Antigone versus Creon: Hölderlin, Brecht, and a Game-theoretical Exercise
German-Greek Yearbook of Political Economy, vol. 3 (2020)
23 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2021
Date Written: 2020
We take a fresh look at Sophocles’ Antigone by applying a game theoretic analysis – asking whether Antigone was trapped by Creon or whether Creon was trapped by Antigone. Creon, occupant of the throne of Thebes seeking to consolidate his rule decrees that Polynices, his defeated enemy, must remain unburied and un-mourned and that violators will be punished by death. Antigone, Polynices sister and Creon’s niece, with a strong claim to the throne herself, challenges the decree and administers the burial rituals for her brother. When found out, she commits suicide not knowing that Creon has previously repealed his decree. On the other hand, Creon retracted the harsh punishment before hearing of Antigone’s death. We rely on a number of translations of the play to construct and illustrate the interdependence between the decisions of Creon and Antigone and explore their dominant strategies and possible equilibria of the game. A discussion of Bertolt Brecht’s Antigone demonstrates the timelessness and universality of Sophocles’ Antigone.
Keywords: Antigone, Creon, Sophocles, Friedrich Hölderlin, Bertolt Brecht, Game Theory, Nash Equilibrium, Dominant Strategy
JEL Classification: D03, D63, D74, D91, G70
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation