Power Conflicts in Antigone
In Sophocles’ tragedy “Antigone,” a power struggle erupts between Creon the King of Thebes, and Antigone, princess and daughter of Oedipus,carter after Creon publicly announces that Polyneices (Antigone’s brother), will not be granted a right to burial after being slain in battle. The enraged Antigone defies Creon’s decree and sets out to bury her brother anyways. Which leads to Creon feeling as if he is being challenged, and he must defend his honor and status as a ruler, and punish her. Although Creon believes that he has the most power in this struggle, he is wrongfully mistaken, for Antigone’s position in this struggle is backed up by the laws of the Gods and moral rights.
Antigone plays the role of an ancient Greece feminist in the tragedy. Throughout time, the decisions of peace, war and politics were made by men. Although in some cultures, such as Native American culture, women had a say in many decisions concerning these topics. However, to point out, women did not have much of a role in Greek society, their roles consisted of that in their homes, and were considered to be equal to that of second class slaves. Due to this gender diversity in the decision making process, much more fruitful and knowledgeable decisions could be made, to ensure the most benevolent result. Furthermore, the mindset, thought process and beliefs of women differ greatly from that of men, such as that of Antigone. Despite that many people knew that Creon’s order was immoral, they did not speak out, for they feared the punishment.For instance, Antigone immediately realizes that what Creon is doing is morally wrong, and without delay she buries her brother.
Furthermore, in Greco beliefs, God’s law permits all to possess burial rights, Creon is defying this by withholding Polyneices’ burial from him for he believes that the God’s agree with him that Polyneices is a wicked individual, to which Antigone debates “Which of us can say what the gods hold wicked?” (Antigone 211) Ultimately, this question which Antigone cleverly hurled towards Creon would be his downfall, for in reality, he does not possess the knowledge of the Gods, for he is just mortal, a mortal with a common yet deadly flaw, “stubborn pride.” (Antigone 235)
This struggle is significant for it portrays how history repeats itself, and what humans consider to be moral and immoral. Although there is no general consensus of a religion or belief system on a global level, there exists morality and immorality. Humans possess the ability to naturally decipher between the two. Although it is a matter of how an individual was raised to be able to reach an unbiased and influenced opinion of the two. We see this today in many controversial topics, such as abortion. Many people believe that it is a moral wrong to medically kill an unborn child, however, many others believe that it is not a question of morality, but the liberty of one’s own decision. In Antigone, and in most conflicts, we see the same two sided beliefs. Creon believes that Polyneices, being the “traitor” that he was, is a wicked individual who does not deserve the right to a burial, to him, it is not a question of morality, but that of a radical belief that he knows what the gods believe. Antigone believes that denying his right to burial is a moral wrong, for Polyneices, despite the fact that he was an undesirable being and traitor to Thebes, is still human, and he deserves what every human should have, a final right upon departing Earth, a right to have his body safely and humanely stored and undeniably accepting God’s decision upon him, not a decision of man.
When looking back on the tragedy of Antigone, we see that the same problems of gender equality that is carried throughout history. Today we still see this, such as in parts of the world where women are not allowed to receive an education. In addition to this being discriminative, it ties back with the whole concept of what is moral and immoral. Antigone portrays the constant struggle of not only females, but people of varying ethnic groups, religions and beliefs. Despite the fact that Antigone is a princess and Haimon’s fiancA©, in the eyes of Creon she is a woman nonetheless.
Due to this, Creon is much more opposing of Antigone, and he does not listen to her reason, for he does not wish to appear as an unfit and weak ruler. Although he believes that he would be seen this way, the result would have been opposite had he heeded Antigone and Haemon reasoning, for when “trees bend… even their twigs are safe” and Creon, being the stubborn tree that he is, will be “torn up, roots and all.” (Antigone 219) In fact, Haimon’s reasoning to his father would be a grim foresight, for Creon would lose his wife and son, then live his life in pain, sorrow and guilt.
For this reason, it was Antigone who had the upper hand in this power struggle. Despite the fact that she ended up dying, she died for a moral cause, a cause which she deeply believed in. Furthermore, the gods punished Creon for his wrongdoings by taking away from him the ones he loved. Antigone had nothing to lose, she was brave in the face of death to stand up for what she believed in, and in the long run, everything worked out for her, she was with her family again in the heavens, and Creon’s “punishment equal[ed][her] own.” (Antigone 228) It is for this reason that Antigone inspires the idea that women can be as heroic and bold as men.
In conclusion, this power struggle between Creon and Antigone brought out many conflicts and problems in the world that repeat throughout history. There is the constant debate of what is moral and immoral, the problem of discrimination among various groups of people, and not to mention the internal problems which humans face, such as pride and stubbornness. From this tragedy, we can learn that it is not up to the decision of mortals to decide what an omniscient benevolent beings) would see fit, no human being should have that much power. Creon fell under the impression that he was above the law of the gods, and this was his tragic flaw along with his stubbornness and selfishness. Furthermore his beliefs and actions enraged the gods, which is why he suffered such great tragedies. In addition to his gigantic ego Creon’s decision is seen as morally wrong not only by Antigone, but by most of the people, however, unlike Antigone, they fear to challenge Creon in fear of the punishment that would ensue. It is for these reasons that Creon is an unfit leader from the start, he lacked flexibility and understanding, in the end, he repealed his decree only because Teiresias warned him of the misfortune which would engulf him in and family. Consequently, his selfishness and fear would have the gods show him no pity, for “The laws of the gods are mighty, and a man must follow them” (Antigone 236).