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Creon’s insistence that “I won’t be called weaker than womankind” (680) reveals a male superiority complex that aligns masculinity with strength and dominance and femininity with weakness and subordination.Even the Chorus of Theban elders, assumed to hold a neutral perspective so as to advise Creon on matters of society, consists entirely of old Theban men, excluding female perspectives from the political arena.As Creon’s political rhetoric unravels, his gender ideology further emerges as a dominant reason for insisting on Antigone’s punishment.
Creon’s hoarding of the power to “[rule]” suggests that Creon designates the political sphere as masculine and deems women as apolitical or unworthy of political participation.
When Creon immediately reacts to the Guard’s news of Polyneices’ burial with, “What man has dared to do it?
Creon’s views thus seem to exemplify the gender essentialism in ancient Greece that aligns masculinity with dominance and femininity with subservience.
Creon enforces his gender ideology so rigidly that he forcibly interprets Haemon’s, Antigone’s and Ismene’s actions within an essentialist gendered lens.
While the plot of the play seems to explicitly reaffirm the gender essentialism prevalent in ancient Greece, do the characters themselves endorse the same gender ideology?
In particular, does Creon – the most explicitly misogynistic character in the play – base his political decisions upon essentialist assumptions?
Thus, in ancient Greece, gender essentialism operated to box men and women into gendered roles.
Written against the backdrop of such a political context, appears to reinforce the gender essentialism pervasive in ancient Greece at the time.
As Antigone’s defense of her familial right to bury her brother clashes against Creon’s defense of Theban law, it seems like “the female becomes the locus of oppositions between ‘nature’ and ‘culture,’ household and state” (Foley 14), especially as Antigone appeals to divine law while Creon appeals to man-made law.
Foley argues that despite Antigone’s valiant fight, it is telling that closes “with the punishment of the female intruder that implicitly reasserts the cultural norm” (14), excluding the female presence from the political realm – through the punishment of death, no less – with a note of finality.