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In Sophocles' famous drama Antigone, Creon issued the decree forbidding the burial of...

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yaga49 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted October 1, 2013 at 3:25 AM via web

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In Sophocles' famous drama Antigone, Creon issued the decree forbidding the burial of Polynices. Antigone rejects Creon's decree. Whose argument do you find more convincing and why?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 1, 2013 at 4:58 AM (Answer #1)

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Antigone by Sophocles is set in ancient Greece, a place known as the birthplace of democracy but a place which also reveres the gods. It is a fitting setting for this play, as the primary conflict of the play is between natural law and man's law.

Antigone argues for natural law, what she calls "the laws of the gods." She believes she must disobey the law of man if it comes into direct conflict with this higher law. For Antigone, this means that she must disobey Creon's edict and go bury her brother. She knows the consequences but feels as if her brother's eternal destiny is more important than any man-made law.

Creon, of course, argues the opposite: that the law of the land supersedes any other form of law. There is a consistency to his position, as no one will get to pick and choose the laws he (or she) will or will not obey; however, there is also a stubbornness to it which suggests that Creon simply does not want his will to be crossed.

In a perfect world, where man's law is not based on personal animosity or feelings (which seems to be at least partially the case with Polyneices), perhaps man's law could be trusted to value the right things and allow for the basic humanity of all. As it stands, however, it seems to me that natural law must be followed when man's law is wrong, weak, or warped. 

When Creon and Antigone actually face off on this issue, Antigone boldly says the following:

         Zeus did not announce those laws to me.                       And Justice living with the gods below
          sent no such laws for men. I did not think                     anything which you proclaimed strong enough
          to let a mortal override the gods
          and their unwritten and unchanging laws.
          They’re not just for today or yesterday,
          but exist forever, and no one knows
          where they first appeared. So I did not mean
          to let a fear of any human will
          lead to my punishment among the gods.
          I know all too well I’m going to die—                               how could I not?—it makes no difference                       what you decree.

Antigone's position seems stronger to me. Though she is every bit as stubborn and unyielding as Creon (they are related, after all), her motive is love for her brother and concern for his afterlife. Creon, on the other hand, just wants his word, capricious or not, to be law; that is excessive, unbending, unyielding pride. Could Antigone have gone about things differently? Of course. However, she would never have made a dent in her uncle-king's pride. I admire the fact that Antigone does not whine about the price she might have to pay; she simply knows what must be done and she does it, knowing what her actions will cost her. 

Obviously which argument is best is a personal opinion, and I would encourage you to formulate your own, based on the reading and your personal ethic. Sophocles obviously did not choose sides, as both Creon and Antigone suffer great loss for holding their positions: Antigone is dead and Creon loses everything and wishes her were dead.

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