Monday, May 25, 2009

Sophocles: Antigone


Let's awkwardly turn to another book that I read last month.

It's not a romance, not a fiction (well, not really), not a non-fiction, not a contemporary, not... many things, it is not, however, it is a book from my 101 books in 1001 days challenge. Hooray! (point for Alice.)

A brief background of the story (this is going to get even more awkward), starting with Oedipus.

Antigone is the daughter and sister of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother. It goes like this - Oedipus was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. His father, King Laius, heard and was horrified (rightfully so) and ordered for him to be left to die. His mother, Jocasta, gave him to a servant because she couldn't bear to kill her son, and the servant carried Oedipus to the next county, or kingdom, (or what-not) where he became the adopted son of the king and queen there.

Oedipus is unaware that the parents who raised him are not his biological parents and when he hears of his own fate, he is horrified (rightfully so) and runs away from "home."

While running away, he comes across an old man at a crossroads. They get into a fight and Oedipus kills the old man (aka Laius).

Times passes, and he solves a riddle from the sphinx that has been tormenting his homeland. It's solved, the sphinx is gone, and he wins the prize, which is the hand of the queen of the land, Jocasta.

They marry (ew!) and have four kids (double ew!): Eteocles, Polyneices, Ismene, and our star, Antigone.

Oedipus finds out what he's done, is horrified (duh) and flees the country. He later gouges out his eyes. Jocasta hangs herself.

And Eteocles and Polyneices fight - and kill - each other. Ismene and Antigone are horrified and unhappy (once again, this isn't rocket science).

In Antigone, Jocasta's brother, Creon, is king of the land. He orders Polyneices' body to remained unburied because he was a traitor to the country, however, Antigone desires a proper burial her brother.

Creon has declared anyone who buries Polyneices to be a traitor, a crime that will be harshly punished, but Antigone does it anyway. She is taken before Creon where she argues her point of view and her loyalty to the law of the gods, not to Creon.

She later hangs himself and Haemon, fiance of Antigone and Creon's son, argues with dad. Then he stabs himself. Creon's wife, upon hearing of Haemon's suicide, kills herself as well.

Creon is left, "humbled" and horrified by what has happened (rightfully so).

Not the happiest of stories, this Greek Tragedy was great in that Antigone, who previously seemed an unlikely candidate to be a heroine, proves herself worthy. She is aware of what she does and does not believe in, and most importantly, is able to act in a manner that reflects her beliefs. She is willing to take the consequences of her actions - not shying away from Creon when she is brought before him - and she argues with him (you go girl!).

The cons of this story: written in play form (kind of a pain), almost everyone commits suicide (did someone say Hamlet?), it is full of negativity, and I still don't understand the role of the chorus. I feel like they have more purpose than to provide with background info and current mood. (What's an antistrophe and strophe?)

It was fun to read something besides romance and I enjoyed the story.

No comments: