Is Creon justified in his denial of burial to Polyneices and condemning Antigone to death for violating his decree?

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In the Greek tragedy Antigone by Sophocles, Creon finds himself in a difficult predicament. When Oedipus the king died, his sons Eteocles and Polyneices were to share the throne with Creon as their overseer. When Eteoclese refused to follow the decree, Polyneices raised an army and attacked Thebes. The brothers killed each other in battle. Eteocleas died while defending the throne, and Polyneices died trying to overthrow the kingdom. Creon then ascended the throne as king.

As their uncle, Creon would have felt the tragedy and the desire to bury both nephews as custom demanded. However, his greater duty was then to the kingdom, and as King, he could not allow both men the honor and respect of proper burial. Therefore he was justified in the decree he made regarding Polyneices's burial. 

When Creon learned of Antigone's defiance, he did not immediately sentence her to death as would have been his right. Perhaps it was the familial ties as her uncle and her future father-in-law, he was probably more lenient than he would have been with anyone else. He questioned her as to the veracity of the claim against her; her questioned her as to her knowledge of the decree; he questioned her about her motivation. At any point, had Antigone, displayed any emotion other than open scorn and defiance, the outcome might have been different. As it was, to maintain respect and control as king, Creon had no other choice, and thus was justified.

Enotes has some great resources at the following link.


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