Antigone is a symbolic name assigned to a rebellious sister who plots against all in order to see her brother buried. The play is set in Thebes, where two heirs, Eteocles and Polynices, contend for Oedipus’ kinship throne. Eteocles starts the war by sitting on the throne against Oedipus’ orders. Both of them are killed on the battlefields. Creon takes over the throne and accepts Eteocles’ funeral, but punishes Polynices by leaving his corpse in the past. Creon’s words incite Antigone’s resistance, and she disobeys Creon by burying her and hanging herself. Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s admirer also disagree with his father, flee away and die. Similarly, Eurydice too with the grief of losing a child she blames her husband for inhuman orders and dies. Tiresias reveals to Creon that he has disobeyed Gods and therefore, he must face the consequences. The play ends by a Chorus to recreate Thebes from misfortunes. In this paper, I will analyze the themes portrayed by Antigone.
Supremacy between Human and Divine Laws
The play starts up by illustrating two siblings are arguing about which laws should be obeyed first. Antigone asks Ismene to join her in laying their brother’s body to rest, but Ismene is reluctant due Creon’s edicts. Antigone despises the rulings claiming that no human has control over life (line 67). She is spiritually obliged to bury her brother. She should, in fact, please the dead far much than the living (line 73-77). Despite, being the leader of civil law in Thebes’s city, he is torn between religious and civil laws. Indeed, the two laws are in conflict, but gods’ laws overrule human.
Power and Wisdom
The play Antigone shows the imbalance between power and wisdom in ruling. Like Shakespeare, Sophocles introduces politics in the play to attract the audiences. Creon’s actions and judgments of punishing Antigone for forceful burial of his brother brings questions on how well a leader should use power. From the play we can see that Creon is obsessed with power that he seldom accepts advices from elders and Tiresia the prophet. Creon forcefully tries to manipulate the elders using Chorus to enforce the law allowing for live burial of Antigone which they declined claiming it is against the natural laws.
Moral Inflexibility vs. Civil Disobedience
Antigone displays strict obedience to natural laws citing that the respect for Gods is better than respect for human civil laws. She seems inflexible by disagreeing with the King’s decision to live Polynices unburied. Similarly, she shows disobedience to kingship by defying his burial rules on the city. Antigone is motivated to maintain the morality of the city; she does not wish the gods to punish the residents. Therefore, she sacrifices her life for the city to maintain its moral status.
In summary, the play illustrates the antagonism between civil and religious laws in the city of Thebes in the 147 BCE. The character expedites the different views on understand and following the rules. Antigone acts as the fighter for natural laws. She seeks justice despite denial by sister and king after the death of Oedipus and Polynieces. She promotes the themes of morality, wisdom, and disobedience. Creon, on the other hand, shows dictatorship and massive use of power in ruling rather than wisdom.
Benardete, Seth. “Sacred Transgressions: A Reading of Sophocles’ Antigone.” (2014).
Honig, Bonnie. Antigone, interrupted. Cambridge University Press, 2013.