In the play by Sophocles, Antigone takes a moral stand that shows she values her commitment to family, kingdom, and the gods above obedience to a ruler. She embodies the responsibilities of the individual to these larger social ideals. Antigone is not a queen nor a military officer; she commands no subjects or troops. Antigone leads by example.
King Creon’s order that Antigone’s brother Polynices’s body be left unburied precipitates the play’s action. Antigone had already decided that she needed to step up and get his body properly buried with all the appropriate rituals. There are unresolved issues of rulership in that Creon assumed the throne because her two brothers were engaged in a civil war. Although she is the daughter of the former king, Oedipus, because of the organization of Theban society, Antigone, a woman, could not ascend the throne.
In Greek society, legitimacy of inheritance was an important factor and royalty was divinely ordained. Antigone’s duty was not only to her family but to what it represented, the legitimate royal rulers of Thebes. By choosing to bury her brother, Antigone was demonstrating her continued loyalty to the legitimate social system, and implying her lack of support for her uncle’s claim. In this regard, although she defied his order, she helped sustain society and called attention to the threat he could present. Within her vision of the larger common good, her act was not of rebellion but of loyalty to what she, and other Thebans, believed. In this she led her people to make proper decisions as well.