Verbal Irony in Antigone

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Words: 582 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 582|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Verbal Irony in Antigone
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion
  4. Bibliography

Verbal Irony in Antigone

Verbal irony, a rhetorical device that involves saying one thing and meaning the opposite, is a prominent element in Sophocles' tragedy Antigone. Throughout the play, characters use verbal irony to convey their true feelings, criticize societal norms, and highlight the tragic irony of their situations. This essay will explore the various instances of verbal irony in Antigone and analyze their implications in relation to the themes of power, authority, and rebellion.

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In Antigone, verbal irony is often employed by characters to express their true emotions and intentions. For instance, when Antigone's sister, Ismene, initially refuses to help her bury their brother, she says, "We are only women, / not meant in nature to fight against men" (Sophocles, 62-63). This statement, on the surface, appears to convey Ismene's belief in women's supposed weakness. However, the true irony lies in the fact that Ismene later changes her mind and shows her determination to support Antigone.

This verbal irony highlights the conflicting expectations placed on women in Ancient Greek society, where they were expected to be submissive and obedient. By using verbal irony, Sophocles critiques these societal norms and emphasizes the strength and agency of his female characters.

Verbal irony is also utilized in Antigone to criticize societal norms and challenge the established order. When Creon, the newly crowned king, declares that he will not bury Antigone's rebellious brother, he states, "And I will bury her. / I'll wall her in a tomb, alive" (Sophocles, 215-216). This statement, ironically, contrasts with the traditional funeral rites and reverence for the dead in Ancient Greece.

The use of verbal irony in this instance exposes the hypocrisy of Creon's actions and highlights the arrogance of his newfound power. By choosing to bury Antigone alive, Creon exhibits a disregard for the customs and beliefs that his role as king should uphold. Ultimately, this verbal irony serves to criticize the abuse of power and the consequences of hubris.

Verbal irony is an essential element in Antigone that underscores the tragic irony of the characters' situations. When Creon's son, Haemon, tries to reason with his father about Antigone's punishment, he says, "For what man, what wise man, / will dare to speak against you?" (Sophocles, 717-718). This statement is ironic because Haemon is, in fact, speaking against his father's decision.

The use of verbal irony in this exchange heightens the tragic irony of the situation, where Creon's own family members are turning against him. It reveals the disconnect between Creon's perception of his power and authority and the reality of the crumbling support he faces. This verbal irony serves as a warning against the blind pursuit of power and the consequences it can have on personal relationships.


In Sophocles' Antigone, verbal irony plays a significant role in conveying the characters' true feelings, criticizing societal norms, and highlighting the tragic irony of their situations. Through the use of verbal irony, Sophocles critiques the gender expectations placed on women, exposes the abuse of power, and warns against the consequences of hubris. These instances of verbal irony deepen the themes of power, authority, and rebellion in the play and engage the audience in a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition.

By analyzing the various instances of verbal irony in Antigone, we gain a deeper understanding of the characters' motivations, the social context of the play, and the moral dilemmas they face. This exploration invites further examination of the role of irony in Greek tragedy and its relevance in contemporary literature and society.

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Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin, 1984.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Verbal Irony in Antigone. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Verbal Irony in Antigone.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Verbal Irony in Antigone. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Verbal Irony in Antigone [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 14 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:
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