Stephen Schwartz’s song, Defying Gravity, contains a very bold statement. “I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game and accepting limits because someone says they’re right.” This is something that many women have the audacity to think but never to speak aloud. However, there are two women who, even though they’re only in the play, did have the courage to say. In the plays Antigone, by Sophocles, and A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, these two brave young women, though very distant in time periods, discover they do not like the limitations society places on women. In the play by Sophocles, a 5th century woman of nobility, Antigone, defies the laws of the government while trying to abide by the laws of the gods when she attempts to give her brother a proper burial. In Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, set in 19th century Norway, Nora, a woman of middle class, deceives her husband in order to save his life, but then realizes he is not the man she though he was either. Both Ibsen and Sophocles portray the timeless theme of a woman finding her identity by overcoming the many barriers and restrictions patriarchal society places on them through the following areas and characteristics: expectation of being submissive to men, assumption of being incompetent, and desperation to remain acceptable by society after the demise.
Sophocles and Ibsen depict Antigone and Nora as inferior as well as subservient to their male counterparts. One such example is evident in the beginning of A Doll’s House when Torvald asks his wife Nora if she had been eating macaroons. Nora gives him a very womanly answer. “I shouldn’t think of doing what you disapprove of” (Ibsen 145). This is a response men would expect a woman to give. This quote shows…
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…nce they realize theirs is in jeopardy, do absolutely everything in their power to reverse the ruin.
Sophocles and Henrik Ibsen both do an outstanding job of portraying the theme of a woman finding her own identity. They do so through society’s expectation of a woman being submissive and inferior to a man, society’s assumption of a woman being incompetent, and a woman’s desperateness to remain suitable for society and maintain her good name. These two plays will remain relative to modern times for many years to come.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. World Literature: An Anthology of Great Short
Stories, Poetry, and Drama. Columbus, Ohio: McGraw Hill Glencoe, 2004.
Sophocles. Antigone. World Literature: A Anthology of Great Short Stories,
Poetry, and Drama. Columbus, Ohio: McGraw Hill Glencoe, 2004. 14-57. Print.