Irony in "Antigone" by Sophocles

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“Antigone” stands out for Sophocles’ delightful use of irony, bringing about a rich development of characters and plot. According to Jebb, Irony refers to a reversal of expectations, and is categorized in verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony (16). In “Antigone,” Sophocles extensively uses irony to build interest and anticipation in the plot and characters.

Sophocles makes use of verbal irony, a situation in which characters mean the opposite of what they say. For instance, after learning about the death of Haemon, Choragos states, “Teiresias, Teiresias, how clearly you saw it all!” (line 923). Although Teiresias, the prophet, predicted that Creon’s house will experience a tragedy, the Choragos’ words are ironic since the prophet was not responsible for the tragedy that befell Creon’s house. Moreover, the outcome was not pleasant to warrant praises. Sophocles uses such verbal irony to convey emotion.

Upon Haemon’s death, Creon, in his speech, states that Haemon was freed from the bonds of life not by his own folly (lines 990).  It is ironical that Creon takes the blame for the death of Haemon when Haemon undoubtedly took his own life. Futhermore, after learning that his wife committed suicide, Creon asserts that his wife has killed an already dead man (himself) (line 1005). His “first death” took place when his son committed suicide, and his “second death” occurred after learning that his wife took her own life, yet he is obviously alive to feel the agony of the losses.

Overall, Sophocles' “Antigone” uses irony to enhance the tragic effect of characterization and plot, and to create tension. He deploys both dramatic and verbal irony in a manner that reveals the way in which the characters’ pride and ignorance lead to their downfall.

Works Cited

Jebb, Richard Claverhouse. Sophocles: The Antigone. 2d. ed. 1891. Vol. 3. The University Press, 1900.

November 24, 2023



Books Greek Mythology

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Antigone Sophocles

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