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The Role of Antigone’s Pride in Her Death

The idea of excessive pride plays a monumental role in Greek tragedy. Pride in itself can be seen as a positive attribute, but when it is expressed in arrogance and defiance of fate and the gods, it becomes a fatal flaw that leads to downfall. Aristotle stated, “the tragic hero falls into bad fortune because of some flaw in his character of the kind found in men of high reputation and good fortune such as Oedipus.” Here, he is telling us that Oedipus has a flaw that, because of his high station, causes his demise. In this essay, I will argue how Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter and the main character of her own play, is driven by the passion of pride and how this largely contributes to her downfall.

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Antigone enters the first scene in a rage after learning that the new king, Creon, has forbidden proper burial rites for one of her brothers. She decides to go against the king’s orders, arguing that burying the dead is the right thing to do. It is clear she’s outraged that the king would tell her what to do when she is talking to her sister at the very beginning of the play: “That’s what people say the noble Creon / has announced to you and me – I mean to me.” The repetition of “I mean to me” indicates she cannot believe someone else would tell her what to do, showing an excessive pride in her own judgment. As her sister reminds her, women do not have any power in their culture, but Antigone does not listen. In the end, it doesn’t matter if her ideas were founded on trying to please the gods; she is put to death for having too much pride, especially for a woman, and for going against the law of the state.

Antigone’s pride lies in her stubborn denial of any advice. She does not obey the law of King Creon that no one can bury Polynicis’ body and covers her brother with dirt. She justifies this action on a strong religious belief, but this act can’t be seen as Antigone’s first act of rebellion and pride. We know from the nurse that Antigone is stubborn, self-willed, and proud. Even though she never behaved like the other girls, the nurse immediately assumes Antigone has taken another lover as the only culturally valid explanation for why she was out. Antigone lies about her actions, demonstrating how she is no stranger to deceit. She knows her plan can be stopped and is too prideful to allow anyone to interfere. This is illustrated when the chorus observes “It’s clear enough / the spirit in this girl is passionate— / her father was the same. She has no sense / of compromise in times of trouble” when Antigone is being questioned after being caught red-handed.

In acting on her beliefs, she openly defied Creon and proudly admits that she is a traitor when she is caught: “I did not think / anything which you proclaimed strong enough / to let a mortal override the gods” she says spitefully to the king in response to why she disobeyed his law. She is so sure she is right in what she’s doing that she risks administering the last rites during the light of day. Creon finally tells her that her father has polluted her with stubbornness and pride, but Antigone responds that she would rather die than lead a fake life. It is this pride of being the great hero that goads Antigone to further anger the king by taunting him with the idea that the only people who agree with him are the people who are afraid of the consequences. This questioning session in which Antigone refuses any avenues of escape foreshadows the end of the play when Antigone is so pride-struck regarding the nobility of her action that she doesn’t wait for the death sentence to her by entombment, but commits suicide instead.

Antigone dies not because of what she’s done but because her pride continues to get in her way at every stage. She may be right in her argument regarding why her brother should be buried, which seems to be indicated when Creon rushes to her tomb to save her before she runs out of air, but her stubborn way of approaching the king throws him into a temper that guarantees her death.

Works Cited

Sophocles. Antigone, Oedipus the King, Electra. Oxford World’s Classics. Ed. Edith Hall. Oxford University Press, 1998.

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StudyCorgi. "The Role of Antigone’s Pride in Her Death." November 7, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-role-of-antigones-pride-in-her-death/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Role of Antigone’s Pride in Her Death." November 7, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-role-of-antigones-pride-in-her-death/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Role of Antigone’s Pride in Her Death'. 7 November.

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