Antigone is a compelling play. Reading it again as an adult I’m struck by themes (and questions) that I never noted before… or that were given to me by a teacher and promptly forgotten.
For instance, why does Antigone go back to the body? She’s buried Polynieces—or at least performed the rites sufficient to allow him passage to Hades—so her work is done. Antigone is a play of (relative) subtlety and complexity—I think Antigone’s action has to be more than a simple necessity of plot. Is it a reflection of Sophocles’ low estimation of women? Is Antigone as suicidal as she seems at certain times? Does she return to the scene out of the same twisted logic and compulsion that compels criminals in contemporary crime dramas to return to the scene of the crime, a secondary story Sophocles’ recognized but chose not to tell? Or am I over-thinking what could just be Yet Another Example of the Work of Fate?
It’s no wonder that Antigone and Lysistrata have so often been invoked and reshaped in modernist times through a feminist glass (in very different ways, of course). Antigone is a complex character—embodying more than any other woman the complex and contradictory aspects of being human. She’s pious, manipulative, impulsive, thoughtful, vengeful, wistful… and in her end she is an instrument of the gods.
And what happened to Creon, so wise and measured in his responses in Oedipus the King? Even given the constant support of the oddly one-sided chorus it felt like such a radical change, though in keeping with the Oedipal theme of pride resulting in blindness, literal or metaphorically.