Antigone

By Sophocles; Reginald Gibbons et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

For the nineteenth-century idealist German philosopher Hegel, Antigone is “one of the most sublime, and in every respect most consummate, work[s] of art human effort ever produced. Not a detail in this tragedy but is of consequence.”1 Hegel's dazzling accolade is typical of the high esteem for the play in the early nineteenth century.2 For Hegel, Antigone plays a major role in the evolution of European consciousness, one of whose early stages is exemplified by Antigone's conflict between State and individual, or more accurately between “the public law of the State and the instinctive family-love and duty towards a brother.” This division in turn is an aspect of a larger conflict between Nature and Spirit and so a step toward the emergence of Spirit (Geist). The individual bearer of such consciousness is essentially tragic because he or she enters into the division between the divine law, embodied in the polis or state, and the human law, embodied in the family, and in entering into that division is destroyed. And yet “it is precisely this destruction,” as George Steiner explains Hegel's view, “which constitutes man's eminent worth and which allows his progression towards the unification of consciousness and of Spirit on ‘the other side of history.’”3 In terms of Hegel's emphasis on action and his conception of fate in Greek tragedy, Antigone, rather than Kreon, is the full bearer of the tragic because she self-consciously decides to act and therefore chooses the path of her destiny.4 The “classical” perfection of Antigone lies not only in the clarity and purity with which it develops this conflict but also in its representation of divinity, which

____________________
1
G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Fine Art, quoted from the Osmaston translation (London 1920), in Anne and Henry Paolucci, eds., Hegel on Tragedy (Garden City, N.Y., 1962), 178.
2
See George Steiner, Antigones (Oxford, 1984), 1–19.
3
Ibid., 31.
4
Ibid., 36.

-3-

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Antigone
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Editors' Foreword v
  • Preface viii
  • Contents ix
  • Antigone *
  • Introduction 3
  • On the Translation 37
  • Antigone 51
  • Characters 52
  • Notes on the Text 117
  • Appendix 1 - The Date of Antigone 183
  • Appendix 2 - The Myth of Antigone, to the End of the Fifth Century Bce 184
  • Appendix 3 - The Transmission of the Text 187
  • Glossary 189
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 197
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