Theme of Irony in "The Story of Antigone"

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About this sample


Words: 775 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 775|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Irony is a literary device that can add depth and complexity to a story. In the ancient Greek tragedy "Antigone" by Sophocles, the theme of irony is prevalent throughout the narrative. Situational irony, in particular, is employed a few times in the text to highlight the unexpected twists and turns of fate. This essay will explore the theme of irony in "Antigone" and analyze its implications on the characters and the overall plot. By examining the various instances of situational irony, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complex nature of human behavior and the consequences of defying societal norms.

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One of the most prominent examples of situational irony in "Antigone" is the decree issued by King Creon. In an attempt to maintain order and uphold the law, Creon forbids the burial of Polyneices, the brother of Antigone and Ismene, who died fighting against Thebes. This decree is ironic because, according to Greek religious beliefs, proper burial rites were essential for the deceased to find peace in the afterlife. Creon's decision goes against the customs and traditions of the time, leading to a clash between divine law and man-made law. This irony sets the stage for the tragic events that unfold throughout the play.

Supporting evidence from the text:
- "No man shall bury him, no man shall mourn for him, but his body must lie in the fields, a sweet treasure for carrion birds to find as they search for food" (Sophocles, lines 232-234).
- "It is the law. We must obey whatever man the city puts in charge, no matter what the issue—great or small, just or unjust" (Sophocles, lines 201-203).

Creon's decree, which goes against the religious beliefs of the time, creates a moral dilemma for the characters. This irony highlights the clash between divine law and human law, forcing the audience to question the limits of authority and the consequences of defying societal norms.

Another instance of situational irony in "Antigone" is the actions of the play's protagonist, Antigone. Despite the risks involved, Antigone decides to bury her brother, Polyneices, defying Creon's decree. This decision is ironic because Antigone, who is portrayed as a righteous and honorable character, is ultimately punished for her actions. The irony lies in the fact that Antigone's noble intentions to honor her brother's memory and uphold divine law lead to her tragic downfall.

Supporting evidence from the text:
- "I will bury him myself. And even if I die in the act, that death will be a glory. I will lie with the one I love and loved by him—an outrage sacred to the gods!" (Sophocles, lines 87-90).
- "She has never learned to yield. This obstinacy has been the ruin of her" (Sophocles, lines 572-573).

Antigone's actions, driven by her sense of duty and loyalty, ultimately lead to her own demise. This irony highlights the tragic consequences of defying societal norms and the complexities of moral decision-making.

The relationship between Haemon, Creon's son, and Antigone also presents a significant example of situational irony in "Antigone." Haemon, despite being Creon's son and heir to the throne, sides with Antigone and pleads with his father to reconsider his harsh decision. This loyalty towards Antigone is ironic because it goes against the expectation that Haemon would prioritize his familial ties and support his father's authority.

Supporting evidence from the text:
- "And yet, it seems, I am the only one who still sees things clearly. I see what people think—how they whisper and shake their heads. A father's curse is heavy, and it is more than I can bear" (Sophocles, lines 748-751).
- "You will never see my face again. Go on, be stubborn. Bring the full force of your tyranny down upon us. I would rather die than watch you suffer any longer" (Sophocles, lines 875-878).

Haemon's loyalty to Antigone, despite the consequences he may face, highlights the irony of choosing one's personal beliefs over familial obligations. This irony underscores the complexity of human relationships and the sacrifices individuals are willing to make for their principles.


In conclusion, the theme of irony in "Antigone" adds depth and complexity to the narrative. Through the use of situational irony, Sophocles explores the consequences of defying societal norms and the clash between divine law and man-made law. The decree issued by Creon, Antigone's actions, and Haemon's loyalty all serve as examples of irony in the play. These instances of irony not only engage the audience but also invite reflection on the complexities of human behavior and the tragic consequences that can arise from moral dilemmas. "Antigone" serves as a powerful reminder that the pursuit of justice and truth can often lead to unforeseen irony and tragedy.


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Sophocles. "Antigone." Translated by Ian Johnston, Richer Resources Publications, 2004.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Theme of Irony in “The Story of Antigone”. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
“Theme of Irony in “The Story of Antigone”.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Theme of Irony in “The Story of Antigone”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jul. 2024].
Theme of Irony in “The Story of Antigone” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 20]. Available from:
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