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A Female Tragic Hero?

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Essay title: A Female Tragic Hero?

A Female Tragic Hero?

It is not often in Greek myth or tragedy that a woman is found portrayed as a tragic hero. However, Sophocles makes the hero of Antigone, the third and last play in the theme of Oedipus' life, a woman. The protagonist of the play Antigone, from which the play derives its title, also holds certain qualities of a tragic hero. What seems to be least important in determining the tragic hero of this play, in fact, is whether or not the hero is male or female, which is surprising due to the misogynistic tendencies of most Greek stories. What are most important are the three major characteristics concerning the make up of a tragic hero. First, it is important that the hero must be of noble descent. Second, the hero must be judged by the audience, which is generally expressed through the Chorus, to be a good and just person. And third, the hero must have a tragic flaw; without it there would be no dramatic complications or tragic consequences. Antigone does, in fact, have all three of these qualities, making her one of very few tragic heroines.

The first quality of a tragic hero, the noble birth, is satisfied by the fact that Antigone is one of the four children of Oedipus. Oedipus, whose life and family as a whole are the main focal point of Sophocles' Antigone and its two preceding plays, is the King of Thebes for most of his adult life. This makes her the princess of Thebes up until the point where Oedipus concedes the throne to Kreon, his brother-in-law and uncle. Furthermore, the reader learns in Oedipus the King that Oedipus was also the adopted son of the King of Corinth. Therefore, if he had not left Corinth, his line still would have been considered of noble birth.

Thereby, being of noble birth, she also must prove to be a good person, and by the standards of the Chorus, she does seem to do so. She shows her unending devotion to her family when she refuses to let her brother Polyneices be dishonored by leaving his body unburied. Her brothers died fighting each other, and Eteocles, who fought on the side of Kreon, was to be buried with honors while Polyneices was left with "No one to bury him, no one mourn for him, but his body must lie in the fields, a sweet treasure for carrion birds to find as they search for food." (Jacobus 20) This act of devotion is also filled with much courage since Kreon has ordered that the funeral, go on in this way, and if anyone is found trying to bury the bodies, they will be put to death by a public stoning. Sophocles puts this courage in contrast with a character such as Ismene who seems to be devoted to her family until the idea of being killed gets thrown in. Quickly, she becomes no longer willing to help her poor dead brother. Plus, Antigone's courage seems to be intensified since she is a woman going against the will of powerful men, as Ismene points out when she says, "We are only women, we cannot fight with men Antigone!" (Jacobus 46) After this conversation with her sister, Antigone told off her sister for letting others come between her and her devotion of her family. Antigone's also had the great ability to listen. Small things like the ability to listen and be open-minded are important in the conception of the audience as to whether a character is just or not. This virtue of judgment, as well as her devotion, courage, and views of justice are what make her a good person in the eyes of the audience.

The one characteristic left to prove Antigone as a tragic hero is her tragic flaw, just as all tragic heroes have had a flaw. Antigone’s flaw lies within the same scope as her father’s. Antigone is a brutally honest person who sees

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