Theme Of Women In Antigone And Julius Caesar
The tragedies Julius Caesar written by Shakespeare and Antigone written by Sophocles both utilize similar prejudices towards women. Julius Caesar and Antigone portray women as weak and irrelevant, which greatly affects their treatment and power that they hold. These beliefs that are correlated with the women in these stories substantially affect the outcome of the dramas. The presence of women makes the audience realize the important role that gender plays in these works.
Throughout these plays, women are associated as being decrepit. In Julius Caesar, Portia and Calpurnia are both considered to be feeble. In act two scene 1, Portia, the wife of Brutus, blatantly admits that women are not held to the same standard of men, “If this were true, then should I know this secret. I grant I am a woman…” (Shakespeare 2.1 291-292). Brutus is dealing with confidential information about the murder of Caesar, but since women are erratic, he will not tell Portia anything about it. Portia even follows by stabbing her thigh to show how strong she is and gaining some attention, but Brutus does not seem to budge, or even really care. This exemplifies how women were characterized as weak, and how men disregard the women in this play. Additionally, Capurnia, the wife of Caesar, has advice that is pushed off and ignored. Calpurnia warns Caesar about a dream she had where Caesar was killed while he was at the Senate. At first he listens, but when Decius Brutus comes in and says that she interpreted the dream wrong, Caesar neglects her, and listens to Decius. It is clear that Caesar listens to Decius Brutus because he is a man that knows better than Calpurnia does, and it is evident that women were not even worth listening to and were treated poorly. Portia and Calpurnia fulfilled the powerless standard because they listened to their husbands, following all of the rules, and Portia even killed herself when she learned she would be without her husband. Likewise, in Antigone, women are regarded as weak as well. In contrast to the women in Julius Caesar, Antigone is a strong and confident woman. She breaks the rules and standards of what women should be like. Antigone stood up for what was right and buried her brother, even though she knew the consequence of her action was death, while her sister Ismene was too scared to stand up to men, “Our own death would be if we should go against Creon And do what he has forbidden! We are only women; We cannot fight with men, Antigone!” (Sophocles Prologue 45-47). In addition, Creon did not even believe these actions could be done by a woman, he was convinced the burial was done by a powerful and vigorous man, “The man who has done this thing shall pay for it! Find that man; bring him here to me, or your death” (Sophocles 1 121-122). Men acted as if women were unable to do anything, and put everything that was a challenge past them. Moreover, Antigone held no power since she was a woman, so her treatment was very harsh. Her punishment was being placed in a vault with just enough food and water to last a few days so that she would eventually die. Furthermore, Antigone was not afraid to die because she was strong-headed and was not scared of anything or anyone. She defied the rules and the normal model of a woman, and was stronger than her sister Ismene, Portia, and Calpurnia. The role of gender in both of the plays makes women seem incapable and criticizes determined and strong-minded women, while still having some differences between the plays.
Although women are supposed to be insignificant in Julius Caesar and Antigone, the implications of their actions have meaningful outcomes at the end of the plays. In Julius Caesar, Calpurnia warns Caesar about her nightmare and alerts him that she thinks he is in danger, “Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies, Yet now they fright me. There is one within, Besides the things that we have heard and seen, Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch,” ic, Calpurnia’s actions would have saved Caesar’s life. Moreover, Portia ends up killing herself by swallowing hot rocks since she was missing Brutus and heard that the opposition against him was very strong. Women believed that they were useless, unworthy, and they could not do anything without a man. Portia’s actions support the indecisive prejudices made against women. In Antigone, she goes against the odds and buries her brother even though Creon made a decree. Antigone also openly admits to everything that she has done, showing her fearlessness. This frightens Creon because he is not used to strong women, he even says that his biggest fear is losing to a woman. However, Antigone's actions lead to her death because she takes her own life, but she does not do this as a sign of weakness, she does this as a sign of honor and loyalty. The implications of Antigone’s actions also lead to the deaths of Haemon and Eurydice, and the downfall of Creon. Creon’s fate is that he will have the same suffering that Antigone did, he will be alone without his whole family. The outcomes of Julius Caesar and Antigone are due to the actions of all the women in the plays.
In conclusion, the attitudes and prejudices towards women within each play greatly affects their treatment and the power they hold. Women are portrayed to be weak in both Julius Caesar and Antigone but have differences in how they affect the outcome of the tragedies. If women had a higher standard and were equal to men, the outcomes would be completely different in the plays. Shakespeare and Sophocles permit the audience to see the importance of the roles of gender, and how gender can affect a story.