Sir Francis Bacon once declared, “If money be not thy servant, it will be thy master. The covetous man cannot so properly be said to possess wealth, as that may be said to possess him. ” Sir Francis Bacon’s comment regarding money proves true in all facets of society, whether it be the upper class, or the lower end of society, money is an object that motivates people of all levels to act in ways that may not always be typical. A lot of the time, the actions motivated by money result in detrimental outcomes, for the pursuer of money and every being in its path.
In Sophocles’ Antigone, and Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the protagonists have obsessions and fixations on money throughout the play. Money serves as a key literary element in the two plays alike. Both Sophocles and Ibsen employ money as a motif to elucidate the motivations for actions that have detrimental outcomes for the protagonists. In the dramas of Antigone and A Doll’s House the motif of money is evident throughout the plot of each play. When Nora and Torvald Helmer discuss the issue of what Nora wants Torvald to get her for Christmas, Nora suggest
NORA: “You could give me money, Torvald. . . . Then I could hang the bills in pretty gilt paper on the Christmas tree. Wouldn’t that be fun? ” (Ibsen, Act I) At this point in the play, Nora’s reason for her obsession with money is unknown; therefore we cannot fully assume her motivations for acquiring money. However it is evident to the reader that Nora Helmer’s obsession with money will drive her in the attempt to gain financial progress in any means, including coaxing her husband, Torvald.
Torvald, unaware of Nora’s motivation for the gaining the money, is fooled by his spouses manipulative ways and gives in, not knowing that her fixation on the money will soon lead to a breakdown in there marital establishment. As Nora discusses life with her dearest friend, Ms. Linde, she comments NORA: “Wouldn’t it be lovely to have stacks of money and not a care in the world” (Ibsen, Act II) The underlying naivety of Nora’s comment acts as a foreshadow of what is to come of her feeble thoughts towards money and the accumulation of large sums of it.
It is a understanding in many societies, that wealth does not always bring a person happiness. Nora’s comments further displays the motivation that money provides for her is to gain happiness. Although she is not aware that money will end up causing her to feel broken and miserable. As in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Sophocles’ Antigone displays the motif of money as well intertwined throughout the play. When Creon is addressing the sentry in the first act of the play, he vehemently states CREON: “Money: There’s nothing in the world so demoralizing as money. ”
Although Creon berates the messenger for being paid off, this key event displays Creon’s motivation for action in threatening to punish the sentry for the crime. Creon’s strong belief that the sentry was bribed is what angers him and motivates him to give the sentry a more fervent reason to find the real perpetrator. This action proves detrimental when the real perpetrator is revealed. Further on, into the conversation with the sentry, Creon ceases to place emphasis on his belief of the sentry being bribed, by saying CREON: “But those who committed this crime for hire have set themselves a penalty, which, in time, they’ll pay.
” Despite Creon not being the person who committed the crime, or is not one being accused of being bribed, his statement is relevant in many ways. His lack of faith in the sentry’s word and the fixation upon the bribery will eventually cause him a loss that he will be too late to pay back. Thus his motivation, which is his disgust of financial bribes, causes him to question everything and in turn loose sight of the grand scheme of events. As seen in both plays, money is employed as a motif to reveal the motivations for actions of the protagonists.
Moreover, as both plays progress, the motif of money is further developed and it is much clearer to the reader that the financial motivations, proved to have actions that’s results in detriment. As Nora’s initial fixation upon money is very curious to the reader, it is discovered later why Nora acts the way she does, in another conversation with Ms. Linde Nora remarks, NORA: Whenever Torvald has given me money for new dresses and such things I have never spent more than have of it. Nora’s motivation for acquiring such financial wealth is hinted at in this conversation with Ms. Linde.
The reader is partially opened up to why Nora acts the way she does towards money. She constantly attempts to justify her actions. Despite her reasoning for the way she acts, the underlying financial motivation nullifies the justification. Her encounter with Miss Linde reveals to us how much Nora relied upon money to keep her life going, especially her husbands as well. Though her initial motivation for gaining money was to help out her husband she did not realize the consequences of her actions. The reader is pulled in when finding out the means to which Nora acquired the money she must now payback in a conversation with Krogstad.
As they discuss, Krogstad explains the situation and asks Nora the alternatives she could’ve taken regarding the money and she replied: NORA: no that was impossible. That trip was to save my husbands life [.. ] KROGSTAD: But did it never occur to you that you were committing a fraud on me? (Ibsen, Act I pg 29) The initial motivation for Nora’s obsession with wealth in the beginning scenes is unmistakably clear in another climactic conversation in the play. In this scene, the audience is revealed another characters action which are motivated by a financial basis.
Krogstad approaches Nora regarding her hiccup in the deal made with him regarding Torvald because he wishes to keep his job, thus he keep his financial stability which results in his stable life staying intact. At this point, Nora realizes what she has done and her downfall occurs from then on. Her fixation upon acquiring the money had the consequence of her carelessness in her dealings and she embarks on a 3 day journey of frustration and hardship. Likewise, in Antigone, Creon meets with the blind prophet and in frustration of receiving prophecies he dislikes, Creon remark, CREON: “prophecies? All your tribe wants to make is money.
” Despite his blindness, the prophet reveals his insight which Creon fails to see and grasp. Due to Creon’s rash personality, he arbitrarily assumes the prophet has been paid off to deliver such daunting prophecies to the king, yet Creon denies them, and chooses not to face what could be detrimental to his life. Creon’s obsession with the bribe that he believes the prophet received, fogs his vision and motivates him rather to figure out the prophets reason for the prophecies rather than taking heed in the prophecies already given. Creon’s later pays for his blatant disregard of the prophecies given.
Later in the same conversation after the prophet insists he has not been paid off and wishes to speak his prophecies, Creon replies, CREON: Well, touch it then. But to not speak as you’ve been paid to do. It is elucidated through this comment by Creon that he cannot seem to look based the so called financial bribe that the prophet possibly received. Creon yet again blatantly disregards the prophecies because of his fixation on the bribe that the prophet could have possibly received. His fascination with the bribe doesn’t allow him to realize the prophecies reveal his future and ultimately the future of his family.
Both plays contain the motif of money that displays motivation for actions of protagonists. Sir Francis Bacon’s statement regarding the effect money has upon its holder proves somewhat evident in the literature of Sophocles’ and Ibsen. Both authors utilize money as a motif to reveal the motivations for the protagonist’s actions in both plays which have detrimental outcomes. In both plays alike, different forms of money form as motivations for the way the characters act. In the case of the two plays, A Doll’s House and Antigone, the actions done by the protagonist end in much detriment.