Sophocles wrote the play Antigone in the classic year 442BC. Antigone continues to draw interests and literary debates in the postmodernism era. Chief among the discussions in the play revolves around theories, obsessions and new perspectives of the classic play. It has been observed that, as a point of fact, the play has been an obsession in the 18th century to date. Indeed, scholastic interest and analysis explain the relationship between Antigone and the modern political, controversial and conflict laden times.
Nonetheless, other quarters are of the view that Antigone presents nothing to be thought about in the modern hence dismissing its relevance to modern interests and applications. This paper takes the modern approach in referring to the relevancy of the play by critically giving an insight on the perspectives of the theories of desire. It is argued that desire in Antigone is greater than the confines of men and laws.
Theories of Desire
Desire in this context is used to describe the obsession that people have in the society. Obsession takes different shapes in the society because people have different experiences. An attempt to understand Antigone must be backed by modern adaptations of the play by the likes of Jean Cocteau, Bertolt Brecht, Jean Anouilh and Heaney. In the Anouilh’s text, the greatest concern revolves around an attack of the family, youth, lofty, ideals and love and friendship.
Contrary to Sophocles play, Anouilh leaves the powerful illustration of the philosophy of the desire for death, foreignness and mixed registers. An analysis of these differences between the modern and classical texts helps to understand the mystery surrounding the philosophy of death in Sophocles’s Antigone. In the classical Antigone, Sophocles clearly illustrates that Antigone as a character is foreign to the land of Thebes as indicated by her words to her father shortly before his death. In the play, her nature of desire is hard to understand and is coupled with her religious concerns.
This is different from Anouilh texts that espouse that Antigone choice of death is a motivation by the dullness and lack of passion in life due to loneliness. This life according to Anouilh is one that repeats itself in a cycle explained by boredom from one lack of compelling life cycle to another meaningless in the other. A reference to Anouilh may partly explain the recent happenings of the uprisings in the Muslim and Arab worlds (Sophocles and Johnston, p. 5).
By analogy, the ideal held by the toppled governments represents Creon’s actions in some respects. The young and the old in these states represent the Antigone in Anouilh’s text. Years of state neglect to the necessary and basic requirements of the people found desires and insistence to live better lives embedded in the daily struggle and hearts of the citizens of these countries.
Therefore, it is from one basic act of denying the necessary needs required for better lives in the future that finds form in a forceful nature. This is through sacrifice of lives and blood shedding, just like in Antigone.
According to Sophocles the idea of foreignness shadows Antigone’s actions and desires. Recapping the view of the Muslim and Arab worlds, it is also clear that the citizen’s modern approach to things is extremely foreign to the age old perspectives of the older order.
Fueled by the modern use of technology especially, social media, the youth in these countries have the connection of a family with ideals and views that those in power are not privy to and do not even understand. For the old order, it is their home ground register; however, for the new generations, this is their point of action hence particularly foreign to what has already been established.
The insistence on religiosity is a constant reminder of the value of belief in what is right and justice to follow. For Antigone, this bordered the belief she had in her traditions and hence her religion. For the youth in these countries, the belief in change for a better life and the need to chart new courses resembles what was in Antigone.
However, Anouilh’s text must guide this view in the analysis that the Arab world uprising is not about the choice of death as Creon observes. Therefore, it becomes crucial to note that Anouilh’s text at this juncture departs from the tenets of the Arab life and its consequences to the modern people.
It is the desire to right what is wrong in order that the future generations may reap the benefits of the philosophy of death. This is captured by Sophocles in Antigone of which later Creon finds truth in. In this sense then Antigone from Anouilh becomes a stranger to what Sophocles intended.
The misrepresentation of Anouilh, thus, allows an understanding of the real impact of tragedy one that is well captured by Sophocles. In the words of Marcel Anouilh’s work lacks the quality needed to explain human drama. According to him, Antigone’s by Sophocles, actions and desires can only be explained by invoking the ideas in religion just like Kierkegaard. Therefore, in this view, Anouilh’s text is a secularization of the actions in the tragedy Antigone (Sophocles and Johnston, p. 15).
Sophocles tragedy is a clear emphasis on the absolute contradiction and irreconcilability between Antigone and Creon. Clearly from their perspectives they are both right in a powerful cancellation between the state and kinship. The problem is that they cannot comprehend one another’s moral point of view and power in Sophocles text.
Conflict, as Sophocles espouses appears as a first layer of disharmony through antinomy in that between the two no one is ready to cede ground for the other of which Anouilh fails to indicate just Jean Racine’s text. In these two texts, Antigone’s world is characterized as a doubt between the living and the dead through biological explanations. Creon and Antigone as presented Racine and Antigone indicate that they both had options, but they clearly intended to be antagonistic.
On Antigone’s insistence on foreignness and Kierkegaard rendition of the extent of subjectivity, it becomes clear that conflict between the state and the subject is a guaranteed occurrence. The fact lies in the view that taboos and transgressions in the society act in unison to decide the fate of those who uphold them at the expense of the state. Lacking commensurability in the above view again is a source of conflict between the subject and the state based on guilt held by the subject. In this view Antigone, qualifies for both options in Sophocles classic Antigone.
By extension, this explains the modern relationship between governments and their subjects. While religion states equality and democracy, “just like the flowing waters”; a deep surgical analysis reveals that even the most democratic governments have instances of conspicuous treatment just like in Creon’s rule. Thus, Kierkegaard’s observation that deviating from aesthetics is a necessity brings truth home in the case of modernity.
This reinforces his assertion that it is the rebirth of modern tragedy. Taking the example of the declaration of emergency situations in any nation, it can be noted that not all subjects behave in a certain way to call for such measures. On the contrary, there are citizens who are good at least in light of the situation while their brothers and sisters are on the wrong side of the law. However, in this case, the good suffer without any attempt to rationalize the boundaries.
On the second note, the subject’s desire in favor of her point of view clearly puts the state and the subject on a collision path. A subject has the obligation to follow what the state requires of for effective and efficient governance. In addition, democracy defines that the voice of the majority should be heard. If the subject is not given his or her due demands, then necessary suffering is taken as justice.
This is aimed at restoring the state under the invisible power of the subject. Further, this may translate to blood letting by a few who appear not realistic. In the end justice is achieved by the action of a few who deny their lives for a better cause. Therefore, in this desire, politics and what is necessary right governs the occurrence of such tragedy. Suffering can be in the form of death or even exile.
In Sophocles Antigone, there is the displacement of things from their normal order. In terms of gender and religion, Antigone as a character goes overboard of what is Athenian for her gender. Secondly, Antigone does not represent the state or the kinship and neither the living nor the dead.
This intermixing of desires lacks from Anouilh’s text. The fact that the play supports Antigone, though an outsider to the happenings; Teireisia, reveals that Sophocles’ view of the state as a static entity should be questioned under the guidance of principles not easily settled on common human understanding (Sophocles and Johnston, p. 39).
Antigone’s desire is absent according to Hegel. She represents what is admirable and what is acceptable in excess is too good to live. She represents those who cannot allow the state to carry own its activities without regard to whether right or wrong. This excess leads to Antigone showing that the way to gods who live in such excess.
The occurrence of such needs for balance of equality on laws to all things under mankind is explained by this excess. Therefore, Sophocles’ text is a powerful reference to modernity on the will and power of religion, as opposed to the state authority.
Antigone in the theory of desire as presented by Sophocles is finally an examination of the problems of laws, family and state. Antigone’s actions do not support any at either perspectives, and the boundaries that lie between them are the necessary ingredients to tragedy.
The customs, the taboos and religion, and gender all play as factors to make desire in any one of these disastrous and dangerous. In essence, Antigone finds fault in what is established, but not written down as any law. This is forms Antigone’s desire to rise above this tragedy.
In this analysis, therefore, it is worthy to note that the desire in Antigone is greater than the confines of men and laws. It is greater than the state and all its wise men, greater than family obedience, greater than love and the powers operating in the realm of human understanding. Antigone’s desire was thus like a process of justifying freedom in the confines of the society. However, religion should guide this proclamation.
Sophocles and Johnston C. Ian. Antigone. Arlington, Virginia: Richer Resources Publications, 2007. Print.