Perspectives, Path and Peril

“We two have come one path,

one man watching the way for both.” (Pg. 59)

As I read Antigone I wonder whether the outcome could have been different in any way. Kreon saw the world one way, and Antigone saw it another. Kreon claimed that the needs of the family must be subordinate to the needs of the state, and Antigone claimed that the ties between herself and her brother were stronger than any law handed down by the state. In effect, both claimed that the laws by which their actions were governed superseded the laws of the other. Which is correct? State or family? Or perhaps the question is better put as State or gods. One might be tempted to say that both were correct. But this is a case where ‘live and let live’ seemed impossible.

It was impossible for Kreon to allow Antigone’s actions to stand. It was as though, by allowing Antigone to get away with burying her brother, after Kreon explicitly forbade it, he would allow her world-view to supersede his own. If he did not discipline her, his way of life, his political support, his very identity as a man would be lost. Kreon proclaims that

“I’m no man-

She is the man, she is the king-

if she gets away with this.” (Pg. 40)

This led me to wonder about the feasibility of differing perspectives existing easily simultaneously. We often say ‘live and let live,’ but in this story, such acceptance is not possible. Antigone’s perspective threatens Kreon’s masculinity. His own perspective threatens her life. To quote another famous text “neither can live while the other survives!” (J.K. Rowling)

So I wonder about the sudden appearance of Tiresias on page 59. Tiresias, blind prophet, is led on stage by another. And he comments on this; that two are able to walk one path only when they share one perspective, or when one sees the way for both. But it is curious to me how the two are able to share the one path. They do so not by sharing a perspective, but by the dominance of one perspective over another. Is there no other way for Antigone and Kreon to find common ground than by one of them submitting to the perspective of the other, or dying? And if so, what message are we to talk away from this in terms of current conflicts of perspectives?

But then I consider the passage from Tiresias again, and I think it is important to note that, while Tiresias is led, he seems to have been led to the place he wished to go, or perhaps a place he was fated to go. The boy who leads him is perhaps not properly described as dominating him, but rather as aiding him. The boy can see what Tiresias cannot, and uses this sight to help Tiresias get where he need to be. By contrast, neither Kreon nor Antigone seem able to work towards the goal of the other. I suppose, at the end of this play I am left curious about this: Under what conditions is it possible for two perspectives to share one path? And when it is not possible, what is to be done? Sophocles will not provide answers here. But maybe seminar this week will.

What about Haimon?

In Antigone, the one character that seems to be overlooked in our discussion so far is Haimon. Perhaps it is because he doesn’t really dominantly appear until part-way through the play, or perhaps it’s because he’s just not as interesting a character as Antigone or Kreon. Nevertheless, there are some interesting points about Haimon which I would like to bring up.

Haimon seems to be caught between his promised marriage to Antigone (who admits to Ismene that she could never love him for her obsession with death) and his devotion to his father, the ruler Kreon.  Haimon, who only shows up halfway into the play, delivers his first lines to his father, saying: “You [Kreon] direct a course for me with good intentions, and I follow it. I don’t believe marriage is more important to me than you and your good leadership.” (46). This point of view is not consistent with Haimon’s later actions, however, when he kills himself for his love of Antigone, completely betraying his father and the state.

Haimon’s next lines on page 49, however, remind me of Gorgias for some reason… Haimon, after flattering his father, goes on to say: “Please be different this once…It is honorable to learn from honest men.” (49). In this statement, is Haimon implying that Kreon is not honorable? What implications does/could this have for Haimon? In the following pages, Kreon and Haimon have a disagreement, where Haimon decidedly takes Antigone’s side, thus disobeying and dishonoring his father, who then regards him as “a slave; Property of a woman.” (51). Interesting. Kreon clearly now views Haimon to be an enemy of the state also.
Does Haimon truly stand by Antigone’s actions, or does he only want to disagree with Kreon? Does Haimon have more to lose (i.e. the throne) if he sides with Antigone or Kreon? Do you think Haimon is aware that Antigone has no intention of marrying him when he sides with her against his father and the state? Can Haimon possibly guess that Antigone has a death wish when he's making plans to marry her?

Haimon kills himself in the tomb. The messenger claims that it was out on anger at Kreon, but that can’t have been the only factor. Antigone had also committed suicide, which came as a shock to Haimon. Having dishonored Kreon and lost his only other connection to the throne (Antigone), Haimon kills himself. From his actions, what can we make of Haimon’s character? On one hand, Haimon’s character can be seen as selfish: he only claims to love Antigone and care about the state and morals, but he is really only looking out for self-interests. He agrees with his father ONLY UNTIL he realizes that in agreeing, Antigone will likely die, delaying his ascension to the throne. On the other hand, Haimon, being the only son of Kreon, would likely inherit the throne anyway, once Kreon was dead, so killing himself after Antigone was dead could not have been his childish reaction to losing the throne. He simply pulled a Romeo… only Antigone can't really be compared to Juliet, so that analogy only works from "Romeo's" perspective...unrequited love...
In any case, Haimon is just as interesting a character as any other, albeit a little underdeveloped by Sophocles.

Since Antigone, in contrast, is a very well-studied character, it is interesting to put study Haimon in relation to Antigone. Do Haimon and Antigone ever have an actual conversation? Does Antigone even know that she is to marry Haimon, or does Kreon keep it to himself? It is even more interesting to view the relationship between Haimon and Antigone in light of Butler’s Antigone’s Claim, taking into consideration the character analysis of Antigone.

Posted in Uncategorized

What is philosophy?

This is gonna be a short one, I have an essay to work on! 

While searching for a definition of philosophy, I found an interesting (anonymous) answer in the comments on a blog post here:

In other disciplines, you learn more and more about less and less, until you know everything about nothing. In philosophy, on the other hand, you get to know less and less about more and more, until you know nothing about everything.

I really liked that. And that’s all for tonight.

Posted in Uncategorized