains strictly within the bounds of the norms of classical Greektragedy as far as plot construction is concerned.3. Character.3.1 Element of character in Oedipus Rex:There are four major characters: Oedipus, Tiresias, Jocasta, and Creon. The chorus also has alarge role. There are six minor characters. The major characters are more complex than the minorones, but Oedipus is the most developed. There is not enough time for any of the characters tochange their personalities drastically, though Oedipus is shocked when he makes his important
8realizations. The character‟s traits are revealed through how they act and behave. Oedipus: 30-35, proud, rash, brave; strong but limps. He bears a physical deformity, showing that he is not asgod-like as he thinks he is at the beginning of the play. He makes decisions quickly and is eagerto carry them out; he thinks the decisions he makes are logical, but often forgets the importanceof being able to think clearly. Quick action was a mark of Athenian society, and thus imbuingthat same personality trait of Oedipus, and having it be one of the elements that lead to hisdownfall, likely instilled fear in the heart of Athenian audiences that the traits they valued wouldbe the ones that destroyed them. He is smart, and enjoys feeling more clever than others.Oedipus means “man of agony” but refers to foot ailments. He is the embodiment of socialprogress. There are other times when he is equated with physicians and mathematicians,emphasizing his connection with logic and enlightenment. He is the protagonist of the story andhis purpose is to call into question the competing forces of free will and destiny. Oedipus: Oh my children, the new blood of ancient Thebes, why are you here? Holding at my alter, praying before me, your branches wound in wool. Our city reeks with the smoke of burning incense, rings with cries for the Healer and wailing for the dead. I thought it wrong, my children, to hear the truth fromothers, messengers. Here I am myself—you all know me, the world knows my fame; I am Oedipus.This quote shows two competing forces within Oedipus—his fierce pride, but also his lurkinginsecurity and uneasiness. He sees that the townspeople revere him, and doesn‟t understand whythey have so much faith in him. Thus, he acts more prideful in order to make himself feeladequate in resolving the situation, and his pride is only exacerbated as the situation becomesworse. This passage also reveals how deeply Oedipus feels about his subjects, which makes hissacrifice to save them all the more wrenching. Jocasta: 45-50; caring, smart, sensitive; appearsyoung because of a magic broach; Jocasta acts motherly towards Oedipus, trying to resolve theconflicts he has with others and encouraging him to make more moderate choices, she isrespected by the prominent figures in the community; she is Oedipus‟ wife and mother. Jocasta: Have you no sense? Poor misguided men, such shouting—why this public outburst? Aren‘t you ashamed, with the land so sick, to stir up private quarrels? Into the palace now. And Creon, you go home. Why make such a furor over nothing?
9This quote shows the powerful effect that Jocasta has over Oedipus and Creon. She acts as amother and ultimate moral authority over both them, and is a strong voice for moderation. Creon:30, moderate, logical, fair; Creon has a forceful personality and strong convictions, but is morewilling to compromise and think things out than Oedipus is. He strives to do things correctly,completely, logically, and fairly.Creon: I haven’t come to mock you, Oedipus, or to criticize your former failings. You there,have you lost all respect for human feelings? At least revere the Sun, the holy fire that keepsus all alive. Never expose a thing of guilt and holy dread so great it appalls the earth, the rainfrom heaven, the light of day! Get him into the halls—quickly as you can. Piety demands noless. Kindred alone should she a kinsman’s shame. This is obscene.In this scene, Creon behaves coolly and rationally. He shows Oedipus respect and sensitivity,though there is clearly a distance between them that didn‟t exist previously. In this scene Creonreveals how different he is from Oedipus, he thinks things out carefully and asks the advice ofothers, and is free from the weight of shame that Oedipus carries. However, the two men areunited by having shared a great horrific revelation.3.2 Element of character in Antigone:Antigone is the plays tragic heroine. In the first moments of the play, Antigone is opposed to herradiant sister Ismene. Unlike her beautiful and docile sister, Antigone is scrawny, sallow,withdrawn, and recalcitrant brat. Like Anouilhs Eurydice, the heroine of his play Eurydice, andJoan of Arc, Antigone has a boyish physique and curses her girlhood. She is the antithesis of themelodramatic heroine, the archetypal blond ingénue as embodied in Ismene. Antigone hasalways been difficult, terrorizing Ismene as a child, always insisting on the gratification of herdesires, refusing to "understand" the limits placed on her. Her envy of Ismene is clear. Ismene isentirely of this world, the object of all mens desires. Thus she will at one point rob Ismene of herfeminine accoutrements to seduce her fiancé Haemon. She fails, however, as such humanpleasures are not meant for her.CreonAntigones uncle, the powerfully built King Creon is a weary, wrinkled man suffering theburdens of rule. Before the deaths of Oedipus and his sons, he dedicated himself to art patronage
10but has now surrendered himself entirely to the throne. A practical man, he firmly distanceshimself from the tragic aspirations of Oedipus and his line. As he tells Antigone, his only interestis in political and social order. Creon is bound to ideas of good sense, simplicity, and the banalhappiness of everyday life. To Creon, life is but the happiness one makes, the happiness thatinheres in a grasped tool, a garden bench, a child playing at ones feet. Uninterested in playingthe villain in his nieces tragedy, Creon has no desire to sentence Antigone to death. Antigone isfar more useful to Thebes as mother to its heir than as its martyr, and he orders her crimecovered-up. Though fond of Antigone, Creon will have no choice but to but to execute her. Asthe recalcitrant Antigone makes clear, by saying "yes" to state power, Creon has committedhimself to acts he finds loathsome if the order of the state demands it. Antigones insistence onher desire in face of state power brings ruin into Thebes and to Creon specifically. With the deathof his family, Creon is left utterly alone in the palace. His throne even robs him of his mourning,the king and his pace sadly shuttling off to a cabinet meeting after the announcement of thefamilys deaths.4. Diction.The diction is formal. Fagles carefully chooses his use of italics to emphasize a truth that theaudience is supposed to see but the characters do not, or to reinforce the verbal tone of one of thecharacters speaking.4.1Element of diction in Oedipus Rex:The recurring words related to sailing, farming, hunting, calculations, and medicine also enforcethe characterization of Oedipus and his relation to central theme of the play. Doctorial andmathematical images are abundant. There are allusions to figures in ancient Greek mythology,and the choral odes tend to be written in a more flowery manner, whereas the dialogue tends tobe plainer and truer to life. Oedipus speaks in a more forceful, and arrogant, manner than the restof the characters, and Jocasta speaks kindly. Tiresias: What rock of Cithaeron won’t scream back in echo? The day you learn the truth about your marriage, the wedding-march that sang you into your halls, the lusty voyage home to the fatal harbor! And a crowd of other horrors you’d never dream will level you with yourself and all your children.
11The words that Tiresias uses in this scene are designed to instill in Oedipus the greatest sense offear and uncertainty possible. He taunts Oedipus with what he does not know, and every word isthreatening. His reference to the “fatal harbor” reinforces the motif as Oedipus as a sailor, andthe circular nature of his life. Oedipus: I count myself the son of Chance, the great goddess, giver of all good things—I’ll never see myself disgraced. She is my mother! And the moons have marked me out, my blood-brothers, one moon on the wane, the next moon great with power.This quote contrasts chance and destiny. Oedipus seems to believe in both, connecting himselfclosely to the powers of chance, but also claiming that his destiny is marked by the passage ofastrological features. His reference to himself as the “son” of chance is also ironic, consideringthat at this point he does not know who is mother is. Oedipus: Oh but this I know: no sickness can destroy me, nothing can. I would never have been saved from death—I have been saved from something great and terrible, something strange. Well let my destiny come and take me on its way!The sickness that Oedipus mentions is parallel to the sickness that Thebes suffers. He also hasonly a vague grasp on the magnitude of his sins, and still believes in the power of destiny.4.2Element of diction in Antigone:By the use of diction, Sophocles paints a vivid picture in our minds. To put emphasis on thestatement, he uses an imaginative language, in Line 89, by the use of dark and light. ―Muttering and whispering in the dark about this girl.‖By choosing the word dark, he gives the literal and underlying meaning. In the literal sense, thecitizens physically are muttering and whispering in the dark and the underlying meaning createsirony. The citizens do not mutter and whisper in the dark by choice. Creon‟s feelings towards hiscitizens are well put by Melchinger,―The greatest of evils is anarchy: the citizen‘s foremost duty is obedience to the ruler.‖
12The people hide in fear of their king. Creon is oblivious to the feelings of his people. Instead ofvoicing their opinions, the citizens take a safe route by keeping their silence. Line 110, the wordsailing is used to represent Creon‟s kingdom. Creon‟s rules were fair but too strict. Even thoughhis decisions were for the good of the people, in the end his stubbornness towards Antigone willsink him.Lines 107 to 109 once again compare Creon‟s laws to nature. Creon is represented by a tree.Creon is stubborn so his roots and limbs won‟t bend with the wind thus causing them to break. IfCreon were to bend the rules, then they would bend with the wind. Haimon is in the process ofmaking Creon change his mind. To prove that Creon is being unreasonable, Haimon dramatizesthe situation.―She covered her brother‘s body. Is this indecent? She kept him from dogs and vultures. Isthis a crime?”Using the words dogs and vultures creates sympathy towards Antigone. Even though shecommitted a crime, she had good reasoning. It makes Creon look heartless and closeminded.Sophocles is a painter of his time. Using words as his paints and pencils as his brush, Sophoclespaints a vivid imaginative story.Diction played an important role in the play. Sophocles was able to bring his audience in scenesthat were not physically shown. So beautifully put “Sophocles, like Aeschylus and Euripides,made a virtue of the necessity of this convention of the ancient theater by writing elaboratemessenger speeches which provide a vivid word picture of the offstage action. Sophoclescleverly with words told a story and demonstrated that the law of the god‟s always come beforethe law of man.5. Thought: Thought… is where something is proved to be or not to be, or a general maxim is enunciated‖ – Aristotle in his Poetics5.1 Element of thought in Oedipus Rex:
13This paly have element of thought as every character is depicting his inner thoughts bydialogues. There conflict is vividly expressed through thought. As Oedipus saidOedipus: ―I must pursue this trail to the end,Till I have unraveled the mystery of my birth.‖And jocasta said;―Jocasta: Yet do not do it. I implore you do not do it.Oedipus: I must. I cannot leave thetruth unknown.After knowing the truth about his birth and other prophecy Oedipus expressed his thoughts insuch manner.―… I am the child of Fortune,The giver of good, and I shall not be shamed.She is my mother; my sisters are the Seasons;My rising and falling march with theirs.Bornthus, I ask to be no other manThan that I am, andwill know who I am.‖Teiresias said;―when wisdom brings no profit,To be wise is to suffer‖- Teiresias (34)5.2 Element of thought in Antigone:The play opens up with direct opposition between Antigone and her sister Ismene, concerningAntigones idea of burying her brother against King Creons rules."...See how miserable our end shall be if in the teeth of law we shall transgress against thesovereigns decree and power.You ought to realize we are only women...," says Ismene.These words straightforwardly express not only the emotions of Ismene, but the thoughts of theentire chorus of Thebes. Ismene is quick to agree or support Antigone but automatically focuseson what bad will become of her sister from disobeying civil law. Antigone is not only a woman,inferior to all men, but she is also a mere citizen, inferior to King Creon and any laws establishedunder his rule. Essentially, Ismene tries to convince Antigone that she is only stirring up troubleand bringing unwanted chaos to the land.
14When it is revealed to the King and Thebes people that someone had buried Polyneices, thechorus ironically replies, "My lord: I wonder, could this be Gods doing?"This line reflects a hint of transition in the chorus, as they point out the well-known fact that theGods insist on giving mortals a proper burial. Moreover, it reveals that the chorus is still awareof the importance of divine law, and makes them question again what is more important: divineor civil law. Furthermore, this suggests that the chorus recognizes what is morally right, butsimply refuses to oppose the high and mighty King.6. Melody.Aristotle view of chorus; ―The chorus should be regarded as one of the actor; it should be an integral of the whole and take a share in the action - that ithas in Sophocles rather than in Euripides.‖The earliest critical precept of the function of chorus in Greek tragedy is thecomment that Aristotle makes in the poetics. Chorus lends a tremendous significancein Sophocles‟ plays. He does not only use it as a literary term, but as an important structuraldevice. It plays the role of a character, which comments during the course of the play; and doesnot take part in the action as in Aeschylus‟ and Euripides‟ plays.Among the best known Greek tragedies, the role of chorus in Oedipus Rex has beenof great importance. In Oedipus, the chorus functions almost entirely as a normal characterinthe drama of the play, responding to others in the story, reacting to the action, andbehaving in a fairly standard manner. Some of the functions of the chorus mentione dabove are very well performed in Oedipus Rex.6.1 The Chorus in the Oedipus Rex;Among the best known Greek tragedies, the role of chorus in Oedipus Rex has beenof great importance. In Oedipus, the chorus functions almost entirely as a normal character inthe drama of the play, responding to others in the story, reacting to the action, and
15behaving in a fairly standard manner. Some of the functions of the chorus ment ionedabove are very well performed in Oedipus Rex.Suspense.Suspense is the supreme element of a tragedy. Chorus, no doubt elevates the elements ofsuspense in the play. When Oedipus is trying his hard to seek the murderer of Laius_ the causeof plague in the land; chorus creates suspense and inquisitiveness by saying that:―But there is one man who may detect the criminalThis is Teiresias, this is holyprophetInwhom, alone of all men, truth was born.‖The readers and the audience now wait anxiously for Teiresias‟ arrival.6.2 Role of chorus in Antigone:In Antigone the Chorus at times directly affects the action of the play. Though they at first seemto be totally on the side of their new king Creon, they begin to urge him to be more moderate. Itsat their pleading that Creon decides not to sentence Ismene to death along with her sister. The oldmen of Thebes also practically insist that Creon take Teiresiass advice and free Antigone. Creon,of course, finally agrees to do this, but unfortunately its far too late.The main functions of the Chorus are to comment on the action of the play, give back story, andto connect the play to other myths. Sophocles also uses the Chorus to expound upon the playscentral themes. In Antigone we get choral odes on everything from the triumph of man overnature, to the dangers of pride, to the hazards of love.In Antigone, Sophocles uses the parados to give back-story. The Chorus sings all about theterrible battle that has just been fought. We also get the sense that the people of Thebes arefurious at Polyneices for betraying and attacking them. This helps to strengthen Creons positionabout the traitors burial. Overall, the parados in Antigone is a joyful celebration of victory. Thisis, of course, highly ironic.Ode to Man.
16The next time we hear the Chorus is the First Ode. This little ditty just happens to be the mostfamous choral ode in all of Greek tragedy. It is popularly referred to as the "Ode to Man." In thiscelebrated ode the Chorus sings about all the wonderful accomplishments of man. The word"wonderful" in Greek is deinon. It can also describe something that is terrible. In a way, the wordmeans both wonderful and terrible at the same time. But how could all of mansaccomplishments be both of those things at once?Lets take a look at the achievements that the Chorus lists. Humanity has: built ships to conquerthe seas, crafted plows to tame the earth, bent animals to his will, raised houses to defeat the rainand the snow. Do you notice a common thread here?Nearly everything is about humanity asserting its will over nature. This echoes the basic conflictof the play. The Chorus ends the "Ode to Man" by praising the laws of the city. They disdainanybody who would want to bring anarchy back to Thebes. After the ode concludes, it takesSophocles about two seconds to lather on the irony.7. Concept of Catharsis;7.1 Oedipus Rex and concept of catharsis:Aristotle is said to have suggested that a tragedy allows a person to exercise feeling which, if exercised withoutcontrol in real life, might stand in the way of action. It must be stressed that Aristotle does not say that pity andterror are the only emotions proper to tragedy. His suggestions seem to be that these are the most predominantemotions, but his reference clearly is to these and other similar emotions. As other writers on tragedy havepointed out, a great tragedy gives rise to a variety of feelings. These include a sense of mystery and even awe atthe complexity of human life. Tragedy also produces a sense of admiration at the greatness of the human spirit.Tragedy impresses us with the seriousness of human life. It may temporarily give us the feeling that man‟s life isa very sad affair, but this is only a fleeting impression. The ultimate effect of tragedy is ennobling and up lifting.Oedipus Rex is a very significant play for a discussion of the emotional impact of tragedy. The fate of Oedipus,who always wished for the welfare of his people, inspires us with awe. We wonder at the mystery of human lifein which a man may suffer even with the best of intentions. There are many things in the play which evoke asense of strong pity. This pity arises from fellow feeling, and has nothing in common with the modern meaningof the word, which has a tinge of superiority in it, for we now speak of feeling of pity for the sufferings of the
17poor and the down-trodden, but not of those superior to us. The very first impression that is produced on us aswe begin to read this play is that of pity.If we give ourselves up to a full sympathy with the hero, there is no question that the OedipusRex fulfills the function of a tragedy, and arouses fear and pity in the highest degree. Thephilosophy of Aristotle and Sophocles is clearly expressed in the drama itself. "May destiny still find me," sings the Chorus,"winning the praise of reverent purity in all words and deeds sanctioned by those laws of rangesublime, called into life throughout the high clear heaven, whose father is Olympus alone; theirparent was no race of mortal men, no, nor shall oblivion ever lay them to sleep: the god is mightin them and grows not old."7.2 Antigone and concept of catharsis:In Sophocles Antigone, a young princess is sentenced to death for burying her dead brother. Theman who ordered her death was Thebes ruler, Creon. For a tragedy to be a tragedy, according toAristotle, the story must cause Catharsis, the production of pity and fear within someonessoul/heart. For this to occur, according to Aristotle, several characteristics should be present. Oneor more of the characters, should go from a good situation to a worse one (peropeteia), he/shemust play a small part in their downfall (hamartia), and should go through the process ofrealization of suffering caused (anagnorisis). These characteristics will, according to Aristotle,produces pity and fear in the hearts of the watchers/readers. In Antigone, many believe that thecharacter that has these characteristics is Antigone, Ismene, or any of the other "good guys."(The"good guys" are the people who defend or side with Antigone.) But a better character that showsthese characteristics is actually the character many would less likely have guessed. In Antigone,by Sophocles, Creon fits Aristotles idea of a Catharsis.8. TRAGIC HERO.8.1 Oedipus Rex:Oedipus as tragic hero:Aristotle gives his conception of the Greek tragic hero in one of the important sections of the “Poetics”.According to Aristotle the tragic hero is commonly found to belong to a greatand noble family; he is a nobleperson but is not very virtuous and just. He undergoes suffering, which results, not from evil, but from some
18Hamartia. Aristotle gives the example of Oedipus in Sophocles, play as a great and successful tragic hero. Theterm Hamartia used byAristotle to convey his view about the tragic reversal of the hero is highly controversial. There are two maininterpretations of this term. According to one of them the term means a defect of character which brings tragicconsequences, i.e. tragic flaw. The other interpretation of the term is in the sense of error of judgment. If weapply the term in the first sense, we would say that Oedipus‟ hamartia is rashness and anger, or a tendency toplace too much value on human intelligence. If we interpret the term in the sense of error of judgment, we mightthink of the errors committed by Oedipus before the story of Sophocles play begins, or look for similar errorswithin the play itself. In either case it would not be easy to point out hamartia which should be directlyresponsible for Oedipus‟ tragedy.It might be argued that the cause of Oedipus‟ tragedy is excessive pride in his intelligence. It leads him tobelieve that he can defeat the oracle by not going back to Corinth. In an apparently innocent manner, thisarrogance leads him to solve the riddle of the sphinx and thus indirectly and unconsciously becomes guilty ofincest. Earlier, his rashness has made him slay his own father, though Oedipus was not aware of the old man‟sidentity. Within the play, we may say that Oedipus‟ rashness makes him pronounce a curse on the murderer ofLaius and also includes his own self within the scope of the curse. His suspiciousness makes him suspect Creonof having designs on his life and throne. The actions of parricide and incest have been committed by him in thepast and his errors and faults only influence the manner in which he discovers his past crimes as well ashisidentity. It can be said that the tragedy of Oedipus is the result more of his good qualities than his bad ones. Itis his love of Thebes which makes him send Creon to Delphi to consult the oracle. It is the same care for hissubjects, which make him proclaim a ban and a curse on the murderer of Laius. It is his absolute honesty whichmakes him include even his own self within the curse and the punishment. To Oedipus the discovery of thetruth is more important than his own good and safety. He is so honest that he inflicts the punishment of self-blinding when he learns that he has committed horrible crimes against his parents, although in completeignorance.Oedipus seems to be somewhat obsessed with his own intelligence and this leads him into many uncomfortablesituations and also creates an unfavorable impression on the reader. Oedipus is extremely proud of the fact thathe was able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx which has proved too much for every other person. The characterof Oedipus leaves a powerful impression on the mind of the reader. We have great admiration for his search oftruth. We also sympathize with him because he is the victim of irony of fate and circumstances. He provesundefeatable in misfortune and even he is no better than a blind beggar he proves to be towering character as
19compared to Creon who has now become the king. His intense love for his helpless daughters also creates astrong impression on the reader. He indeed seems to be a symbol of human intelligence and courage whichremain undefeated in the face of greatest adversities.8.2 Antigone:Antigone a tragic hero:In Sophocles Antigone the hero is a woman that believes in her heart far stronger than that of herleaders rule. This brings up many characteristics that are shown within her that are also seen inother heroes. One being that she is up against an impossible enemy, one who does not fit wellinto societys mold, and is destroyed by her own pride. For these characteristics Antigone isgiven the title of an epic Heroin. Antigone is one of the lucky townsfolk to be born of a royalhouse, yet is unlucky to be born in the House that she is born into. As Antigone defies Creonslaw, she is cast into a pool of danger between what she believes is right and what the states lawdecrees is right.As Antigone is charged with the burying of her brother, an action which the King has declaredunlawful, she holds like stone to her undying gratitude for her deceased brother. She holds to thisthought because of the fact that she believes that her, who died fighting against the state, must beinterred with the same honor as her brother who died defending the state. She believes that thiswill help lift the curse plagued on the household. The curse in which there father tried to hold atbay and failed. Her sister Ismene warned Antigone by exclaiming"Sister please, please! remember how our father die: hated, in disgrace, wrapped in horrorof himself, his own hand stabbing out his sight. And how his mother-wife in one, twisted offher earthly days with a cord. And thirdly how our two brothers in a single day eachachieved for each a suicida Nemesis" (166)This has already gave Antigone the mind set that even the Gods are against her will. She is alsoup against a great foe in fighting that of Creons edict. Ismene has said this:"The rest, if we defy our sovereigns edict and his power. Remind ourselves that we arewomen, and such not made to fight with men. For might unfortunately is right and makesus bow to things like this and worse"So as one would believe Antigone sees herself as not only on who can defy the power of theGods but the power of the state. Thus she would be up against an force greater than her own.
20Second, another characteristics of a tragic hero is that the person does not always fit intosocietys mold. The tragic hero is usually one who wants change, yet also needs the peace thatgoes along with stability. The fact that the tragic hero also usually thinks that they are in thereright mind when yet the rest of the society thinks that they are mad. Antigone has said"Say that I am mad, and madly let me risk the worst that I can suffer and the best"This shows that although Antigone thinks she is doing is right, she also does not care how theother members of society deem her for her action. Antigone also must believe that she must bedifferent from not only society but members of her family. Creon note on this when he is askingher about his proclamation"O, shes the man, not I, if she can walk away unscathed! I swear I hardly care if she be mysisters child, o linked to me by blood more closely than any member of my hearth andhome (181).This should also show one that Creon does not care about her nobility and that he will treat herjust like one any other member of society.Lastly, Antigone is inherently destroyed by the one thing that is her tragic flaw:Excessive pride. This was also a downfall of her father Oedipus. This pride could also beconfused with honor. Antigone also shows that she choose what to do not based on the law of thestate but on the laws of the Gods. Antigone also embellishes her statement by telling Creon thathe is a fool to judge her on what she has done. "I feel no twinges of regret. And if you think I am a fool, perhapsit is because a fool is judge" (180).If anything this clearly states that she has excessive pride for what she has done and will makesure that Creon knows this and her unfeigned gratitude for her dead brothers. AAntigone feels noregret in what she has done. She also shows that she is proud of the fact that she never deniedburying her brother. One would infer that although of her death, Antigone died for what shebelieved. This is the utmost characteristic in the portrait of a tragic hero. Hubris is an important factor in determining who is a better tragic hero. Clearly Creon hasmore hubris than Antigone. Creon shows his hubris when he would not see the reasoning ofAntigone and his own son, Haemon. It took a terrible prophecy from Teiresias to make Creon see
21the error of his way and finally put an end to his madness There was no doubt in Creon‟s mindthat he was wrong until this happened.References:Battin, M. Pabst. “Aristotle‟s Definition of Tragedy in the Poetics.” Journal of Aesthetics andArtCriticism 33.2 (Winter 1974): 293-302. EBSCO. College of DuPage Library. 20 April 2009 <http://0-search.ebscohost.com.lrc.cod.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=7657453&site=ehost-live>Cunningham, Stanley B. “Getting it Right: Aristotles „Golden Mean‟ as Theory Deterioration.”Journal of Mass Media Ethics 14.1 (1999): 5-15. EBSCO. College of DuPage Library. 20April 2009 <http://0-search.ebscohost.com.lrc.cod.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=2201104&site=ehost-live>Holt, Phillip. “Polis and Tragedy in the Antigone.” Mnemosyne 52.6 (December 1999): 658-690.EBSCO. College of DuPage Library. 20 April 2009 < http://0-search.ebscohost.com.lrc.cod.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=2697447&site=ehost-live>Sophocles. Antigone. Trans., with Introduction and Notes by Paul Woodruff. Indianapolis:Hackett,2001: 1-58.Woodruff, Paul. Introduction. Sophocles. Antigone. Trans., with Introduction and Notes by PaulWoodruff. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001: vii-xxvii.