Why does Antigone feel it is her duty to bury Polynices?

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Antigone 's primary reason for wanting to bury Polynices is that it's in accordance with divine law. Once someone dies, their body isn't supposed to be just left to rot out in the streets; they must be buried according to the appropriate funeral rites. Such rites don't just pay homage...

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Antigone's primary reason for wanting to bury Polynices is that it's in accordance with divine law. Once someone dies, their body isn't supposed to be just left to rot out in the streets; they must be buried according to the appropriate funeral rites. Such rites don't just pay homage to the deceased individual but to the gods themselves, so in defying Creon's order and seeking to bury Polynices, Antigone believes she's acting in accordance with the will of the gods.

Of course, Antigone was very close to her brother and naturally wants to give him a good send-off. But she knows there's a bigger picture here. This isn't just about powerful personalities stubbornly facing off against each other, each one demanding what they believe is rightfully theirs. This epic showdown between Creon and Antigone is between rival conceptions of law: human law, as represented by Creon; and divine law, as represented by Antigone.

In this massive battle of wills, Antigone knows what's at stake, whereas Creon, blinded by hubris, cannot see the bigger picture until it's too late. Unlike Antigone, Creon hasn't realized that, like everything else in Ancient Greek society concerning matters of life and death, it all comes down to the will of the gods. And failure to realize this will bring serious consequences for Creon.

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Antigone’s reasons for insisting on burying Polynices are related to their individual relationship as siblings, her belief in the importance of duty to family, and her conviction that the gods insists that mortuary traditions be upheld. Creon’s order to leave Polynices does not impress her because he is merely a human ruler. To leave a member of her birth family unburied would be completely uncivilized and an affront to the gods. In her mind, defying Creon is in a certain way actually saving him from himself by carrying out the gods’ expectations and not allowing him to bring down their wrath upon him. Although she opposes Creon politically as a tyrant, she sees herself as the instrument of doing divine will. Even the symbolic burial of scattering some soil on the body is a step toward fully complying with that weight responsibility.

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Most obviously, Antigone feels duty-bound to bury Polynices because he is her brother, as the previous answer states. This brings her into immediate conflict with the city's ruler Creon who decrees that the corpse of Polynices should be left to rot outside the city gates because he was a traitor to the city. In fact, he died fighting Antigone's other brother Eteocles who was honoured for defending the city. Antigone has already buried her parents and Eteocles, and now she wishes to do the same for Polynices, despite Creon's edict. She willingly takes on Creon and refuses absolutely to back down.

Antigone at times also intimates that she is so determined to bury Polynices because it is an offence against the gods, against morality, to leave any corpse unburied. 'Death longs for the same rites for all,' she informs Creon. Actually, she does appear much obsessed by death; she invokes the gods and the dead many times. She seems to have more of a connection with the dead than with the living. This no doubt has much to do with the fact that her own family is so doomed - her father Oedipus committed incest with her mother, who committed suicide when finding out the truth, her two brothers killed each other, and so on. She is obsessed by the peculiarly grim fate of her family and seems to be lured down a similar path.

We should also remember that mourning the dead, performing funeral rites, was the province of the women in ancient Greece (and in many other cultures, both in the past and present). Antigone, as a woman, therefore would feel a greater obligation to perform the last rites for her brother, and she is scornful of her sister Ismene for refusing to do the same.

Interestingly, when being led off to her entombment, Antigone observes that she never would have defied Creon to bury a husband or children, only a brother - her reasoning being, apparently, that if her husband or children died, she could get another husband, or bear more children to another man, but, because her parents are both dead, it's impossible for her to get another brother. This admission underlines the feeling that she is so determined to bury Polynices not in the interests of upholding morality in general but because she really cares about her own family alone, and particularly about her own dead.

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There are several reasons why Antigone feels that it is her responsibility to bury Polynices.

First, we need to remember that Polynices is Antigone's brother. So, she feels a strong attachment to him. There is a blood relation that cannot be minimized. So, we can say that there is filial duty. Antigones must be a faithful sister.

Second, according to the Greek world, one of the worst thing that you can do is not bury a person. It was believed that that unburied person would not find rest. This is why it was so important that Priam get his son's body (Hector) back from Achilles. Similarly, to Polynices to rest properly, there needed to be a burial.

In view of these two reasons, Antigone seeks to bury the body of Polynices no matter what. She shows great courage. As for her sister, Ismene, she is cowardly.

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In order to understand Antigone’s motivation for giving her brother a proper burial, one has to understand what has happened before the events of this play. Sophocles wrote about Oedipus, Antigone’s father, in two previous plays—both of which feature Antigone in small roles. Oedipus, of course, is a cursed individual, and that curse is passed on to his progeny. Antigone already knows this from the beginning of the play, but she resolves to do the right thing anyway.

According to Ancient Greek customs, denying someone a proper burial would offend the gods and prevent one’s soul from achieving peace in the afterlife. Antigone, knowing she is cursed anyway and feeling a little guilty about not making it to Thebes in time to intervene before both of her brothers are killed, feels responsible for Polyneices’s post-mortem fate.

She also doesn’t care much for Creon and his self-righteous attitude, and I think a part of her just wants to show him that she can do what she wants. Antigone is loyal to her family and the gods above all, which is why she is determined to give Polyneices a proper burial. Antigone knows that if she doesn’t step up to do it, no one will.

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