What are the main themes and issues in Antigone?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What makes Sophocles' Antigone is great work of literature is that it has many universal themes and these themes are pit against each other. Hence, this tragedy complicates important principles. In short, things are messy, like in real life. With this stated let me offer a few of the most prominent themes.

First, there is the theme of filial duty. Antigone feel obligated to bury her brother, Polynices, who was killed in battle. This is complicated, because the leader of the land, Creon, expressly forbids this action. What makes this situation even more complicated is the worldview of the Greeks. They believed that an unburied body would never find rest. So, for Antigone not to bury her brother is not to give him rest.

Another theme is respect for authority. For any Greek city to function well, there must be the rule of law. In this case, the law is Creon's words, which forbids the burial of Polynices.

Another theme is courage. Antigone makes a resolve to bury the body of Polynices. This takes courage. Ismeme, Antigone's sister will not go along with Antigone, because she is afraid.

Finally, we can say that another theme is pride. Creon is being rather harsh. All in the poem say so, even his son. In the end he finally agree to lift his decree, but it is too late. Antigone has taken her life.

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