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Antigone Essay

1757 words - 7 pages

The opening events of the play Antigone, written by Sophocles, quickly establish the central conflict between Antigone and Creon. Creon has decreed that the traitor Polynices, who tried to burn down the temple of gods in Thebes, must not be given proper burial. Antigone is the only one who will speak against this decree and insists on the sacredness of family and a symbolic burial for her brother. Whereas Antigone sees no validity in a law that disregards the duty family members owe one another, Creon's point of view is exactly opposite. He has no use for anyone who places private ties above the common good, as he proclaims firmly to the Chorus and the audience as he revels in his victory over Polynices. He sees Polynices as an enemy to the state because he attacked his brother. Creon's first speech, which is dominated by words such as "authority” and "law”, shows the extent to which Creon fixates on government and law as the supreme authority. Between Antigone and Creon there can be no compromise—they both find absolute validity in the respective loyalties they uphold.
     In the struggle between Creon and Antigone, Sophocles' audience would have recognized a genuine conflict of duties and values. From the Greek point of view, both Creon's and Antigone's positions are flawed, because both oversimplify ethical life by recognizing only one kind of good or duty. By oversimplifying, each ignores the fact that a conflict exists at all, or that deliberation is necessary. Moreover, both Creon and Antigone display the dangerous flaw of pride in the way they justify and carry out their decisions. Antigone admits right from the beginning that she wants to carry out the burial because the action is glorious. Antigone has a savage spirit; she has spent most of her life burying her family members.
      Creon's pride is that of a tyrant. He is inflexible and unyielding, unwilling throughout the play to listen to advice or Antigone. Creon’s love for the city-state cause him to abandon all other beliefs. He tries to enforce this upon the people of Thebes. He wants them to think that his laws should be followed before any other personal, moral, or religious belief. This is where the conflict of character occurs between Antigone and Creon. Antigone knows that the sacred laws held by heaven are far more important than those made by a king. It is the danger of pride that leads both these characters to overlook their own human qualities and the limitations of their own powers
The Chorus is made up of older men of the city. Some of the times the Chorus speaks in this drama, it seems to side with Creon and the established power of Thebes. The Chorus's first speech (117–179) describes the thwarted pride of the invading enemy: The God Zeus hates bravado and bragging. Yet this encomium to the victory of Thebes through Zeus has a cunningly critical edge. The Chorus's focus on pride and the fall of the...

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