Is Antigone a tragic play as defined by Aristotle?
Antigone is not a tragic play. Rather it is a theological debate spawned by Sophocles, a debate that is still raging today, the debate of who holds the higher law, the Gods or the State. While this debate has slowly twisted into Church versus State, which is a very different argument, the highest questions still remain the same: Which one is held higher in mens (and womens) hearts? Antigone answers this question with shocking clarity in her admission of guilt to Creon, I should have praise and honor for what I have
done. All these men here would praise me, were their lips not frozen shut with fear of you. Ah, the good fortune of kings, licensed to say and do whatever they please! C: you alone are in that opinion. A: No, they are with me, But they keep their tongues in leash. By saying thus, Antigone is proclaiming all everyone holds the laws of the Gods higher than the laws of the State, unless the State is the more immediate threat.
But this all raises another question, does the law of the Gods really matter? Will the Gods truly beseech you and seek to bring you harm for not following in their ways? One who is not so religious would say no, it is not the Gods who hold the sword at your throat but a man, who at that moment cares nothing for the Gods. But in the case of Antigone, the Gods do act out their revenge. Tireseas spake: I tell you Creon, you yourself have brought this new calamity upon us. Our hearths and altars are stained with the corruption of dogs and carrion birds that glut themselves on the corpse of Oedipus son. The gods are deaf when we pray to them…. And then later tells Creon of the
revenge of the Gods, The time is not far off when you shall pay back Corpse for Corpse, flesh of your own flesh. You have thrust the child of this world into living night, you have kept from the gods below the child that is theirs: The one in a grave before her death, the other, dead, denied the grave. This is your crime; And the furies and the dark gods of Hell are swift and terrible punishment for you.
Sophocles not only poses this theological argument, he also answers it. Once again from Antigones admission to Creon, C: Had you heard my proclamation touching this matter? A: It was public. Could I help hearing it? C: And yet you dared defy the law. A: I dared. It was not Gods proclamation. That final Justice that rules the world below makes no such laws. Your edit, King, was strong. But all your strength is weakness itself against the immortal unrecorded laws of God. Antigone is not a tragic play, it is an edict stating that the law of the Gods circumvene those of the state. By doing
such, Sophocles also proposes that there is a line to the States jurisdiction, so to speak. The state can only hold sway over men when they live, but when they die the sate no longer has control over them. You have no right to trample on Gods right. says Haimon to his father. The laws of the Sate can only traverse so far. For the laws of the Gods are not merely now: they were and shall be, operative forever, beyond man utterly.