In "Antigone", why is Creon intent on harshly punishing all those who break the law?
Creon has just faced a civil war in which his own nephew, Polynices, fought against Thebes. He feels betrayed by Polynices' actions and wants to set an example lest anyone else try to disobey the state. He is trying to cement his own power before anyone else tries to challenge it. Thus, he is willing to put the state before the laws of the Gods, the long traditions of the prophets not to mention the needs of his own family. This disrespect for custom and tradition, and his arrogance in presuming that he is "absolutely right" eventually leads to his fall from power.Most scholars agree that Sophocles wrote Antigone as a warning against absolute rule and authoritarianism. Greece had just become a democracy after a long period of dictatorial rule, and this play, as well as others of its time, was meant to caution all of Athens against allowing that type of government to regain power.
Creon must stop any and all rebellions if he is to remain king. He's stubborn and feels anyone who breaks the written laws must be dealt with harshly. His advisors try to convince Creon to be more flexible and compromise, but he will not listen to them. His word is law, and his rule is absolute. When Antigone defies Creon's order not to bury Polyneices, Creon wants to punish Antigone by having her buried alive, angering the gods for his harsh punishment. He refuses to listen to his son, who loves Antigone, and he ends up losing both of them to suicide. Even his wife kills herself, and Creon becomes a broken man for his stubborn rigidity.