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The Consequences Of The Power Of Love In Medea And Antigone

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In modern-day societies, love is usually viewed as an amazing feeling with only positive traits attributed to this feeling. Many people fail to realize – or choose to ignore – the negative parts of this feeling of love, which can be a powerful and dangerous source of motivation for all living creatures. In Antigone by Sophocles and Medea by Euripides, love is seen through the characters’ love of power, self-love, and the more traditional use of love, love for others. Euripides and Sophocles show the destructive and blinding powers of love, which forces readers to understand the power of how love and how it could be linked to undesirable qualities or mannerisms. In both Antigone and Medea, the power of love drives Antigone, Haemon, Creon, and Medea to carry out actions that ultimately lead to death.

Antigone’s love and respect for Polyneices, her brother, is the source of her motivation to do what ultimately leads to her death. She wishes to grant him the respect and dignity of a proper burial because “to refuse burial meant to the Greeks to inflict the worst disgrace on the dead, to refuse him ‘honor among the dead below’” (Falk ix). Antigone recognizes that burying her brother is a sacred duty that “…would be an act of treason” if disregarded, so she decides to go against Creon’s decree that anyone who buries Polyneices will be publicly stoned to death (Falk ix; Sophocles 30). Antigone’s love for her brother was so strong that she decided to follow through with her brother’s burial irrespective of Creon’s decree; she never once questioned her decision or worried about the consequences she would have to endure because she knew that she was giving her deceased brother the dignity that he deserved regardless of what other people thought about the situation. Antigone challenges man’s law and instead follows God’s law by claiming that she would be happy to die while burying Polyneices because “…if it’s a crime, then it’s a crime that God commands (Falk ix). Antigone’s love for her brother drove her to sacrifice her life to restore her brother’s nobility.

Haemon, Antigone’s fiancé, proves his love and admiration for Antigone through his willingness to argue with his father, Creon, and fight against the death of the woman he loves:

But I hear whispers spoken in the dark;

On every side, I hear voices of pity

For this poor girl, doomed to the cruelest death,

And most unjust, that ever woman suffered

For and honorable action—burying a brother

Who was killed in battle, rather than leave him naked For dogs to maul and carrion birds to peck at.

Has she not rather earned a crown of gold? (Sophocles 590-97).

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Haemon’s decision to argue with his father, or even express ideas contrary to his father’s, shows the strength of his love for Antigone. He tries to be the voice of reason for his father, and provide explanations supporting the idea that Antigone should not be killed for such a trivial “crime.” Haemon goes as far as saying that Antigone should be honored for her courage and respect for her brother. Creon discounts Haemon’s comments and concerns, and he proceeds to order Antigone’s death. When Antigone is killed, Haemon could not bear to live in a world without his true love, so he killed himself. Haemon’s suicide displays the magnitude of the love he felt for Antigone. Haemon was found “…with his arms about her / …Lamenting his lost bride, his luckless love, / His father’s cruelty” (Sophocles 1027-29). Upon hearing the news of Haemon’s death, his mother killed herself as well, resulting in the loss of two loved ones for Creon due to his ruthless cruelty.

Creon’s selfish love drove two people that were close to him to death. His decision to kill Antigone even after his son gave him contrary advice proved the immense control that his selfish love had over his life. When Creon feels guilt for the troubles he had caused and his cruel treatment of Antigone, he turns his guilt into self-pity. He blames God for what has happened and claims that “…God has delivered this heavy punishment, / Has struck me down in the ways of wickedness, / And trod my gladness under foot” (Sophocles 1073-75). Creon is averse to assuming responsibility for his cruelty. He is unable to acknowledge or even recognize that there was an error in his decree until he feels the weight of his punishment by the divine law. His selfish love makes him a cold-hearted tyrant that cares for no one but himself. Creon’s power has made his heart so cold that he barely feels grief over the tragic deaths of his son, his niece, and his wife. His selfish love leads to his downfall and self-destruction.

Even worse than Creon’s selfish love is his love of power. Creon’s “…unaccountable authority ultimately turns into tyranny, disregarding the political (the voice of the people), moral and religious orders…” (Plescia). He attempts to enforce his own order contrary to the established divine order, but he is proven wrong (Falk vii). Even after the events that came about as a result of Antigone’s death, Creon does not change his view of life. In fact, Falk states that:

It is not Creon’s insight into and acceptance of the law, in the name of which the blind seer Teiresias calls upon him to bury Polyneices and thus respect the will of the gods, that prompts him to yield; it is no change of heart, no willingness to live and act according to values recognized as superior, but merely the fear of retribution that drives him to appease the gods by burying Polyneices instead of first liberating Antigone from her prison (Falk vii).

After being proven wrong while trying to impose his own order, Creon experiences defeat through the deaths of his son, his niece, and his wife, but his love of power does not allow him to recognize this defeat. Creon only does the right thing because he fears that he will be punished by the gods if he does not. His love of power takes control of his life and makes him a prideful, arrogant, and cold man. Creon’s pride and actions lead to several people’s death, including his own, but he does not experience a physical death – he experiences an emotional death.

When Jason went on his voyage in search of the legendary Golden Fleece of Colchis, the King of Colchis tasked him with labors that were thought to be “…an impossible, lethal undertaking” (Robertson xiv). Medea, the daughter of the King of Colchis, fell in love with Jason and used her magic powers to help him fulfill his tasks. After obtaining the Golden Fleece, Medea and the Argonauts fled Colchis with the King of Colchis furiously chasing them. Medea’s undeniable, perpetual love for Jason prompts her to execute many unethical acts. She murdered her brother and mutilated the corpse, so the King of Colchis had to stop his chase in order to retrieve his son’s remains (Robertson xiv). This type of passionate love that Medea has for Jason proves to be a type of “…impulse which tempted humans to misdeeds…considered outside of human control” because of the way it suppresses her own moral judgement (Hamilton). When Medea discovered that Pelias had murdered Jason’s dad, she took it upon herself to get revenge on him. Medea took advantage of the innocence of children and tricked his children into murdering their father. Medea’s love for Jason blinded her, causing her to commit acts such as these that force her and Jason to flee Iolcos because “the brutality of this act caused public outrage…” (Robertson xv). When they relocate to Corinth and Jason decides to leave Medea for a younger woman, her love turns into fury and jealousy. These emotions replace Medea’s feelings of love, which drives her to kill Jason’s new bride, and in turn Jason as well.

Medea’s selfish love stemmed from the love that she had for Jason. The nurse states that life was secure and safe when Medea was with Jason, but they have become enemies now that their marriage has changed (Euripides 19-22). The play leads readers to “…explore the ambiguous, volatile psychology of a wronged woman and how she could arrive at a state where she decides to kill her own children” as a result of the betrayal she experiences from her true love, Jason (Robertson xviii). Medea made many sacrifices so that she could be with Jason, including cutting herself off from her family and murdering her own brother. Jason’s betrayal filled Medea with fury and a strong desire to wrong those who have wronged her. The fact that Medea made a decision to kill her own children, and never once shuddered at the thought of her decision shows how selfish her love had become. Medea’s selfish love leads to self-destruction, as explained by Robertson in the introduction of Medea:

Medea may have committed an ethically repugnant crime and apparently escaped unpunished, but we have seen that she recognizes the wickedness of the act and fights against it, and it is clear that this is a hollow revenge – because it is, in a way, an act of self-destruction (xxi).

Medea’s love-turned-fury makes her “…empowered, ascendant and thoroughly active,” and gives her the courage and power to harm others, even those who have not wronged her at all, including her own children (Robertson xviii). Medea goes as far as “…indulging in an excessive form of revenge – the murder of her own children,” which demonstrates the strength of her selfish love that turns into self-destruction (Hamilton). As the chorus watches, they can no longer understand or offer sympathy to Medea after she chooses to pursue revenge to such an extreme point.

Most modern readers may not be accustomed to seeing love in a negative manner. In Medea by Euripides and Antigone by Sophocles, readers are exposed to the negative aspects of love and the dire consequences that could result from this blinding feeling of love. Love is a force that can drive people to execute actions that destruct themselves and others around them. These negative aspects of love are perfectly exemplified in Antigone and Medea by Antigone, Haemon, Creon, and Medea. In these plays, the reader perceives the characters’ love of power, self-love, and their love for others. The power of love illustrated in these plays leads these characters to commit actions that eventually leads to death. These characters show the power of love and the unwavering hold it can have on a person and their actions.

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The Consequences Of The Power Of Love In Medea And Antigone. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-consequences-of-the-power-of-love-in-medea-and-antigone/
“The Consequences Of The Power Of Love In Medea And Antigone.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-consequences-of-the-power-of-love-in-medea-and-antigone/
The Consequences Of The Power Of Love In Medea And Antigone. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-consequences-of-the-power-of-love-in-medea-and-antigone/> [Accessed 7 Dec. 2022].
The Consequences Of The Power Of Love In Medea And Antigone [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2022 Dec 7]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-consequences-of-the-power-of-love-in-medea-and-antigone/
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