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Haemon in Antigone

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  • 0:04 Choosing Sides
  • 0:29 Family Drama
  • 3:13 Character Traits
  • 4:12 Analysis
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Where should your loyalty lie in the case of family versus a significant other? In this lesson we'll learn about the character Haemon from the play 'Antigone' and analyze the most difficult choice he will ever make.

Choosing Sides

No one wants to get caught in the middle of an argument, especially when it happens with your family on one side and the person you love on the other. Who should you pick? Is one relationship inherently more important than the other? In the play Antigone, by Sophocles, we meet a young man who is presented with this choice. Let's take a look at how Haemon handles this conflict and how it connects to the outcome of the play.

Family Drama

At the beginning of Antigone, the reader learns about a battle between two brothers. Because both brothers die, their Uncle Creon is next in line for the throne. Creon was close with one nephew and buried him with military honors. However, he left his other nephew in the street to rot and decreed that if anyone buried the body, they would be killed.

Antigone, the brothers' sister and Creon's niece, defies her uncle and buries her disgraced brother's body out of loyalty. But there's one more complication to her law-breaking: Antigone happens to be engaged to Creon's son Haemon. Talk about awkward in-law relations. Should Haemon side with his father, who wants to keep control of the people, or Antigone, whom he is about to marry?

When Haemon confronts his father, Creon gives a misogynistic and prideful speech about how women come and go and that family loyalty is more important--an ironic moment since he is condemning Antigone for having those same beliefs. Haemon tries to reason with Creon, telling him that he has heard many of the town's people talking about Antigone's death sentence. Haemon explains the people think Antigone's actions are honorable and just and that the King's punishment is too harsh. He also reminds his father that when men refuse to be open minded, fate historically brings nothing but trouble.

Haemon presents his father with two metaphors, attempting to break Creon's stubborn ways. 'In flood time you can see how some trees bend, And because they bend, even their twigs are safe, While stubborn trees are torn up, roots and all.' He then recounts the same idea through sailing a ship. 'And the same thing happens in sailing: Make your sheet fast, never slacken,--and over you go, Head over heels and under: and there's your voyage.' Both pieces of wisdom attempt to remind his father that sometimes we have to change our ways to keep us alive, but Creon wants nothing to do with Haemon's seemingly youthful ideals.

The conversation turns sour, with Creon feeling attacked by his son and his people. When Haemon makes his final argument that God's law should be put over man's law, Creon loses it. Creon only hears a young child who he believes is foolishly in love with a girl, while Haemon is actually making valid arguments for his family, his culture and the future of Thebes.

Creon threatens to kill Antigone in front of his son. Haemon threatens him back by stating Creon will never see him again and leaves. At the end of the play, we hear through a messenger that Creon attempts to apologize to his son. In a fit of rage, Haemon goes after his father with a sword, having just found out that Antigone has taken her own life. After missing his father, he turns the sword on himself.

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