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A Comparison of Conflicts in Antigone and Lysistrata

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Conflicts in Antigone and Lysistrata

In Antigone and Lysistrata the tension between the polis and oikos is reflected in different ways. Antigone prioritizes oikos over polis, while Creon prioritizes polis over oikos. The men in Lysistrata favor fighting for the state over being at home while the women want their husbands with them instead of being at the war. We find ample evidence of different conflicts and similarities in both plays, but the male's prioritizing polis over oikos and the female's prioritizing oikos over polis causes the central tension in Antigone and Lysistrata.

Sophocles' Antigone, a tragedy, written around 441BC has been interpreted in various ways as a conflict between family and state. Both sides have a clear concept of where their duty lies and are resolved to follow its dictates. Creon, acting in the state's interest, finds it politically expedient to deny burial to the traitor Polyneices. On the other hand, Antigone acting in the family's interests claims that the right of burial surpasses any other considerations. To her, a proper burial is the unwritten law of heaven, so she performs the last rites over her brother's body and is condemned to death. Sophocles portrays two strong-willed people, Creon and Antigone, in conflict in the play.

Antigone's first priority is her family, while Creon's is his state. In trying to persuade her sister Ismene to help her bury her brother Polyneices, she states, "Now we shall soon find out / If you are true-born daughter of your line, / Or if you will disgrace your noble blood"(38-40). Antigone is telling Ismene that a true-born daughter shall always favor the family member. She gives Ismene two options: if Ismene chooses to help Antigon...

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... conflict arises when Creon orders the worst Greek punishment for the traitorous Polyneices. Antigone, for whom family pride is everything, won't tolerate the insult. However, in both plays, the women's priority is oikos, which contrasts with the men's priority of polis. These contrasting views create the central tension in both plays.

Works Cited

Sophocles. Antigone. Oedipus the King and Antigone. Trans. Peter D. Arnott. Arlington heights, IL: Davidson, Crofts Classics, 1960

Aristophanes. Lysistrata. Lysistrata and Other Plays. Trans. Alan H. Sommerstein. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

Antigone plus Tragedy. Tricky Problems, Versality and Sophocles. Lecture. Lise Kildegaard. CFL, October 2, 1997.

Aristophanes plus Comedy. Silliness, Naughtiness, and Tricky Problems. Lecture. Carol Gilbertson. CFL, October 7, 1997.
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