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The Strangeness of Tragedy$
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Paul Hammond

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.001.0001

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(p.93) 5 Sophocles
The Strangeness of Tragedy

Paul Hammond

Oxford University Press

In this play by Sophocles, there is no heimlich world for Antigone, as right from the beginning she is displaced, and the world around her rejects her – or she rejects it. She is held in the space between life and death. Her opening line addresses her sister Ismene as ‘of common origin my own sister’, and this reminder of the sibling bond, so troubled and so troubling in this family, has the effect of establishing their uniqueness and their separation from others. The distinction between friend and enemy polarizes Antigone's world, and it is an antithesis which effects an unbridgeable schism between her and the others. But it is also an antithesis whose application is challenged in the course of the play, notably by Creon, who assigns the labels ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’ in different ways. The conflict is not between solid, unitary characters – or at least not between solid, unitary causes – as these causes tend to decompose under tragic pressure, to show themselves to be mixed in their motivation: ideals contaminated by egoism, self-will disguised as principle.

Keywords:   Antigone, Sophocles, friend, enemy, space, death, Creon, conflict, egoism, antithesis

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