Gender Roles in Antigone

Gender Roles in Antigone
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  • 0:03 Creon in a Power Struggle
  • 0:34 Creon's View of Men
  • 1:24 Creon's View of Women
  • 1:52 Ismene Capitulates
  • 2:30 Antigone Questions It All
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson takes a look at the ways gender roles are established and explored in the play 'Antigone' by Sophocles. Creon, Ismene, and Antigone are all important players in the discussion of gender roles in this play.

Creon in a Power Struggle

Gender roles are made most apparent in Sophocles's Antigone by the conflict between Creon and Antigone. Creon is the new king of Thebes, and his first act as king is to declare that Polyneices, Antigone's deceased brother, shall be denied a proper burial. Antigone doesn't like this and takes matters into her own hands. Creon is aghast at having someone - especially a woman - disobey him. This sets him off on a lot of spluttering about what men and women should or shouldn't do.

Creon's View of Men

Antigone's defiance of Creon gets him right where it hurts - in the manhood. He tells us, ''I'm no man - she is a man, she's the king - if she gets away with this.'' He believes that men should be the ones to rule while women should submit and obey. He feels that if he changes his mind about the punishment for this crime, he will no longer be a man.

These gender roles are so immovable to Creon that he would feel emasculated were he to surrender to Antigone. He would see her as no longer a woman. He believes she would usurp the role of man if she were to have any control or leadership. Creon goes on to say, ''we have to...never let women get the better of us...if we must fall, better to fall to a real man and not be called worse than women.'' If Creon is to be beaten, he would rather be beaten by a man so that at least gender roles are upheld.

Creon's View of Women

Creon's view of what a man should be doesn't leave much room for a favorable opinion of women. It is not surprising, then, when he says of Antigone and her sister Ismene, ''Now they'll have to be women and know their place.''

He sees women as objects, things to be owned and controlled by men. This is made shockingly clear when Ismene points out that Antigone is engaged to be married to Creon's own son, Haimon. Creon comes back with, ''There are other fields for him to furrow.''

Ismene Capitulates

To capitulate is to yield or submit, and that's about all Ismene does. Ismene is Antigone's sister, and she attempts to talk Antigone out of burying their brother. Ismene says to her: ''No, we should be sensible: we are women, born unfit to battle men...we must obey, even in this.'' We see Ismene later when ''she is weeping...she blushes...a lovely face...''

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