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Introduction to Antigone

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-05-21, 04:41 authored by Dimitris Vardoulakis
Sophocles seems to have already reached in Antigone the same insight about the body politic which will again be expressed in the seventeenth century by Spinoza: namely, the political has as its condition of possibility the potential for being challenged from within. Sophocles’ play starts immediately after Thebes has successfully stoved off a challenge from an external enemy – from Argos, another city state. However, during the battle, Eteocles, the king, and his own brother, Polynices, who in fact was heading the Argeans, both died. Thus afterwards Creon is elected ruler of Thebes. Creon’s first act of government is to decree that Polynices’ body is to remain unburied. If the new king thought that the worse was past him after the end of the battle, he was sorely mistaken. A challenge to his degree from one of the citizens and his own niece, Antigone, will not only lead to the decimation of his own family, but also to the new king being stranded alone at the end of the play, in charge of a self-incurred desert. Antigone, a stubborn teenage girl, is the cause of challenging the sovereign of Thebes and hence the city’s body politic.


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