Antigone: Freud's View

Sigmund Freud is one of the first psychologists to emerge in history, and arguably also the most well known. His sexually supported theories have been both surrounded by controversy and revered as the basis for most of the psychological theories we support today. Antigone, a well known Theban play, tells the story of the bond between a woman and her brother ultimately ending in tragedy. Many of Freud's psychoanalytic theories discussed in his readings help to explain and rationalize the seemingly unusual relationships and actions of the characters in Antigone.

This photo by Ranak Martin portrays what one can imagine to be a typical "after sex portrait" during the Victorian era: the female lying emotionless on the bed as the man happily relaxes beside her. Sigmund Freud was raised in a very refined, prudish time period, and his views on sexual relations reflect this. Proper sexual relations referred to sex strictly between a man and a women to the point of completion for the male involved. Anything outside of this, homosexuality, fetishes, and masturbation included, were considered perversions which were to be avoided (Bryant-Cunningham).
A double portrait of a young couple in the 1890's. This represents the relationship between Antigone and Haemon, her fiancee. Throughout the story, the two seem to share a strong connection with one another, namely Haemon through his attempts to prevent his father Creon from sentencing his fiancee to death. A heated argument over the issue causes Haemon to disown his father, exclaiming "Near me she shall not die, and thou shalt never see my face alive" (Sophocles 884). The eventual suicide of Antigone causes Haemon to kill himself as well. Antigone and Haemon's relationship may appear to be very intense and dramatic. However, according to Freud and his beliefs, the relationship is completely acceptable, as it fits within his boundaries of a perversion free relationship between a man and a women.
These two sisters, one wearing what seems to be traditional Victorian clothing and one wearing an all black ensemble, represent the differences between Oedipus' two daughters, Ismene and Antigone. The two disagree on whether or not to attempt to bury their deceased brother, despite orders explicitly placed by the king. Ismene wishes to follow the king's orders rather than risk getting into trouble, telling her sister "I find myself too weak to war against the state" (Sophocles 87). Antigone replies "Make what excuse thou wilt, I go to rear a grave above the brother whom I love" (89). She is more concerned with her own personal motives than the motives of the king.
In "The Young Sabot Maker" we see a young child working as an apprentice to his father, who seems to be a seasoned craftsman. The child works tirelessly in order to earn the approval of his father. The portrait accurately portrays Ismene's relationship with Creon. After the death of Oedipus, Creon takes over not only as king but as a father figure for Ismene and her sister. Although Polynices was her brother, Ismene still refuses to help bury him seemingly with hopes of gaining approval from Creon. From Freud's point of view, this is a clear demonstration of the Oedipus Complex, in which a child holds a deep love and admiration for their mother or father. Ismene does not want to be on Creon's bad side, so she opts to avoid disobeying his orders.
An art piece depicting the early days of the Olympic Games. The fighting between the two men represents the internal conflict Antigone must face. Freud discusses the various degrees of consciousness within his readings, which consists of the id, the ego and the superego. The id, or the unconscious mind, refers to the primal human desires that disregard morals. The superego, of the unconscious mind, relates to social and cultural norms that help determine what is considered right and what is considered wrong. The ego, or the preconscious, keeps the two in balance. (Bryant-Cunningham). Antigone's struggle confirm's Freud's theories of the unconscious mind. She is faced with a decision between what is morally right and what is legally right, and she ultimately decides to side with her morals. Freud would assume that Antigone's preconscious mind is damaged; while the majority of people would harbor a similar desire to bury her brother but abstain from doing so simply because it is considered wrong, Antigone immediately acts on her primal human desires.
A portrait of a mother mourning the death of her son. Antigone shows this same degree of love and respect for Polynices. The fact that she goes to such lengths as to disobey the orders of Creon shows how much she cares for her brother. Disregarding the undeniable risk of being caught and sentenced to death, Antigone simply states "I know I please the souls I seek to please" (Sophocles 100). While most readers see this as a strong brother-sister bond, Freud most likely would view this as more support to his sexual theories. Freud spends a large portion of his readings discussing the libido, or the sexual urges that all humans possess. Freud argues that humans generally begin to develop these sexual urges at a very early age. However, the actions that Freud considers to be a part of the early stages of affection are often seen as innocent and non sexual in society (Freud 403). The strong love that Antigone shows towards her brother will seem like a normal sibling relationship to the casual reader, but Freud will determine this to be her emerging sexual affection towards the male species.
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