What reasons does Antigone give when asked why she broke the law?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The language Antigone uses when she tells Creon “that he is acting outside of God's law and against tradition and she feels justified, therefore, in defying his rule” (see the other response to this question) adds nuance to this interpretation.  She calls Creon not only a “mortal” but a “mere mortal,” emphasizing his lack of stature in this moment when he claims complete authority.  Furthermore, she contrasts his “edict,” a man-made law, with “Justice” (capitalized), which comes from the gods and that, as part of “traditions” that “live forever,” is eternal.  The context of Creon’s edict tells us more. One critic characterizes it as “an intolerable act of violence …[because] in ancient Greece, funeral rites provided women with a rare opportunity to participate in civic life.”  As a result, in  burying her brother's body, Antigone challenges Creon “on grounds of moral principle, citing the will of the gods, who dictate that the dead must be buried, regardless of sins accumulated during life.”  This critic also points out that Antigone’s defiance“ is an inconceivable political act - a solitary woman violates the king's decree, both for the love of her brother and to claim her proper social role.”

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Antigone tells Creon that he is acting outside of God's law and against tradition and she feels justified, therfore, in defying his rule.

Creon demands, "You, tell me briefly, no long speeches -- / were you aware of a decree had forbidden this?" (Burying her brother, Polynices."

Antigone admits that she was, and Creon replies, "And still you had the gall to break the law?"

Antigone does not backdown. She defiantly challenges Creon:

"Of course I did. It wasn't Zeus -- not in the least, / who made this proclamation. / Not tome. Nor did that Justice, dwelling with the god / beneath the earth, ordain such laws for men. / Nor did I think your edict had such force / that you, a mere mortal, could override the gods, / the great, unwritten, unshakable tradtions./ They are alive, not just today or yesterday: / they live forever, from the first of time / and no one knows when they first saw the light." (Lines 495-507)