Bend or Break: Oikos, Polis, and Love in Haemon's Argument with Creon

Sophocles' play Antigone centers around a conflict between oikos and polis. Oikos, "home," is the concept of the household, dominated by women and kinship; polis, "city," is the concept of the collective city-state, dominated by men and power or money. Antigone, bound by the family duty of proper burial, comes into deep conflict with the king, Creon, who is obsessed with personal control of the state. These characters, symbols of oikos and polis, are so diametrically opposed that it seems no one can reconcile them or convince Creon to spare Antigone, who buried her brother in defiance of Creon's proclamation.

The play's last hope for deliberative reconciliation is Haemon, Creon's dutiful son and Antigone's loving fiancé Haemon's view of oikos and polis are not as extreme as either Creon's or Antigone's, but his love for Antigone draws him to her side. The subtle interplay of oikos, polis, and love, which is seen as a power that women, creatures of the oikos, have over men, is painfully evident in the argument between Creon and Haemon and the following choral stasima (Antigone, 701-899). While love leads to both the origin and outcome of the argument between Creon and Haemon,...

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