December 24th, 2006
Antigone: For LOVE or JUSTICE?
After reading Charles Segal’ “Antigone: Death and Love, Hades and Dionysus” in the text book, the theme of Eros in the drama interests me, so I found another two papers to read—“Eros in Politics” by Richmond Y. Hathorn and “Politics and Man’s Fate in Sophocles’ Antigone” by Alfred R. Ferguson. At the beginning, I will brief introduce their center idea in this paper with the arrangement of my personal opinion.
The Ero’s theme is fewer discussed in Ferguson’s “Politics and Man’s Fate in Sophocles’ Antigone”, he mainly explains human justice and the meaning of life in the paper with inference of Sophocles’ purpose of writing. Ferguson sees Sophocles’ characters in a more divine way, that is, they are made for certain purpose and will stands for their own purpose to death. To explain the characters’ identification, Ferguson doesn’t use the term of EROS to frame the characters, he simply point out different conscience of each character while proving they are precisely made by the author.
“Perhaps the main basis for naming Antigone the ‘Stand-bearer of human conscience’ is Sophocles, drew men as ‘they ought to be’ whereas Euripides draws then ‘as they are’.”(p43, Vol. 70, No. 2 (Dec., 1974), The Classical Journal) Ferguson also reckons that Antigone’s intention as the individual presentation of all men’s conscience. He calls this individual conscience “the human spirit that is sacred and inviolable unto death and beyond”, therefore, Ferguson reckons that the living shall act out human beings’ cognizance sanctity with the “ritual attention to the dead”. “Ritual attention” here is so significant that it connects more than the beloved livings, but also dead person. The spiritual attitude of persistence and selfless is what Ferguson thinks “justice”, Dike. However, he doesn’t see Antigone’s opponent, Creon as a simple villain (as Ferguson portrayed, many critics have this kind of idea) but another presentation of justice, which is for the whole family and state, simply trying to get rid of ritual roles which is persisted by a young woman, on the love to her brother. Therefore, Ferguson does not blame on Creon’s stubbornness or chauvinistic thinking, he merely points out the contrast between Creon and Antigone. “Thus here are two separate perceptions of Dike to which each protagonist is absolutely, grandly, passionately dedicated.” The justice here stands for “two mutually exclusive perceptions of the good” (p.45).
Ferguson does not agree that the agon is simply between “good” and “evil”. “Rather, it is between the two irreconcilable ideas, two antithetical, polarized perceptions of justice.” (p.47) By saying that, Ferguson reckons that each characters knows to choose the best way to achieve their ‘good’, though these ‘good’ might merely be personal justice. What we need to see is if that justice gets too personal, like Creon. As Ferguson analyzes, as the plays goes, “Creon grows more absolute as his intended ‘good rules’ and ‘best plans of all’ are overshadowed by his ego’s dilation.” His ‘ego’s dilation’ brings destruction, which is reckoned by Ferguson as ‘basic tenant of Greek belief’ (p.45). Ferguson refers that, in Sophocles’ world there is no premeditated deviations from ordinary mortal relationships but accidental ones. A Sophoclean character is not alone in the universe, without “moorings or definitive patterns of ethical and moral response”. Ferguson believes that Sophocles tends to portray individual act with “a divine, universal, natural, or public scheme” (p.48), as the contrast to Creon, Antigone fits more the frame, as an immortal that is divine and supernatural.