Antigone: When Pride Leads to Ruins
Kelley Booth Humanities: Classical Greek & Rome Critical Paper #1 09 October 2011 When Pride Leads to Ruins Antigone, a play about corruption, political context, and bravery, shows how the different perspectives on values and conflict between the characters can lead to destruction and death. Antigone is a great tragedy between family members that illustrates the characters true purposes and personas on what they believe is right and wrong in their society. It explains how Antigone and Creon battle a theoretical war dealing with the controversy of the Greek ideals and values.
The classic tragedy allows readers to see the values and conflicts in the play about social, political, and religious matter. In that day and time, ancient Greeks believed that women were nothing but objects, and they were only to be seen and not to be heard. Antigone reveals that is not always the case and that women have a right to say and stand up for what they believe in. Antigone was written by Sophocles, who demonstrates different views of political and religious principles of Antigone and Creon, along with conflict of blood relationships and honor in the fight for what is right.
Antigone reveals bravery in a political, social and religious sense with the support of the characters values and beliefs. Antigone, the main character, is faced with a major decision in following her religious beliefs, or the law of her uncle, Creon (temporarily the king of Thebes). Creon’s law is put in place when he prohibits the burial of Polyneices, Antigones brother of flesh and blood, and if anyone attempts to bury him, the sentence for disobeying the king will be death.
Antigone sees how wrong Creon is and “appeals not only to the bond of kindred blood but also to the unwritten law, sanctioned by the gods, that the dead must be given proper burial- a religious principle” (Fagles 40). On the other hand, Creon believes that the gods and religion are on his side because he “finds it unthinkable that these gods should demand the burial of a traitor to the city who came with a foreign army at his back” (Fagles 40). The opening of Antigone shows the real essence of what they play is about because it shows the conflicting laims of Antigone, whose character is based on religious principles; and Creon, who is based off of political principles. Creon’s political decision of making Polyneices burial forbidden was not only his pride due his title of king, but the “denial of burial in their homeland to traitors, real or supposed, was not unknown in Greece” (Fagles 40). His political ruling of Antigones brother was ultimately a rightful law that has been done before in the time of the ancient Greeks because the kingdom of Thebes was ran by many sets of rules and laws.
In Antigones mind the right thing to do is to organize a proper burial for her brother, but in the eyes of the law that is not allowed. Antigone, the religious portion in the play, chooses a “heavenly approach, as opposed to the mundane road that Creon chose to follow” because she “feels that Creon is disregarding the laws of heaven through his edict” (Studyworld). By her choosing this heavenly approach, her main beliefs are entirely different from Creon’s because she had different views of political principles and she supports the gods and laws of heaven.
Antigone was a very loyal, dedicated, and trustworthy woman towards her family, but “a private code of conduct; in the context of the fifth-century Athens challenges the authority of the city-state and defense of a blood relationship had strong political overtones” (Fagles 39). Her political aspect of the situation is emphasized greatly when she shows her loyalty compared to Creon: “whoever places a friend/ above the good of his own country, he is nothing.
And when he realizes later that this is in fact the issue between him and his niece, he reconfirms her death sentence…” (Fagles 39-40). The conflict that is at stake is Antigones devotion to her family, and Creon’s opposing argument that state should come first. Antigone never stopped believing that Creon was wrong about the unlawful act of her very own brother’s burial. Her strong beliefs of having a religious ceremony for her brother were strong, so she went behind Creon’s back and had a rightful burial for her brother, Polyneices, without the help of her unreliable sister Ismene.
Surprisingly when Antigone asks her sister to help her in disobeying Creon, Ismene did not want to participate in anything that will defy her city because she had no strength for that (Fagles 63). Outraged, Antigone found bravery on a new level because she would die for her own flesh and blood. She states, “I will bury him myself…if I die in the act, that death will be a glory. I will lie with the one I love and loved by him-“(Fagles 63).
Furthermore, she did not want to hide from her defying King Creon, her uncle, like Ismene did; she wanted everyone to know that Creon was doing wrong in the society, and if showing her honest beliefs might get her killed, so be it. His cruelty as King sets in when he ultimately led Antigone to her death. Although Antigone went through much turmoil, she never stopped believing and defending what she thought was right. She defended her beliefs along with humiliating and manipulating Creon when he condemned her to death by implying, “Give me glory!
What great glory could I win/ than to give my own brother a decent burial? / they would praise me too if their lips weren’t locked in fear” (Fagles 84). She emphasized true accusations to Creon to call “his opinions and decisions weak and unjust” and “also emphasizes…that Creon’s decision to capture Antigone was his own, and was not backed up by the majority of the people” because they were too scared to speak up (Studyworld). Ultimately, Creon was abusing his powers and legitimacy as King of Thebes by doing what was right for him, and not using his power for good.
In Sophocles plays, “he explores time and again the destinies of human beings who refuse to recognize the limits imposed on the individual while men and gods, go to death or triumph, magnificently defiant to the last” (Fagles 51). This explains Creon’s selfishness and his pride into ruling a city on his own terms, no matter the limits; and how Antigone goes to such lengths in showing her loyalty and religious beliefs toward her brother, Polyneices. Also, Sophocles demonstrates pride through Creon by describing “the type of pride that allows men to create laws that substitute for divine principles” (Antigone Themes).
With this kind of pride that Creon withholds in himself, it ends in “a disastrous failure, both as head of a family and head of state, an offender against heaven and a man without family or friends, without the respect of his fellow-citizens” (Fagles 52). There is also a sense that Sophocles input his feelings and emotions in the words of the Chorus Leader. Throughout the play, the chorus leader tries to emphasize to Creon the right direction, especially when Creon finally agrees with Chorus Leader to free Antigone from the rocky vault by convincing him using his better judgment (Fagles 116-117).
The ancient Greek civilization was based off of rules, law, and order; and not off of religious persuasions. The Greek civilization would agree with Creon and his illicit laws, and consider them by explaining, “in times of crisis, the supreme loyalty of the citizen is to the state and it’s duly constituted authorities” (Fagles 38). This could explain why Sophocles wanted to show the Greek civilization that it is okay to stand up for what you believe in, like Antigone did. Not only standing up for what you believe in, but also showing your honesty towards your family and friends by helping them out in the time of need.
Despite Antigone and Creon having both to deal with conflict, the play subsides with the sense of making choices even if others do not agree. The strong tragedy states a separation between traditional religion and politics between Antigone and Creon because it ultimately shared a link to how Greek civilization perceived their society. I believe that the sagacity of a person of the Greek civilization has a sense of judgment on them if they stand up for what they believe in because they are following the rule of man’s law, not their hearts.
In addition, I believe that Sophocles is stating through this play that no man is superior, wiser, or more authoritative than the Gods because the people of the Greek civilization only depended and worshipped the Gods. In this case, Antigone defying Creon, the law, was acceptable because the God’s law comes before all else. Overall, Sophocles gave a means of respecting ones authority, but also having the right of individual freedom to reject society’s infringement. Works Cited “Antigone by Sophocles. Studyworldworld: Studyworld Guides, Research Papers, Book Reports, Essays. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. <http://www. Studyworldworld. com/basementpapers/papers/stack35_6. html>. “Antigone Themes | Antigone ThemesSaver. ” Studyworld Guides & Essay Editing | Antigone ThemesSaver. Web. 13 Oct. 2011. <http://www. Antigone Themessaver. com/antigone/Studyworld-guide/major-themes/>. Sophocles, Robert Fagles, Bernard MacGregor Walker. Knox, and Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. New York, NY: Penguin, 1987. Print.