Without law, there is chaos. Sophocles, in his play Antigone, is exploring the fine line between disobeying the law of the land and the idea there are laws that are not just and thus should be...

Without law, there is chaos. Sophocles, in his play Antigone, is exploring the fine line between disobeying the law of the land and the idea there are laws that are not just and thus should be disobeyed. But who should determine this, and how does Creon's hubris play into this tragedy?

1 Answer | Add Yours

tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The word hubris is Ancient Greek for "extreme pride or self-confidence" ("Hubris"). Aristotle uses his book Poetics to define tragedy as a literary genre. In his book, he defines tragedy as befalling a tragic hero due to hubris, "excessive pride," which is a tragic flaw ("Greek Theory of Tragedy: Aristotle's Poetics"). Tragedy can take place in the form of death or even in the form of some tragic downfall.

In Sophocles' tragedy Antigone, Creon exhibits hubris by establishing his own law that Antigone's brother Eteocles will be given proper burial but not their second brother Polynices. Creon decrees that Polynices shall be left as a "sweet find for birds to feast upon" (30). Antigone's father, Oedipus, had left Thebes to be jointly ruled by both brothers, Eteocles and Polynices; however, Polynices was exiled by Eteocles and returned with the Argive army to attack and reclaim Thebes (eNotes, "Antigoney eText--Mythological Background"). Since Eteocles defended Thebes, he was hailed by Creon as a hero, while Polynices was treated as a rogue. However, regardless of either bother's actions, Creon's decree to refuse Polynices proper burial, as Antigone argues, breaks a law of the gods demanding proper burial of the dead so that their souls can find rest.

All in all, Sophocles' play asserts that any law breaking laws already decreed by the gods is unjust and should not be followed. Also, any law that tyrannically opposes the will of the people is unjust and should not be followed. Yet Creon, due to his hubris, feels that any law he decrees as king should be followed and that only he, as king, is correct, and it is due to this hubris that Creon loses all who are dear to him, including his son and wife. We particularly see Sophocles assert the falseness of Creon's tyrannical position in speeches made by Creon's son Haemon.

First, Haemon begs Creon to cease being stubborn and believing that only his opinion is correct: "Don't be so stubborn that you say you and you alone are right" (716-17).

Second, Haemon argues that any law breaking the laws of the gods will not protect the city: "You don't protect it when you trample the honors of the gods!" (756-57).

Hence, according to Sophocles, it is the the gods and the people of the city who should determine what is just and unjust, not simply the king.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,968 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question