Antigone (The Theban Plays, #3)Antigone by Sophocles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this in high school as a student. I remember really identifying with Antigone, and placing myself in her sandals throughout the play. I saw her as morally powerful, a feminist, and truly devoted to her brother. As a feminist with a beloved brother, I just really got into her character and was 100% on her side. Besides, teenagers tend to be drawn to the romantic side of taking one’s own life, which would explain their/my obsession at 16 with Romeo and Juliet.

(Come to think of it, should we be teaching so many stories with romanticized suicide to teenagers who may be at risk for self-harm?)

Now, re-reading it as an adult who will be teaching the text to sophomores next year, I’m a little more balanced in my reading. Obviously the king is a misogynist and a big ol’ moldy turd, but the reason the tragedy happens is because of hubris on both sides. The king won’t budge on his decree, and Antigone won’t budge on what she believes is the will of the Gods. When two immobile forces clash, there’s going to be a body count. And in killing herself, Antigone’s ultimate middle finger to the king, she misses the chance to be rescued and redeemed because she wouldn’t budge for anything.

Obviously the big theme here is divine law vs. the law of man, which opens up a big lovely can of worms for discussion because it’s still an issue in today’s world. When I read it as a teenager I was like, “Well, duh, it’s so obvious that Antigone is on the side of right, it’s divine law and it’s morally correct” but jihadists may find their actions on the side of God and morally correct, too. So the lesson I want my students to get out of reading this is that there are multiple sides to every conflict, and if nobody is willing to compromise even an inch, disaster can occur. What seems to be the obvious “right” isn’t always so, and when you set a precedent, things can get dangerous.

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