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Sophocles’ (442 BC) play Antigone, involves many characters struggling with decisions that concern civil laws as well as religious laws and moral standards. The play takes place in Athens and involves Antigone’s civil disobedience and the ensuing result. Antigone has lost both of her brothers, only one of whom has died an honorable death. Antigone is now faced with making a decision that can only have a negative outcome, but through her use of pathos she is able to gain compassion from the audience. Antigone is able to gain the sympathy of her audience through her sense of selflessness, loyalty, and courage. She is able to connect with the audience on a personal level which makes her argument effective.
The first part of the play, involves Antigone asking her sister, Ismene, to ignore the laws of the state and aid her in burying their dishonorable brother, Polyneices. Antigone begins by letting the audience know that her father, Oedipus, and mother are already dead and now she has lost both of her brothers. In the first scene, there is an instant sense of empathy felt towards Antigone as she express her troubled feelings to Ismene. “The horror, the disgrace, the suffering that Oedipus had known have ripened out into fullness in our lives” (p. 61). Antigone’s use of pathos allows the audience to feel empathetic towards the pain that plagues her life since she was born the daughter of a doomed man. She is successful in the argument because she puts the audience in a spot where they feel compelled to feel empathetic. She is seen with sympathetic understanding, which allows her actions to be deemed reasonable. The audience shares Antigone’s heartache and feels pity for her.
Antigone uses emotional appeal once again when making the decision to disobey the King, Creon. By using the appeal of pathos, Antigone is able to make her point stronger and give the audience a better understanding of the tough decision ahead of her. Creon gave the order that no one is to give Polyneices an honorable burial, but Antigone ultimately chooses to defy his orders and make her decision based on the loyalty she feels towards her family. Her decision to challenge the state and honor her brother creates a feeling of compassion in itself. She is showing how truly selfless she is and that she has no fear of consequence. She tells her sister, Ismene, her “first allegiance must be to the deadâ€¦.don’t fear for me-look after your own life” (p.63). This statement shows her courage and makes her admirable in the eyes of the audience. This is also showing the audience that she is a loving sister who is justified in her disobedience.
With her use of pathos, Antigone is also able to make a strong argument against Creon. Creon confronts Antigone and asks her if she is the one who buried Polyneices. After she tells him she has, he asks her if she was aware of his orders and chose to defy him anyway. Once again she answers yes, but adds “it is a gain for me to die before my time, if your life like mine was shared with misfortune, death would be good” (p. 71). She restates the fact that she comes from a family of misfortune to keep the empathy invoked from the audience. She is appealing to the audience by showing them that she is a loyal and compassionate sister. Her courage is shown again when she admits that she has defied Creon’s orders and will take the punishment of death without argument. In addition, she tells Creon that everyone in attendance agrees with her decision, but they are afraid to speak against the King, “terror has sealed their mouths” (p. 72). Her statement not only reiterates the enormous amount of bravery she possesses, but it also appeals to the audience by letting them know it is acceptable to agree with her.
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After Antigone has officially been sentenced, her use of emotional appeal becomes even stronger. It is not that she necessarily fears the punishment, but rather is simply trying to get Creon to see the error in his ways. She engages the audience by telling them what she will never have due to an early death, “No marriage-feast, no bridal song, my bride-groom is death” (p. 79). By saying this, she is able to get the sympathy from mothers, fathers, husbands and wives. The audience is able to relate and thus this makes Antigone’s argument strong. She continues to use this method of argument throughout the rest play. She uses many phrases and words to keep the audience sympathetic of her fate. She pleads to her deceased family, “I hope you will welcome me, father, and you my mother, and my brother, for I washed and dressed your body with these hands” (p. 80). Her strong use of emotion is very effective in portraying her loyalty and love for her family. The audience is able to once again relate to her, as all have either had or have families. The audience can clearly see the decision is inhumane and unjust.
Antigone’s use of emotional appeal makes her argument strong and successful. Since she shows a sense of selflessness, loyalty, and courage she is able to gain the audience’s sympathy.
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