The notion of violence by means of theme, language, staging, chorus and characterization is manifested in Sophocles’ Antigone. As suggested by Hannah Arendt (1969: 243) in her essay On Violence, “violence cannot be derived from power, in order to understand it, we must examine its roots and nature.” Violence can only be discussed when accompanied by a discussion of power. Walter Benjamin states “violence can first be sought only in the realm of means, not of ends” (1921:277) and relates violence to law and justice. This means that violence is the development of a violent act, not the act itself. Both texts agree that violence is a process not a specific event. This essay will examine and apply, in theatrical terms, the discussions of Arendt and Benjamin, in relation to Antigone.
Antigone in Context
To apply On Violence and Critique on Violence to the play Antigone, the play must be contextualized. Playwright Sophocles was a respected man in the Athenian community, who was involved in military and political aspects of the democracy as city treasurer and naval officer.
He participated in the Athenian religious festival celebrating the god Dionysus. Sophocles won the tragedy performance competition portion of the Athenian festival at least eighteen times.
Antigone, one of seven surviving plays of Sophocles, is allegedly the first of three Theban plays written by him. The events of this play, although it was written first, happen last in the sequence. Antigone is noted as one of the first heroines to fight against male power structures. She is evidently braver than most male characters that she encounters, within the play.
Antigone in application to Arendt- On Violence
Athenian states referred to their constit...
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...07. Remarks on Walter Benjamin’s Critique of Violence. [O] Available: http://aauerbach.info/research/urban/benjamin_violence.html
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Benjamin, W. 1921. Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (p277-300). [O] Available: http://english.columbia.edu/files/english/content/Critique_of_Violence.pdf Accessed: 16 April 2014
De Sanctis, S. 2012. From Psychoanalysis to Politics, Antigone as a Revolutionary in Judith Butler and Slavoj Žižek. [O]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/opt.ai
Accessed: 8 May 2014
Larson, S. 2013. Notes on the thought of Walter Benjamin: Critique of violence. [O]. Available: http://criticallegalthinking.com/2013/10/11/notes-thought-walter-benjamin-critique-violence/
Accessed: 8 May 2014
Sophocles. 2004. Sophocles: plays, Antigone. Translated by Jebb R C. Easterling. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press
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