Which is more important to Sophocles, family or authority? Look at Antigone, Ismene, Creon, and Haimon and at what happens to them and their relationships. Cite specific quotes from the play to support each claim.

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Antigone comes from a seriously dysfunctional family. Antigone's father, Oedipus, former King of Thebes, killed his father, Laius, who was King of Thebes before Oedipus. Oedipus didn't know that Laius was his father when he killed him, but the fact remains that Oedipus killed his own father.

Antigone's mother,...

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Antigone comes from a seriously dysfunctional family. Antigone's father, Oedipus, former King of Thebes, killed his father, Laius, who was King of Thebes before Oedipus. Oedipus didn't know that Laius was his father when he killed him, but the fact remains that Oedipus killed his own father.

Antigone's mother, Jocasta, is also Oedipus's mother. Antigone is therefore her father's sister. Oedipus didn't know that Jocasta was his mother when he married her and had children with her, but the fact remains that Oedipus married his own mother.

When it was discovered in Oedipus Rex that Oedipus had married his own mother, Jocasta, his wife/mother, took her own life. Oedipus then poked out his own eyes when he discovered Jocasta's body and exiled himself from Thebes.

Antigone has a younger sister, Ismene, who is afraid of her own shadow. Antigone also has (had) two brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, who killed each other in a civil war over the throne of Thebes, which is where the story of Antigone begins.

Creon, Antigone's uncle and brother of Jocasta, is now King of Thebes. Compared to Antigone's side of the family, Creon and his family seems almost normal. According to legend, Creon and his wife, Eurydice, had seven children, although only one son, Haemon, appears in Antigone. Haemon is betrothed to Antigone, which, if Antigone's family history is any indication, does not bode well for Haemon.

Antigone loves her family. She complains about them and about the problems of being Oedipus's daughter (and sister), but she loves them nonetheless and says,

Ismene, sister of my blood and heart,
See'st thou how Zeus would in our lives fulfill
The weird of Oedipus, a world of woes!
For what of pain, affliction, outrage, shame,
Is lacking in our fortunes, thine and mine?

Antigone tells Ismene about Creon's edict that Eteocles is to be given a state funeral and a hero's burial since he fought on the side of Thebes, but Polyneices is to be left unburied in the desert. Anyone who defies Creon's edict will be punished by death.

Antigone puts it to Ismene directly:

So stands it with us; now 'tis thine to show
If thou art worthy of thy blood or base.

Antigone is asking Ismene if, in spite of all the hardship that the family has endured, Ismene is worthy of being considered a member of their family and doing what's right by helping Antigone bury Polyneices.

Ismene avoids answering the question and asks Antigone why she intends to bury Polyneices in spite of Creon's edict. Antigone answers,

My brother, and, though thou deny him, thine.
No man shall say that I betrayed a brother.

There it is. This is how Antigone feels about family in general, and her brother in particular.

Ismene keeps pressing the point, hoping that Antigone will change her mind. Antigone replies,

What right has he to keep me from my own?

This discussion is going nowhere. Disgusted with Ismene's cowardice, Antigone leaves her to go bury Polyneices by herself.

Unlike Antigone, Creon believes wholeheartedly in the authority of the state and his own authority as King:

Now that his two sons perished in one day,
Brother by brother murderously slain,
By right of kinship to the Princes dead,
I claim and hold the throne and sovereignty.
Yet 'tis no easy matter to discern
... if one who reigns supreme
Swerve from the highest policy, tongue-tied
By fear of consequence, that man I hold,
And ever held, the basest of the base.
And I contemn the man who sets his friend
Before his country. For myself, I call
To witness Zeus, whose eyes are everywhere,
If I perceive some mischievous design
To sap the State, I will not hold my tongue;
Nor would I reckon as my private friend
A public foe, well knowing that the State
Is the good ship that holds our fortunes all:
Farewell to friendship, if she suffers wreck.
Such is the policy by which I seek
To serve the Commons ...

Creon sets a very high standard for himself, and it remains to be seen whether he can meet that standard.

Creon's son, Haemon, does his best to speak on Antigone's behalf, while at the same time trying not to antagonize Creon. Creon repeatedly falls back on his position in the state, and as the state, to justify his edict and his death sentence against Antigone.

CREON. ... But he who overbears the laws, or thinks
To overrule his rulers, such as one
I never will allow. Whome'er the State
Appoints must be obeyed in everything,
But small and great, just and unjust alike. ...

Is not this maid an arrant law-breaker?

HAEMON. The Theban commons with one voice say, No.

CREON. What, shall the mob dictate my policy?

... Am I to rule for others, or myself?

HAEMON. A State for one man is no State at all.

CREON. The State is his who rules it, so 'tis held.

The Chorus calls Antigone to task for defying Creon's edict and putting her own feelings and beliefs above the state:

Religion has her chains, 'tis true,
Let rite be paid when rites are due.
Yet is it ill to disobey
The powers who hold by might the sway.
Thou hast withstood authority,
A self-willed rebel, thou must die.

Teiresias, the blind seer-prophet, appears to tell Creon that the gods are offended by his actions and hold Creon accountable for the unrest caused by his edict and by his decision to condemn Antigone to death:

O King, thy willful temper ails the State,
For all our shrines and altars are profaned
By what has filled the maw of dogs and crows,
The flesh of Oedipus' unburied son.
Therefore the angry gods abominate
Our litanies and our burnt offerings...

Teiresias prophesizes dire consequences if Creon goes through with Antigone's execution.

Know then for sure, the coursers of the sun
Not many times shall run their race, before
Thou shalt have given the fruit of thine own loins
In quittance of thy murder, life for life;
For that thou hast entombed a living soul,
And sent below a denizen of earth,
And wronged the nether gods by leaving here
A corpse unlaved, unwept, unsepulchered.
Herein thou hast no part, nor e'en the gods
In heaven; and thou usurp'st a power not thine.

The Chorus joins in against Creon.

CHORUS. Son of Menoeceus, list to good advice. ...

Go, free the maiden from her rocky cell;
And for the unburied outlaw build a tomb.

CREON. Is that your counsel? You would have me yield?

CHORUS.Yea, king, this instant. Vengeance of the gods
Is swift to overtake the impenitent.

Creon hurries to the cave where Antigone has been closed up, but he arrives too late. Antigone has already taken her own life. Haemon is there, too, and he first tries to kill Creon, and failing that, he kills himself. When Eurydice hears about Haemon's death, she kills herself as well.

Creon's blind adherence to the rules of the state—his rules—leads to the death of three members of his family, and benefits the state in no way whatsoever.

Is the family more important to Sophocles than the state? Although it appears that Sophocles has constructed the play to clearly champion the family, he also warns of the damage that can be done to the state and to the family by a family member who fails to respect and conform to the laws of the state.

Are the conflicts that arise in Antigone between the family and the state caused by Antigone putting the family before the state, or by Creon putting the state before the family? Is it Creon's edict that results in the deaths of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice, or is it Antigone's defiance of Creon's edict that results in their deaths?

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While both family and authority are important to Sophocles, the importance of honoring family seems a bit more important to him when the fates of Antigone and her family are considered. Creon's realization that he caused the tragedy in the story by defying the gods implies that honoring family is the will of the gods—because the gods were displeased when he chose to honor the laws of the land as the King of Thebes.

Antigone chooses to bury her brother, whom her Uncle Creon, the new King of Thebes, ordered to be left unburied and unsanctified as punishment for warring against his brother. She doesn't deny her crime and accepts her death sentence when it is handed down. In the end, she kills herself before the death sentence is rescinded. Antigone values family over authority, saying:

I urge no more; nay, wert thou willing still,
I would not welcome such a fellowship.
Go thine own way; myself will bury him.
How sweet to die in such employ, to rest,--
Sister and brother linked in love's embrace--
A sinless sinner, banned awhile on earth,
But by the dead commended; and with them
I shall abide for ever. As for thee,
Scorn, if thou wilt, the eternal laws of Heaven.

To Antigone, honoring her family is also honoring the gods.

Ismene refuses to help Antigone bury Polyneices. She says it's not possible to do so, because his corpse is being guarded. When Antigone is caught, Ismene falsely confesses —but Antigone defends her. Nevertheless, Ismene is imprisoned by Creon and later released before Antigone's death. Ismene chooses to obey the law and preaches the same to Antigone, saying:

Shall we not perish wretchedest of all,
If in defiance of the law we cross
A monarch's will?—weak women, think of that,
Not framed by nature to contend with men.
Remember this too that the stronger rules;
We must obey his orders, these or worse.

Ismene survives the play, but many of the people she loves are dead. 

Haemon, Creon's son and Antigone's fiance, appears to support his father but subtly tries to convince him to spare Antigone, claiming the city is on her side. He tries to appeal to Creon, saying that Creon isn't considering true justice and is immature in thought. Haemon insists: "A State for one man is no State at all. As Monarch of the desert thou wouldst shine," telling his father that his thoughts are flawed. They exchange harsh words, and Haemon swears he'll never speak to Creon again as he leaves. After Antigone is found dead, Haemon attempts to kill his father and then kills himself.

Creon orders Antigone to be put to death for burying Polyneices in defiance of his order. Though he spares Ismene, he has Antigone sealed in a cave. When a blind prophet warns him the gods are displeased with his treatment of Polyneices and Antigone, he sends men to free her—only to find that she's dead. He loses his son and wife to suicide and blames himself for what has happened, saying:

Lead me away. I have been rash and foolish.
I have killed my son and my wife.
I look for comfort; my comfort lies here dead.
Whatever my hands have touched has come to nothing.
Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust . . .

In the end, Sophocles respects both family and authority but considers honoring family to be the will of the gods, which must be respected.

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