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 In effect, both claimed that the laws by which their actions were governed superseded the laws of the other.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.