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Sophocles’s Antigone

Sophocles’s Antigone is a story of the struggle between power and cultural values. Creon, the King of Thebes, is interested in the laws of the state, whereas Antigone is interested in moral order and doing what is right. The differences between right and wrong between these two central characters are the cornerstone of the play. The beliefs and actions of both Antigone and Creon lead to their respective fates. The play starts with Antigone and her sister losing their two brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, in a battle for control over Thebes.

Creon had become king and ordered that Polyneices not be given a proper burial because he brought a foreign army into Thebes. Creon then determines that he will execute anyone who tries to give Polyneices a proper burial. Despite this, Antigone is determined to honor her brother and buries him. Antigone is caught, however, and confesses to Creon. Creon condemns her to death by burying her alive in a tomb. When Tiresias, the blind prophet, arrives and tells Creon that Thebes will be cursed if he does not release Antigone, Creon is so fearful that he decides to release Antigone. However, it was too late.

They found Antigone hanging from a noose. Haemon, Antigone’s betrothed and Creon’s son, is so distraught that he kills himself and Eurydice, Creon’s wife, is so upset over her son’s death that she too kills herself. Creon grief and anger at his stubbornness and machismo is so great that he kneels and prays that he will also die. Antigone reflects the cultural values of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that honor and standing up for what is right was more important than the laws of the state (International World History Project). Antigone’s moral obligations force her to break the law, and ultimately leads to her death.

Antigone wanted to bury her brother despite the law because she held family honor and obligation higher than any law a king could create. For Antigone, family obligation came first. For Creon, the law came before family obligation. From the very beginning, there is a genuine conflict of values. Creon believed that, because he was king, his laws came before traditional and cultural values. When Creon became king, he believed that Polyneices was a traitor, murdering his brother in order to win the battle for control over Thebes (Sophocles 230-240). Because of this, Polyneices, in Creon’s eyes, did not deserve to be buried properly.

However, Antigone realized that cultural values, such as burying the dead, are more important than laws. Despite the risk of death, she made the decision to honor her brother. There are similarities between Antigone and Creon. Both characters are considerably strong willed. Both see their way as being the right way and are hesitant to deviate from that path. For example, Antigone feels that following cultural values is more important than obeying the law and Creon feels that obeying the law overrides adhering to cultural values (Sophocles 550-575).

Antigone is determined to obey the law of god while Creon only wants to obey the laws he created. What they were determined to do was different, but both characters were determined to do what they wanted to, despite possible punishments. Antigone risked death to give Polyneices honor while Creon risked losing his kingdom to enforce his extreme laws. In Antigone’s eyes, once death occurred, all that happened during life was forgiven, therefore, her brother deserved a proper burial. Creon did not see the situation this way. A traitor was a traitor, no matter if the accused individual was alive or dead.

Antigone did not put herself first, despite what might happen to her. To her, family was more important than the law. She did what was honorable even though it led to her death. She showed the bravery that Creon lacked. Creon was a selfish man and only wanted what is best for himself. He did not take into consideration the suffering and the pain that he caused his loved ones until it was too late. Creon’s position as king motivated him to deny Polyneices a proper burial. Being a king is the most powerful position in government, and Creon felt that his actions had to reflect the power he had.

He did not want an accused traitor to receive the benefits of decent citizens. If Creon were to allow this to happen, Creon would have possibly lost his kingdom. Antigone’s position in the family motivated her to give Polyneices a proper burial despite the repercussions. Antigone decided to adhere to a higher law, the law of her god. She believed that her brother should have been given a proper burial because her beliefs in a higher authority dictated this decision, despite the fact that Polyneices was an accused traitor.

In the end, both Antigone and Creon paid the price for their decisions and actions. In Antigone’s case, she paid for her actions with her life. For Creon, losing his son and wife was punishment enough (Sophocles 1525-1529). Antigone was not afraid to stand up for what she believed in, for what was ultimately right. Creon believed that denying Polyneices a proper burial would assert his authority over society. Creon had no regard for tradition or what was, morally, the right thing to do. He only wanted to enforce the laws he created.

Antigone was a play that dealt with moral and political issues. Even in today’s society, individuals still struggle with values and power. Despite the consequences, it is evident that one should never compromise their integrity or beliefs because if they do, they might end up suffering a fate worse than death. – Guisepi, Robert. “A History of Ancient Greece: Greece and the Hellenistic World. ” International World History Project. 1998. 8 June 2009. http://history-world. org/Greece%20Creativity. htm – Sophocles. Antigone. Tr. Richard Emil Braun. The Greek Tragedy in New Translations. Ed.

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