Fate and Free Will
a central theme of Antigone is the tension between individual action and fate. While free choices, such as Antigone’s decision to defy Creon’s edict, are significant, fate is responsible for many of the most critical and devastating events. By elevating the importance of fate Sophocles suggests that characters cannot be fully responsible for their actions. It becomes difficult, for example to blame Oedipus for marrying his mother given his ignorance.
Rules and Order
Antigone contrasts two types of law and justice: divine or religious law on one hand, and the law of men on the other. Because of the centrality of fate and the rule of the gods in the lives of the main characters of the play, religious rites and traditions are elevated to the status of law. While questions of law and justice play a role in all three plays of the Oedipus trilogy, they are most prominent in Antigone, in which Antigone’s standards of divine justice clash with Creon’s will as the head of state.
Determination is nearly a universal character trait amongst the cast of Antigone. Despite the important role of fate in the lives of the characters, Creon, Antigone, Ismene, and Polynices are driven, at times stubbornly, to pursue their goals. Determination in the play is linked to hubris and proves less an asset than a flaw to the characters that possess it.
Power both corrupts and metaphorically blinds characters in Antigone. The clearest example of the power of corruption is King Creon of Thebes, who is arrogant, unperceptive, and downright mean to people around him.
Women and Feminimity
Antigone explores the contrast between the behavior that is expected of women and the reality of their role in society. Creon expects men to be primary actors in society and women to take a secondary and subservient role. Opinionated Antigone challenges these notions as she takes center stage and presents formidable challenges to the men around her.
Self-injury and suicide are almost universally prevalent among the main characters in the Oedipus trilogy, and particularly in Antigone. Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice each commit suicide; Polynices and Eteocles willingly take actions that result in their deaths. The frequency of suicide and death more broadly suggest that in the context of the plays, life is tenuous, and that taking one’s own life is an acceptable, if tragic, way of dying. Furthermore, self-injury and suicide seem to be the only ways in which characters in Antigone are able to influence their destines.