Oedipus is a Greek myth about a king whose name was Oedipus. He was born to a king named Lauis and the queen named Jocasta, which were the rulers of Thebes. The house of Jocasta was cursed by the King Pelops because the King Laius had taken the sexual advantage of his son Chrysippus. The curse pronounced that any son borne to Jocasta would kill the King Laius. When Oedipus was born, therefore, he was abandoned by his father on a mountainside after his feet had been pierced for him to die. A shepherd, however, found him and took him to the King Polybus of Corinth who adopted him because he did not have any children of his own. He was named as Oedipus, which meant “swollen feet” because his feet had been damaged (Casselman, 2000). Taunted as not being a real son to Polybus, Oedipus consulted the oracle to find out who had been his true father. He set out to Thebes, but on the way there he encountered his father whom he killed not knowing who this had been and then he got married with his own mother who gave birth to two sons and two daughters of him; one of them was named as Antigone. He realized later that he had killed his father and had married his mother fulfilling the curse placed upon him by the King Poleps. He was devastated and put out his eyes and fled Thebes, while Jocasta killed herself. Antigone stayed with his father until he died in Athens. This paper focuses on the comparison between Antigone and her father Oedipus as the Greek figures of heroism.
The two stories start with the return of the main characters, Oedipus and Antigone, from their exile. Oedipus was exiled by his father after he had been born. He did not grow up with his parents because he feared that the oracle prophesies might have come true. The parents of Oedipus lacked the knowledge to know that the power of the oracle would happen despite their plans.
Oedipus comes out as a hero because he tricks death while being left to die by a mountainside by his father, and he reclaims his rightful place on the earth as a son of the king after he had been adopted by the king Polybus. He grows up facing ridicule that his step father Polybus had not been his real father, although he put up with it all. This is a show of strength and character that helps to shape a hero. On the other hand, Antigone is born to Oedipus and her grandmother. She is the only one in the house of Oedipus who has the virtue to hold the family together through the reconciliation. At the end of the story, Antigone makes a choice to run away with his father so that she can take care of him as he has blinded himself by tearing his eyes off. She goes with him to Athens where her father later dies.
She then returns home to find that there are no brothers of her, and the brother of his mother is now the king of Thebes (Feldshuh, 2003). Given the circumstances under which she had left her city Thebes, it is a heroic deed to return home with the hope of reuniting her brothers who tried to fight for the rule in Thebes. She is not ashamed of her father’s deeds or her family’s tribulations when she returns home as a woman of the royal decent.
Oedipus displays heroism when he faces the ogre choosing to face him; and he makes a choice between life and death (Casselman, 2000). He is able to bring peace to Thebes by getting rid of the ogre. His wisdom in the act is displayed because the test only requires one try to answer a riddle posed by the ogre, and it should be answered correctly. In the definition of the people of Thebes, Oedipus is hailed as a hero because due to his wisdom he frees Thebes from the ogre who had kept them in fear. In the story of Antigone, she faces the shame of her family and in spite of being born at the royal court; she remains steadfast and true to the gods of her land and not to the laws of the men or the King Creon. She is driven by love for her family and her true belief in gods. She extends her love even to the corpse of her brother despite the knowledge that she would face death if she chose to honor her disgraced brother with the funeral rites. Oedipus and Antigone are similar in heroism when they make the choices in their lives that put them on the way of facing death.
A tragic hero must be superior to a normal man in some way. In the case of Oedipus, he was wise and was the only one who could solve the riddle. In Antigone's case, she was the only one who dared to defy the law set by Creon. Others were contented with talking in whispers against his rule. They were afraid to speak out their minds or even act according to their convictions. Therefore, Oedipus and Antigone are supposed to be the tragic heroes.
Aristotle also argued that a tragic hero should be able to evoke the pity and fear by being imperfect (“Gradesaver Inc.”, 2007). A perfect character evokes in people a feeling of being merely good. Oedipus was imperfect in that he had refused to believe the words of the oracle. This is in spite of being clever and knowing that the words of the oracle had to come true in some way. On the other hand, Antigone was imperfect because of the family curse she had been born in. Her family perished under the curse and she was the last one to follow that fate. Fate is a strong word and it is repeated in the two stories to show that anything what is destined to happen shall happen despite the best efforts to subvert this.
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According to the Greek ancient mythology, a hero must suffer because of his/her tragic flaw (“Gradesaver Inc.”, 2007). In the eyes of Thebes’ people, Antigone was a hero because she had suffered death as a result of her undying love towards her dead brothers. She was destined to reconcile them, even if this meant to lead to her death. She also has a tragic flaw or error in her judgment concerning the power of Creon as the king of Thebes. On the other hand, Oedipus misjudges the power of the oracle and refuses to trust the outcome. He sets out to find the truth about his birth without relying on the oracle. The irony is that both the oracle’s and Oedipus’ methods yield the same results.
Though the two stories are being the one unique, they are ironic like the opposite sides of the coin. Oedipus fate befalls him as the fulfillment of punishment from transgression against gods. He ironically rises from the death he had been condemned to by his father and marries his own mother to give birth to Antigone (Casselman, 2000). On the other hand, Antigone dies for the same gods but this time while trying to uphold the rule of justice. She refuses to transgress against gods by burying her brother who had been disgraced for attacking Thebes and his own brother (Feldshuh, 2003).
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According to the Greek mythology, a hero does not suffer the death alone. In his/her death she/he must die along with the few others being out of pity or pain caused by the death of the hero. After learning that he had killed his father, Oedipus is distraught and gorges out his eyes while he is fleeing Thebes. In doing so, the queen of Thebes, Jocasta, his mother and wife, hangs herself. With the exit or death of Oedipus, his two sons agree to rule Thebes alternately but fail to act on their agreement. In so doing, one brother rises in war against the other one and the two die together killing each other.
On the other hand, Antigone chooses to die by going against the rule of Creon. In her death, she dies along with her dreams and with others’ dreams. She died together with Haemon who had been betrothed to marry her (Feldshuh, 2003). Haemon mourned her death despite being warned by his father. The pain of losing her was so high that he opted to die with her in her grave. Following these events, the news got to the mother of Haemon that her son had been dead; and she chose to die with the sword. She kills herself after cursing the king Creon and blessing her in her son’s death. The King Creon’s will to live is also weakened when he learns that his queen had made a suicide.
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The two heroes die in the exile as most heroes in the Greek mythology do. Oedipus died while he had been away from his birth place in Thebes. He also died in loneliness, only being kept in the company of his daughter, Antigone. He died after running from the truth and himself, and he disgusted the way he had done things not knowing that he had no control over his fate that was to befall him. He died while being blind and old and walking on three legs just like the riddle he had solved. This means that he defied death when he had been the weakest and walking on four legs. This is to say that he defied death when he had been a baby only to die when he was an old man not being from his age but from the injuries and shame. His death was a combination of fate and his attitude.
Antigone followed the footsteps of her father because she had been buried alive and in the darkness of the earth (Feldshuh, 2003). This is equivalent to her father gorging out his eyes. She also died in the exile just like her father because she died in a prison tomb. Just like her father, she had someone to mourn her in the person of Haemon who died with her. In the events that followed Haemon's death, the person who was left to mourn her was the reason of her death. Her uncle Creon was left to mourn her because her death also affected his family with the death of his family members. Oedipus is mourned by his daughter that soon suffered the same fate as him.
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The lives of two heroes are full of ironies (“Gradesaver Inc.”, 2007). Just like the Greek mythology devoted to tragic heroes, the hero’s life is full of ironies which follow them till their death. Oedipus died in exile as he had also killed his father on his way. He was begged by his daughter Antigone that did not take his life being the only one he took his advice from in his life. He had also defied death being a small child despite being abandoned and exposed on the mountain cliff.
On the other hand, Antigone took her own life while being in her prison tomb. This is despite the fact that she had been the one who advised her father not to take his life. She also died not because she had done anything wrong, but because her king was on the wrong way and could not yield as they called it in the play Antigone.
Lastly, it is said that pride comes before a fall. Oedipus was a proud man who set out to know the truth about his birth because he had been taunted by others as he was growing up. Pride is the consistent aspect of plays that inevitably leads to demise. Due to his pride and that of his father’s, Oedipus could not move out of the way for his father’s chariot to pass through, while his father’s chariot stepped on his toes as it was passing (Casselman, 2000). Because of his pride, Oedipus killed everyone in that carriage with the exception of one guard who had escaped. Unwittingly, he killed his father who he had been en-route to see. On arriving to Thebes, his pride made him want to flaunt his knowledge by solving the riddle of the sphinx. This made him the king, thus, he had to get married with his mother and to bear four children with her. Due to his pride, Oedipus would not have left Corinth in the first place, thus, could not have fulfilled the curse.
On the other hand, the demise of Antigone is a result of the pride of the king Creon. He could not reconcile with the fact that he had been wrong and a woman had been right (Feldshuh, 2003). To this effect, he said that he could not let it be said that he had been removed from the power by a woman. His pride also left him to disagree with the oracles, thus, delaying the precious time he could have taken to save Antigone from demise. Antigone was also a proud woman in that she had refused to let her brother’s body get rotten in the sun, while being eaten away by vultures and dogs. She upheld her status in Thebes as a part of the royal court and sought her respect to the family including her dead brother. These events led to her death and the future of the house of the king Laius who had been the cause of the entire curse that befell Oedipus and Antigone.