Respect for Family and Elders: the Moral Lessons of Antigone

Sophocles's Theban plays tell the story of families afflicted by generations of personal tragedy. Unlike epics such as the Iliad, whose portrayals of whole-scale war, death, and destruction convey a sense of near-apocalyptic despair, Sophocles's plays achieve power by setting tragedy on a more intimate scale. Interpersonal relationships are highlighted, shedding light on the ideals that ancient Greeks valued in their family lives. In particular, Antigone, the final play in the saga, focuses on the interactions between family members and the ramifications those interactions sometimes incur. When examined, the events of Antigone reveal the esteem that was given to the practice of respecting family members and elders of the community. Relationships such as the ones between Ismene and her dead brothers, between Creon and Haemon, and between Creon and Teiresias, while each emphasizing different aspects of this theme, combine to paint a convincing picture about the value Greeks placed on familial respect.

The rich history that Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus supply for Antigone is crucial to understanding character dynamics in the play. Even characters that never appear onstage provide strong evidence of family...

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