Study Guide

Antigone by Sophocles in Psychoanalysis

Antigone by Sophocles

When the mean ruler Creon refuses to honor Antigone's brother Polyneices with burial rites, this total rebel stages a protest that has resounded through the centuries.

In addition to gracing countless stages on several continents, Sophocles' Antigone has been read by everyone from G.W.F. Hegel to Jacques Lacan and Judith Butler.

So what's all the fuss about? Well, for one thing, Antigone is just about the strongest female lead imaginable. (And we know how your Netflix feed is always recommending movies with strong female leads to you.)

Antigone's defense of her brother's right to have a funeral leads to her execution. Creon puts her to death for defying his orders. But she remains undaunted right up until her death, and so her bravery has spoken to generations of women.

And Freud, as we've seen, nicknamed his daughter "my Antigone." (Which is truly strange when you stop to think about it, but moving on…) Lacan even placed Antigone at the center of his seminar on The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, where she is shown to make the ultimate refusal to "give ground relative to desire."

Huh? Allow us to explain.

Antigone's desire is to honor her brother, even when the state dictates that he be ignored. This desire leads to the grave, but Antigone follows it anyway. Never one to shy away from scare tactics, Lacan argued that we could all learn a lot from Antigone's example.

See, we need to be more willing to see our desires though to the end, even if this means taking enormous risks. Because some things are worse than death, you know? Like never really fulfilling any of your desires.