Study Guide

Antigone Genre

By Sophocles



Antigone is one of the more famous tragedies ever to be written... and that's saying a lot. Sophocles' play has served as a model for countless other playwrights over the years. Interestingly, though, it does differ from the model that Aristotle sets out in his tragic how-to manual Poetics.

As we talk about in our "Character Roles" section, Antigone differs from Aristotle's model in that it is the antagonist, Creon, who experiences peripeteia and anagnorisis. This leads some to believe that he's the real tragic hero here instead of his niece. Some people even argue that they both are tragic heroes. The lack of agreement on this key issue makes it pretty clear that the play doesn't fit all that neatly into Aristotle's definition.

The play does, however, meet Aristotle's other criteria. The action of the play has universal ramifications. The characters are of proper stature for tragedy—they're bigwigs. Both Creon and Antigone are of noble birth and both fall hard in the play. Both characters have a hamartia, a tragic error or flaw. With both Antigone and her uncle, their immense stubbornness and pride bring about their downfall.

Antigone, like Oedipus the King, also has the distinct cause and effect that Aristotle so admired. Each event brings on the next. The action of the play is a neat and orderly progression to total catastrophe.