Moral Law V. Divine Law In Sophocles' Antigone

1427 words - 6 pages

Nomos versus Physis in Sophocles' AntigoneSophocles' dramatic masterpiece Antigone centers around the conflict between Antigone and Creon on many different levels, all of which contribute to the philosophical war between the two characters. Most of the action revolves around Antigone and her beliefs. One of the most notable conflicts is that of mortal duties opposing divine duties, or more clearly, state law (nomos) versus moral law (physis). Antigone feels that moral obligations and sacred traditions are much stronger than any responsibility that a man could create while Creon affirms that loyalty to the state, and consequently to his laws, overrules all other allegiances. This is Antigone's play because there would be no conflict without her and her law-breaking behavior. However, it is Creon's tragedy because it is his tragic flaw that brings about the confrontation of their opposing beliefs.Creon's tragic flaw, which ultimately leads to his and the city's downfall, is his desire for pure and complete order. The people of Thebes "must stand on the side of what is orderly" according to Creon and any behavior that falls below his high standards could be detrimental to the entire city (line 687). He feels that only the king knows what is best for his kingdom and that "there is nothing worse than disobedience to authority" (671). Having grown up in a ruling family, Creon understands that a city in disarray is a sick city, and a sick city cannot survive. Therefore, one of the reasons he takes on the responsibility of king is to restore order to Thebes. The way in which Antigone openly and proudly disobeys his proclamation is a flagrant rejection of what Creon stands for. He allows this state crime to influence the rest of his actions throughout the play and he loses everything in the end except his own life. After finding out that Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice committed suicide sequentially, Creon admits "how the wrong choice in plans is for a man his greatest evil" (1243). His stubborn refusal to change his definition of order causes all of the disorder and mayhem after Polyneices is buried, thus leading to the tragic end.Antigone's decision to disobey Creon shows that she puts what her moral self does (following divine guidance) over what her physical self does (following man-made guidelines). She feels that all humans have a divine right to be buried and it is the obligation of those who are still alive to see that it happens. "The time in which I must please those that are dead is longer than I must please those of this world" Antigone explains to her law-abiding sister Ismene (76). She says to her deceased brother that "those who think rightly will think I did right in honoring you" referring to the gods and their requirement for an honorable burial for all people (902). Since t is the gods that control the universe according to Antigone, she does not want to upset the state of balance that they created by not giving that "god-given" right to...

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