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How Words Affect The Audience English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1229 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone, Sophocles uses several techniques to guide the audience’s respond to the central characters and action. Sophocles uses Antigone and Ismene’s dialogues to set up the story and get the audiences’ attention. He uses support characters to make the story flow smoothly. Throughout the play, Sophocles uses different techniques such as symbolism, diction, imagery and foils to help the audience focus in on the action and central characters.

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In Antigone, Sophocles uses Antigone’s foil, who would be Ismene because as much as Antigone is compelling and willing, Ismene is passive and cowardly. When Antigone asks Ismene if she wants to go bury their brother, Ismene responds with the question “Will you defy the law?”(2). Normally, when someone agrees with a proposal, there is no objection. A question usually contradicts the proposer’s idea. Because Ismene’s nature is opposite of her sister’s, the question therefore shows the reader Ismene’s concerns with authority. The technique that uses a foil to emphasize a character’s personality or ideals guides the audience to understand the characters emotions and inner thoughts. When Ismene says “I have no strength to break laws that were made for the public good […] (4), Ismene shows her concern for Antigone while trying to hide cowardice. Being Antigone’s foil, she gives off the feel that she submitted to the state, so she would not even bury her own brother. Sophocles uses this foil to further emphasize Antigone’s strength. Sophocles uses Antigone’s strength later on so when Ismene comes to take her part in the punishment, it makes Antigone look even braver. The use of foils gives the audience a better understanding of each character and how each character will affect the play.

Another technique that Sophocles uses in the tragedy is symbolism. When the sentry explains what happened when he found Antigone he says “I have seen a mother bird come back to a stripped nest, heard her crying bitterly a broken note or two for the young ones stolen[…]”(15) the mother bird symbolizes Antigone as a protective figure. A mother bird usually takes care of her young and the young that is being depicted in that statement is her dead brother. The same way that Antigone takes care of her dead brother is the same way the sentry pictures a mother bird crying for her lost young. Another use of symbolism in the tragedy is when Creon insults Teiresias for prophesying for gold. Creon says “No, Teiresias, if your birds–if the great eagles of God himself should carry him stinking bit by bit to heaven, I would not yield […] (36). When he refers to the eagles to Teiresias, this symbolizes that Teiresias is the will of the gods. Zeus’ signs are the lightning bolt and eagles. In the Odyssey, before Odysseus reveals himself and slays all of the suitors, there was a lightning strike and an eagle. Those were all part of the prophecy that the dead Teiresias had given to Odysseus. Whenever there are the signs of Zeus, it is the sign of his presence or bidding. Such symbols play an important part in guiding the audience’s attention and responses because it gives the audience a better perspective of the play.

Sophocles’ diction also gives the audience the guidance to the central characters. When Creon says, “The State is the King!”(25), this choice of words show Creon’s power abuse and also use anthropomorphism to give the audience a familiarity. Sophocles uses these words to demonstrate the madness that Creon fumes out with his anger towards his son. By giving the state a human-like quality of being a ruler, he tries to make himself seem les. Diction, along with it, has tone. When Creon uses those words, he is also giving an indication of his power abuse to his audience and that he is outraged by the defiance of Antigone. Creon says, “You too, Ismene, snake in my ordered house, sucking my blood stealthily […] (18) comparing Ismene to a snake. He used a snake because they are usually hidden away somewhere until they see the chance to strike you. In “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, when Gilgamesh finally acquires the flower to give extended life, a snake from a lake ambushes him and takes the flower. Snakes, being cold-blooded too, Creon also suggest to the audience that Ismene is evil and in a way something that could be potentially dangerous later in the future. With the choice of words, Sophocles is able to direct the audience’s attention to the main characters and the action.

Sophocles use of imagery helps the audience visualize the scenes in the tragedy. When the Chorus enters it dialogue, they say “He was thrown back, and as he turned, great Thebes- – No tender victim for his noisy power- Rose like a dragon behind him, shouting war” (6) painting the image of a dragon. A dragon being known as a ferocious creature gives the audience the impression that Polyneices struck back with such power. With this imagery, Sophocles gives the audience a comparison with his brother. His brother, Eteocles fights a dragon (Polyneices), which also goes under the category of connotation. By slaying the dragon, he could save the city, like the knights in shining armor. In the end he was defeated and thus was defeated by the dragon. Another use of imagery that Sophocles uses in the tragedy uses the tomb that Antigone gets imprisoned in. Antigone says, “O tomb, vaulted bride-bed in eternal rock, soon I shall be with my own again where Persephone welcomes the thin ghosts underground: and I shall see my father again, and you, mother, and dearest Polyneices–dearest indeed to me, since it was my hand that washed him clean and poured the ritual wine: And my reward is death before my time! […]” (32), so she has submitted herself to death. This imagery gives the audience the impression that she is happier to die and see her family. By resigning herself to death, she allows Ismene to live and she has control over some fate. Later, by taking her own life, the image it creats for the audience shows that she just made her ultimate fate come faster.

By using imagery, foils, symbolism and diction, Sophocles was able to grab rhe audience’s attention and focus it on the central characters and action. With symbolism and imagery, he paints the audience a picture and connects those scenes to his audience. With diction, he creates tone and mood which makes the story more dramatic and suspenseful. And with foils, he gives the other characters’ strengths a boost, while making the foils’ weakness even more apparent. By using these techniques, Sophocles grabs the audience’s attention and guides it towards the central characters and action.

“Anitgone.pdf.” Http://thetalon.org/ANTIGONE.pdf. Trans. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. N.p.,

 “Entombment.” Shmoop. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2012.

 Fitzgerald, Robert. “Anitgone.pdf.”

 Http://thetalon.org/ANTIGONE.pdf. Trans. Dudley Fitts. N.p.,

“What Were Zeus’ Symbols?” WikiAnswers. Answers, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2012.


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