Sunday, March 24, 2013

Irreversible Mistake

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It is embarrassing to claim, but I have not read many plays thus far in my schooling. So reading the play Antigone (translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff) posed a slight difficulty for me, especially in the beginning of the play before I had the change to alter my mind set to the language and time period. However, after reading the play I was amazed by it. Aeschylus performed a wonderful job when he created this, and Elizabeth Wyckoff did an even greater job at translating it into the language we understand.

It was to my understanding that the play was simply about a King (Creon) who ultimately learned a very serious lesson of not to be stubborn and coldhearted. He (King Creon) placed orders for Antigone, the future wife of his only son Haemon, to be put to death after she went against his orders and attempted to give her brother Polyneices a semi-proper burial. King Creon had strictly forbidden this, so when he learned that she had blatantly gone against his orders he was more or less severely pissed off. He acts out of rage, yet fails to consider the position that Antigone had been placed in. He displays the signs of a selfish man instead of a compassionate king. Wyckoff does a remarkable job in trying to make this as obvious as possible. Which was really convenient for me since most plays set in this time period are difficult to decipher even when they have been translated.

Probably the most aggravating part of the whole play (again this is only my opinion) was that King Creon was not only responsible for the death of Antigone, but also the deaths of both his son Haemon and his wife Eurydice. The mother and son both commited suicide simultaneously, because of the ignorance of Creon, and his inability to listen to Heamon’s cries to spare his bride-to-be. On page 54 one of the messengers says, “…Yes, when a man has lost all happiness, he’s not alive. Call him a breathing corpse.” This accurately describes how Haemon most likely became after Antigone suffered death. He became void of happiness and therefore to spite his father and be with his bride he took his own blood. Unfortunately his mother could not bear the pain of losing her son and performed the same action.

Elizabeth Wyckoff displays in her rendition that because of all of the deaths that occurred because of King Creon he becomes very depressed and begins to realize that he in not a good king, but in fact a horrible one. He no longer wished to be around “his people,” but secluded in his own misery; just as he should be in my mind for being so complex. In fact, the quote I used above about the walking corpse could very much apply to King Creon after all of the incidents for the simple fact that he doomed himself to a very lonely life after killing his own family. In the end it was he who learned the ultimate lesson and was left to be miserable in his own choices.

This play was tragic, yet I thought it was romantic in a morbid sense because of the fact that Haemon took his own life in order to be with his future bride. This play opened my eyes to the fact that not all plays are boring and pointless, even the one’s that are from a completely different era. Thanks to Elizabeth Wyckoff and Aeschylus, and their superb writing and translation I now have a better understanding and respect for plays.

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