Antigone vs Kreon
Antigone vs. Kreon- “Nomos” vs. “Written Laws” Antigone is a play written in 442 B. C. (hypothetical) by the noted Greek playwright Sophocles. In the play Sophocles deals with issues such as the relationship between males and females and the state as well as the position of women in society. He uses Antigone to represent obligation to family and the gods while Kreon represents obligation of the “written laws” of the state. I think that if the context of the play is taken into consideration then Antigone’s actions were justified as she was only fulfilling her duty while Kreon was just trying to assert his dominance early in his rule.
The city Thebes has just recovered from a civil war during which two brothers Eteokles and Polyneces fought against each other to see who would become king and rule the city. After they were killed Kreon became king and he declared that Eteokles would be given a proper burial but Polyneces would not be honoured as he was considered to be a traitor. It was this action that prompted Antigone to confront her sister in the opening lines of the play. On being ignored by Ismene she says, “Yes, bury my own brother-and yours too-if you’re not willing.
I will not be caught in treachery” (Sophocles, Antigone, p. 21). Through this we can see that according to Antigone treachery would not mean betraying Kreon but betraying her brother Polyneces. It seems as if she has a stronger connection to the natural laws that govern the people rather than Kreon’s laws that govern the state. A woman’s role in Ancient Greece was to serve her family and the gods. She is arguably right in burying her brother as she was only fulfilling her duties as a sister.
When Antigone is confronted by Kreon she says that, “[she didn’t think that his] proclamations had such strength that, mortal as [he was he] could outrun those laws that are gods’, unwritten and unshakable” (Sophocles, Antigone, p. 38). Here once again we can see Antigone’s resistance to accept the “written laws” over “nomos” or unwritten laws. She is steadfast in her resolve to oppose Kreon and in the end it brings about her death and downfall. That fact that Antigone breaks those natural laws that are defined for each gender actually weakens her position on the burial of her brother.
Firstly insults her to be father in law Kreon by opposing him and on top of that she calls him a “fool” (Sophocles, Antigone, p. 39). When burying her brother she says that she is only obeying natural laws but then she herself breaks the natural laws by not understanding the position of and respecting men. She is placed in a precarious position where the same actions earn her the respect of her family and the gods while oppose her to the state. Kreon on the other hand on the other hand personalizes power when he looks at his state as a ship.
He believes that as a leader he cannot show any weakness and has to uphold the laws that were written down by earlier generations. He says that, “I recognise that this ship keeps us safe, and only when we sail upright can we make friends for ourselves” (Sophocles, Antigone, p. 28). In following these lines he declares that he would not honour Polyneces with a proper burial as he had betrayed the city and the state. If Kreon did in fact give both brothers a decent burial he could have been under pressure from his subjects considering that one of them was a traitor to the state.
On the other hand by honouring only one brother and deciding to prosecute Antigone he lost the respect of his son. It can be said that in order to assert his authority Kreon took the laws of the state too seriously and in doing so he ignored the natural laws that determined human behaviour. Kreon’s mistake in this situation was not considering the opinion of Teiresias when he suggested that Kreon forgives Antigone for her actions. He believes that by forgiving Antigone he would be showing weakness and would lose the respect of the people.
After his confrontation with Teiresias Kreon exclaims that, “To yield is awful; but by standing firm, to strike ruin within my proud heart-why, that is awful too” (Sophocles, Antigone, p. 65). Through this we can see that by the end the only thing that was keeping Kreon from forgiving Antigone was his pride. By the time Kreon realises his mistake it is already too late and Antigone has already committed suicide. Soon after his son Haimon and wife Eurydike also commit suicide and Kreon has to spend the rest of his life regretting his actions.
Through death Antigone managed to teach Kreon that his rule should be more open to advice from the citizen body as they tend to be right on most occasions. It can be said that under the circumstances Antigone only acted under what she thought to be the governing laws of society and her only mistake was to insult Kreon. Kreon on the other hand took his laws too seriously in order to try and assert his dominance and in the process ignored the council of the citizens and forgot the natural laws that governed society. Works Cited Sophocles, Antigone, trans. Ruby Blondell (Newburyport: 1998)