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Seidenberg, R. Papathomopoulos, E. (1974). The Enigma of Antigone. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 1:197-205.

(1974). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1:197-205

The Enigma of Antigone

Robert Seidenberg and Evangelos Papathomopoulos

Some of us have in a prior existence been in love with an Antigone, and that makes us find no full content with any mortal tie.—SHELLEY.

In a previous essay, we suggested a parallel between the personal problems and agonies of the aged Sophocles and that of his characterization of Oedipus concerning the grim threats of ageing with its physical infirmities and social alienation. And, a particular bitterness of the latter is the abandonment by children (Seidenberg & Papathomopoulos, 1960). Of the Sophoclean trilogy, two of the plays, Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus, deal to a large extent with Oedipus' children. In Oedipus at Colonus the sons are hated and cursed by the banished and enfeebled Oedipus, who is cared for by his faithful daughters, Antigone and Ismene. (Sophocles' own son tried to have him declared mentally incompetent to control his estate.) Oedipus has high praise for loyal daughters, pays them this typically misogynous compliment: 'But they have saved me; they are my support; and are not girls but men, in faithfulness.' (Antigone, lines 1367–8.) Oedipus seems ambivalent about burdening his daughters with his care. He laments the fate of Antigone:

Ah, they behave as if they were

Egyptians (Oedipus's sons),

Bred the Egyptian way! Down

there the men

Sit indoors all day long, weaving;

The women go out and attend the business.

Just so your brothers, who should have

done this work,

Sit by the fire like home-loving girls,

And you two, in their place, must bear

my hardships.

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