Different portrayals of women in "Antigone" and "Lysistrata"

Essay by krusher52 May 2006

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The different portrayals of female characters Antigone and Lysistrata illustrate the fundamental nature of the proper Athenian woman. Sophocles' Antigone allows the reader to see that outrage over social injustices does not give women the excuse to rebel against authority, while Aristophanes' Lysistrata reveals that challenging authority in the polis becomes acceptable only when it's faced with destruction through war. Sophocles and Aristophanes use different means to illustrate the same idea; the ideal Athenian woman's ultimate loyalty lies with her polis. This Greek concept of the proper woman seems so vital when considering Athenian society because both a tragedy and comedy revolve around this concept. The differing roles accorded to Antigone and Lysistrata through their relationships with their families, other women, and society reveals the Athenian idea of the proper woman.

In Sophocles' Antigone, the problems with the main character's role in relation to her family illustrates that the ideal Athenian woman has final loyalty only to her polis.

Antigone, the main character of Sophocles' tragedy, plays the role of protector in her relationship with her family. In attempting to fulfill her role she rebels against her polis, breaking the command of her king while attempting to defend the honor of her dead brother and family. Antigone's brother, Polyneices, dies while attempting a hostile takeover of his polis. As punishment for his crimes, Creon, the king, condemns Polyneices, declaring that the people of the polis are not allowed to bury him as he was an enemy of the state and if one was to bury him, the punishment would be death. Antigone decides she must bury he brother to allow him passage to the underworld. She comes to the contradictory conclusion that she will stay loyal to her traitorous brother through blatant disloyalty to her polis.

This role of...