ENGL 043 Theme Paper 10-Sep-07 The story of Antigone deals mainly with Antigone’s brother whose body has been left unburied because of his crimes in opposition to the state. Among the many themes present in this play, is one of the relationships between sisters and brothers. Although the main story focuses on the king’s choice to follow through with his political responsibility, the essence of the play lays in Antigone’s actions in displaying loyalty towards her sibling; her dead brother.
Antigone; a tragic heroine in Sophocles play believes in her moral duty to the Gods and her siblings and chooses to stay loyal to her obligation as a good sibling towards her brother over her political liability. The sight of her brother being unburied drives Antigone to take action against the state and bury her brother regardless of the legal consequences she would inevitably face whereas her father chooses to do otherwise.
The king’s choice to follow his political obligation is illustrated by his orders to a herald to forbid any funeral rites or burial to the corpse of Antigone’s second brother- Polynices, when he says “Let him lie unwept, unburied, a toothsome morsel for the birds of heaven, and whoso touches him shall perish by the cruel death of stoning. ” This is in contrast to the actions taken by Antigone.
Her decision to exhibit loyalty towards her brother is justified against in two ways: by her argument through divine law (the law of the Gods) and her defiant speech against the law of man. Antigone was following divine laws, while Kreone followed the laws of the state. Her brother’s afterlife was so important to Antigone that she was willing to give up anything to ensure her brother’s soul would rest in peace. Divine law involves morals and beliefs that are presented by God.
The idea of divine law can be described as being the unwritten laws of the Gods (Sophocles 64). This type of law is most likely in effect when the ideas of morals are apparent, such as when a moral decision or an action must be made. While her sister opposed to help Antigone in her efforts to bury her brother thus defying her duties toward her sibling, using Divine law as her argument, Antigone reacts to her sister when she says “If that is what you think, I should not want you, even if you asked to come. You have made …the aws of the gods mean nothing to you” (80). The other justification Antigone had against her actions is made through her speech against the law of man. Human law is usually set up by the head of a community or by the governors of the land in this case, King Creon. Antigone’ beliefs were firmly set up in divine law despite of her respect for most of the Human Laws set up by the king. It just happened that this particular rule conflicted with her belief about her obligation toward her brother as part of her duty as a sibling.
Antigone presents her side when she proclaims, “Isn’t a man’s right to burial decreed by divine justice? I don’t consider your pronouncements so important that they can just…overrule the unwritten laws of heaven” (84). This quote illustrates Antigone’s favorability towards Divine law over that of human law. Her belief in the Divine Law, leads her to fulfill her duties toward her brother, which by the end of the play leads her to be pardoned for having buried her brother Polyneices and also for going against the law that was set by Creon.
However, Creons’ lack of sympathy towards Antigone’s display of loyalty and love towards her brother, leads him to punishing her for honoring her love and relationship with her brother. In conclusion, it seems that Antigone’s side of this whole conflict was more “right” than wrong as her actions were done to honor her relationship with her sibling, as any loving brother or sister would do, suffering severe consequences in order to protect their kin. BIBLIOGRAPHY ANTIGONE