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The Influence Of Power In Antigone English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1694 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Antigone, a Greek tragedy was written during 441 BC. In Greek tragedy, the play was already familiar to the audience. The dramatist could rapidly come to whatever situation he had selected for exposition of the theme. Sophocles used dramatic irony to keep the audience judging the action of the play in the light of their prior knowledge of the situation. “The Doll’s House” a Norwegian play was written by Henrik Ibsen in the 19th century. The main theme of the play woman’s right to self fulfillment was considered highly inappropriate in that age where woman were not allow to conduct business without a masculine consent.

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Another theme that prevails in both the plays is power. It is exactly what the two characters Creon and Helmer in both the plays namely “Antigone” and the “Doll’s house” had. Creon’s tyrannical power on a macro scale as a ruler with Helmer’s highhanded treatment of his wife on a micro level as head of a family is to be discussed in this essay. Both men come across as misogynists. Their quickness to judge and judge harshly seems to be emphasized in both cases.

Creon is shown with diverse relations with various people. Creon had ordered a decent burial for Eteocles but banned the burial of Polynecies. Here Creon revolts against the higher unseen law of God and later Antigone revolts against the lower visible law of Creon. Sophocles draws Antigone subtly into the play. Antigone the sister of the Polynecies disregards Creon’s decree by going ahead and performing the rituals for her brother’s corpse. Even though she was caught red-handed she was unrepentant. On the contrary she was proud of her acts. Creon the newly crowned king saw his decree flouted. Creon’s own son Haemon who at first supports the decisions of Creon, betrothed to Antigone, soon becomes insubordinate and violent. After Haemon leaves Creon, he (Creon) cries in desperation that he will stick to his decision. He tyrannically punishes both Antigone and her sister and when he repents his decision he learns it is too late.

Similarly in doll’s House Ibsen’s views differed from those held by many modern feminists. The main theme of the play was a woman’s right to individual self fulfillment was considered highly inappropriate in that age. Ibsen questions the attitude of society denying the woman’s role as intelligent individuals. Here we see Torvald Helmer has the main status and the power in the house. The whole plot begins with Nora borrowing a certain amount of money from Krogstad. We also see how Krogstad uses this situation to blackmail Nora in the lines “it’s obvious that your friend (Mrs. Linde) doesn’t want to bump into me again-and it’s obvious who I have got to thank for getting the sack” [1] . Here Ibsen clearly brings out the theme of deception. In the beginning we see Linde’s life to be empty. Nora’s life is blissful, full of love with husband and children. But as the play progresses Ibsen uses the theme of corruption and deceit in order to reverse the situation where Nora’s life ends up being empty and Linde’s ends up being felicitous.

Going back to Antigone; Creon often misuses his power in various occasions. Creon feels that his laws are higher than the divine laws. The chorus said that the burial right might be an act of the gods. But Creon dismisses the view. Such view says Creon could come only from an “insane and senile person”. He also says that “Can you see gods honoring such evil men? Impossible!” [2] He is not willing to agree that his decree might be contradicted by a divine law. On one hand Creon shows deep and genuine love for his motherland on the other hand his attitude towards Polynices seems to be improper, fanatical and tyrannical. This attitude of Creon seems to be over stepping limits. We can also say that he is been blinded by the absolute power that he possess. He does not even consider the fact that the departed are to be treated differently from the living. The fact that Creon not only orders Antigone but also Ismene shows Creon’s Tyranny. He has no evidence to order Ismene to death. Another Instance of misuse of power is when the sentry says that “No it is a Terrible Thing when someone with power to judge, judges wrongly” [3] ; we get a hint of how Creon uses his Power tyrannically and also how power can be misused. . A similar instance can be seen in the case of Doll’s house when we see Helmer is blinded by Power. This can be seen in the lines when the truth about Nora is exposed, Torvald reacts, “to wake up to this… my joy my life my wife lies, deceit, a criminal. No ethics no religion, no sense of duty” [4] . We see that as Helmer possess power in the house as he has judged and decided Nora as a criminal. He does not want to know the truth. Helmer uses the foulest language to describe Nora.

The theme of insubordination is also seen in these plays. This can be seen when Creon came to power and proclaimed the freedom of speech in the lines, “man, who does not adhere o the best policies but keeps his mouth closed through fear is worthless [5] , but later he ironically denies the freedom that was granted. This can be proved when he says that, Antigone should be ashamed to think so differently from the others and commands her to keep her mouth shut. He prefers silence before him. We see that he will not tolerate disobedience of anything decreed by him. He demands blinds obedience. Another Instance that describes a similar situation is when Helmer does not even want to hear anything from Nora when he finds out about of Nora forging the signature. This can be seen in the lines “Don’t….talk. Talk! Even if you are out of the way, what good is that to me” [6] 

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A similar situation can be seen in the conversation between Haemon and Creon we see that Creon is enraged as he does not want to hear anything about himself from his son. Haemon tries telling Creon what people say about the king, everywhere. Haemon hears voices of pity for Antigone who has been sentenced most unjustly to death. Haemon hints at the abuse of power and corruption by Creon by saying, “you will make a good king of an empty country [7] . We can see the dictatorial attitude of Creon in the lines “so I am mistaken to respect the power I wield?” [8] As Antigone goes against his orders Creon feels that he is just in punishing her. A person who supports the traitor (Polynecies) is equally treacherous. When Haemon persists in pleading the case of Antigone, Creon calls him a ‘Foul worthless creature’. This can be seen in the lines “you worthless boy will you argue with your father” and “you foul creature, lower than a woman” [9] .

In order to teach his son such a lesson Creon goes to the extent of ordering Antigone to be executed in very presence of Haemon. A similar dictatorial attitude can be seen in Helmer when he forces his power over Nora by saying that, “You’ll stay on here. I won’t have you near children. I can never trust you again. Happiness is gone. Rags, crumbs, pretence…” [10] . Here again we can see deceit in the relationship and how Helmer behaves in order to keep up appearances and Creon tries to maintain his power.

Sophocles was interested in the fate of Creon who was responsible for the death of Antigone, his wife (Eurydice) and his son (Haemon). Creon’s hasty and biased judgments lead to his own destruction. In the end Creon did not have anything to cling to as he says “I have nothing; I have no life, lead me away” [11] . Misuse of power brought about his ruin. Both Helmer and Creon are autocratic. Helmer was in complete autocratic rule of the family and Creon was the ultimate autocratic tyrannical ruler. We can say that both of them are single judges and both of them judge incorrectly. On one hand Creon is a king of an ancient Greek land and on the other hand Helmer is a citizen of the modern time. WE see that Helmer has complete autocratic power in the household and calls Nora worthless. His power leads to arrogance and Nora leaves the house as Helmer is left with nothing. Nora did not want to maintain any sort of bond with Helmer. More so in Creon’s case death takes away everything, as his wife and Haemon dies. Both the heroes are grief-stricken, as the world around them came to an end and they were too late to realize their arrogance and oppressive attitude. A quote from William Shakespeare could be used to describe such a situation

“The abuse of power is when it disjoins remorse from mercy”


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