The major moral conflict in Antigone by Sophocles is the conflict over which value is most fundamental. The play presents the moral conflict over whether the god's law or the city's law is more powerful. This seems to be the most prominent theme. The conflict arises mainly between the tragic heroes Antigone and her uncle-in-law Creon, King of Thebes. The city of Thebes had been through a war in which Antigone and her sister Ismene have lost both of their brothers to it, Eteocles and Polyneices. Eteocles's fighting for Thebes was buried and honored as a hero. (lines 24-26) Polyneices was left unburied and dishonored because he is considered an enemy of the city. (lines 27-32) Creon edicts that whoever broke the law by burying Polyneices will be considered a criminal. (lines 203-209)
The conflict between Antigone and Creon arises when she decides she must honor her brother's death and gives him burial. (line 72) "I myself will bury him," she expressed to Ismene. Once Antigone has buried her brother, she is brought before King Creon to explain her actions. (p. 177) Sophocles presents the two sides of the conflict, moral law versus city law; Antigone expresses the side of moral law and Creon expresses his side with the laws of the city. Antigone begins by telling her sister Ismene it was her duty as a sister that she should bury her dead brother. It is a duty she owes to her family. She also expresses that the king will not "keep me from my own." In other words, duty to the family is above her duty to the city. Antigone also tells Ismene that she is willing to become a criminal and die for her beliefs. She believes her death will not be in vain, and it is honoring her family; and the gods, in turn, will recognize that as true honor. She continues by saying that she would rather please her dead brother than the city, so she disobeys the law. (line 89)
When a messenger comes to Creon, bringing the news that Antigone has buried her brother, he begins his arguments why Antigone has broken the law. He begins by stating that a man shows what he is made of by his "skill in rule and law." In other words, the law is everything and as a ruler, he must do everything for his country. He considers Polyneices an enemy of the city and a threat to the security of the city as well. Thus Polyneices will be called a traitor in life and in death and dishonored. The scene when Antigone and Creon face each other is the opportunity for both to defend themselves. Creon questions Antigone. She bases her responses on that the city laws proclaiming her as illegal are not the laws of Zeus or laws proclaimed by gods, but rather, laws made by a man that one day will also die. She will honor her brother's death because this is what the gods have proclaimed for all mankind. (lines 460-463)
In the dialogue between Creon and Antigone she also defends herself when he questions her as to why an enemy should be honored. She responds by saying...