Prior to the beginning of Sophocles's Antigone, Creon, Antigone's uncle, assumed control of Thebes after the death of Antigone's brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles. Their father, Oedipus, had decreed that they should share the throne after his death, but after agreeing to being king on alternate years, Eteocles refused to give up the throne to Polyneices, and a civil war ensued.
The two brothers killed each other in battle. Creon issued an edict that provided that Eteocles should be given a state funeral and a hero's burial, but the body of Polyneices is to be left in the desert, unburied. Anyone who attempts to bury Polyneices will be condemned to death.
This is the primary source of conflict between Antigone and Creon. Antigone believes that Creon is absolutely wrong to issue such an edict, not only because Polyneices is her brother and the edict violates basic human decency, but also because the edict violates the laws of the gods, which Antigone believes supersede the laws of men.
Underlying these issues is a long-standing personal conflict between Antigone and Creon that becomes increasingly apparent as the play progresses.
Early in the play, Antigone asks her sister, Ismene, to help her bury Polyneices. Antigone mocks Creon and tells Ismene that Creon made the edict out of spite toward both of them.
ANTIGONE. Such is the edict (if report speak true)
Of Creon, our most noble Creon, aimed
At thee and me ...
After Antigone is apprehended putting dirt on Polyneices's body, Ismene is brought before Creon as an accomplice. Creon reluctantly raised the sisters from a young age at Oedipus's request, and Creon expresses his pent-up resentment toward the sisters.
CREON. Woman, who like a viper unperceived
Didst harbor in my house and drain my blood,
Two plagues I nurtured blindly, so it proved,
To sap my throne. ...
Both maids, methinks, are crazed. One suddenly
Has lost her wits, the other was born mad.
Creon realizes too late that his pride and his resentment toward Antigone have caused him to make a serious error in judgment that results in the death of Antigone; his son, Haemon, to whom Antigone was engaged; and Creon's wife, Eurydice, who killed herself after a Messenger told her about Haemon's death.