Oedipus & Antigone's Relationship

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

If there were ever an award for the most complicated relationship between a father and a daughter, these two would win it! In this lesson, we will go over the complex relationship and connection between Oedipus and Antigone, and how it is portrayed in Sophocles' three Theban plays.

Oedipus, You are the Father AND Brother!

Have you ever seen those paternity test episodes of Maury Povich where one person is crying, another person is cheering, and someone ends up walking off stage upon hearing those famous words, 'you ARE the father'? Sophocles' plays are sort of like that, but 100 times worse.

Oedipus, along with his family, endure the shock of a lifetime when they realize he fulfilled a prophecy that stated he would kill his father and marry his mother, Jocasta. To add insult to injury, Oedipus and Jocasta had four children together, which means he ended up becoming brother to his two sons and two daughters. This lesson will focus on the relationship and connection between Oedipus and his daughter, Antigone.

The Relationship

While there is no mention of the relationship between Oedipus and Antigone in Oedipus the King or Antigone, there is plenty to see between the two in Oedipus at Colonus. It is in this play that Oedipus deals with the aftermath of his true identity being revealed. He and Antigone spend years journeying together, since Oedipus is disgraced and unwelcome to return to Thebes. Throughout the play, we see Oedipus fight against the stigma that his presence is a bad omen. He continually argues the errors he has committed in life were unintentional and placed upon him by the gods. All the while, Antigone stays by his side as a devoted daughter. She must defend her father, protect him from citizens who wish to cast him out, and attempt to create peace between him and her brothers. Despite the complexity of their relationship, Antigone remains dutiful to Oedipus until his death.

In looking at the three plays, there are parallels and connections that can be seen between these two characters, not only in their relationship, but also in the characteristics they share.

Oedipus and Antigone
Oedipus and Antigone

Like Father, Like Daughter…

Throughout the three Theban plays, there are many scenarios that reveal shared traits between Oedipus and Antigone. Between tendencies of making rash decisions despite harsh punishments, to losing faith in the gods, these two share similar manners of behavior, regardless of Antigone's strife over the suffering her father has caused her. Let's take a closer look at their connection:

Action vs. Punishment

Regardless of the outcome, both Oedipus and Antigone always seem to act before thinking. This leads to a lot of trouble and heartache, not only for themselves, but also for their loved ones. Let's look at some examples:

  • Oedipus kills King Laius, without knowing whom it is he is killing.
  • Oedipus quickly promises to personally find and punish King Laius' killer in order to save Thebes.
  • Oedipus loses his temper with Tiresias and Creon, when asked to stop his hunt for the truth.
  • Upon learning the truth of his identity, Oedipus gouges his eyes out, and then begs to be banished.
  • Antigone disobeys Creon by giving her brother a proper burial.
  • Antigone refuses to apologize, and calls out Creon for going against the gods.
  • Antigone prematurely kills herself after being sentenced to life in a tomb.

Rejecting Creon

To the glee of many, these two fight hard against Creon. In both Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone, we see great resistance against this power-hungry king. We all know Creon wants to play God, but these two are never quick to go along with those plans:

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