Empathy for Characters in Sophocle's Antigone

Essay by DurasikHigh School, 12th gradeA+, November 2004

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Sophocle's tragic play Antigone, written in 441 BC, is a theatrical piece of drama in which an audience is compelled to empathize with its character's. When empathizing with characters in Antigone the audience can, in imaginative and cognitive ways, participate in the understanding of a character's feelings, ideas as well as their situations. Antigone, Creon and Ismene all struggle with decisions that concern the laws of their city and the cosmic law of religion and moral judgement. Characters such as Haemon and Eurydice ultimately show the consequences of the decision formed by the two protagonists. Amongst the audience, empathy is created for both; characters faced with agonizing decisions and characters inflicted with tormenting consequences. The levels of empathy felt for each character changes as the story develops and as different qualities are revealed about each character. The amount of empathy felt for a character effects not only the reading of that character but also the meaning of the play.

The first scene of the play involves Antigone asking her sister to go against the laws of the state to help her give the proper burial rites to their brother Polynices. In the first scene there is an immediate sense of empathy felt towards Antigone as she express her feelings of misfortune to Ismene. 'My own flesh and blood - dear sister, dear Ismene, how many griefs our father Oedipus handed down! Do you know one, I ask you, one grief that Zeus will not perfect for the two of us... (p59) By introducing Antigone to the audience as the daughter of the Oedipus the empathy felt toward the tragic hero Oedipus is somewhat inherited by Antigone. The audience reflects on the hardships that the incestuous family of Oedipus have already endured and realizes that the wretched fate...