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The Oedipus Plays

Sophocles
Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 2

Anarchy—show me a greater crime in all the earth! She, she destroys cities, rips up houses, breaks the ranks of spearmen into headlong rout. But the ones who last it out, the great mass of them owe their lives to discipline. Therefore we must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us. Better to fall from power, if fall we must, at the hands of a man—never be rated inferior to a woman, never. (Antigone, 751–761)

This is one of Creon’s speeches to the Chorus. The word “anarchy” (in Greek, anarchia) literally means “without a leader.” The Greek word is feminine and can be represented by a feminine pronoun, which is why Creon, speaking of anarchy, says, “She, she destroys cities, rips up houses. . . .” Because Creon uses the feminine pronoun, he sounds as if he might be talking about Antigone, and maintaining order is certainly connected, in his mind, with keeping women in their place. Creon sees anarchy as the inevitable consequence when disobedience of the law is left unpunished. For Creon, the law, on whatever scale, must be absolute. His insistence on the gender of the city’s ruler (“the man”) is significant, since masculine political authority is opposed to uncontrolled feminine disobedience. Creon sees this feminine disobedience as something that upsets the order of civilization on every possible level—the political (“destroys cities”), the domestic (“rips up houses”), and the military (“breaks the ranks of spearmen”). The only way to fight this disorder is through discipline; therefore, says Creon, “we must defend the men who live by law, [we must] never let some woman triumph over us” (758).