Within two classical works of philosophical literature, notions of justice are presented plainly. Plato’s The Republic and Sophocles’ Antigone both address elements of death, tyranny and immorality, morality, and societal roles. These topics are important elements when addressing justice, whether in the societal representation or personal representation.
Antigone uses the concept of death in many ways when unfolding the tragic story of Antigone and her rebellion. The most obvious way is how death is used as a form of capital punishment and justice against state-dubbed criminals and wrongdoers. The play first exhibits this notion when Antigone states, “No passing humor, for the edict says who’er transgresses shall be stoned to death” (Sophocles, p. 3). The head of the state, Creon, uses death as a form of justice for the man or woman who is to disobey his law. Creon also emphasizes this by threatening a guard when he is notified that his edict has been violated. Creon states, “Go, quibble with thy reason. If thou fail’st to find these malefactors, thou shalt own the wages of ill-gotten gains is death” (Sophocles, p. 8). Death is once again used as a threat and form of justice for people sinning against the state laws. However, death is not only used as a form of state justice, it is also portrayed as a factor in personal justification and completion. The notion that people are not whole or justified until they die is emphasized by Antigone when she states, “A sinless sinner, banned awhile on earth, but by the dead commended; and with them I shall abide for ever” (Sophocles, p. 4). Antigone says that through death, human life is justified and made complete, and that death is essentially the final form of justice for any human life.
The Republic also addresses the concept of death within justice. In the piece, Socrates questions the use of death as a form of punishment. Unlike in Antigone, Plato writes about man’s fear of death, and how that fear can be used against him. Socrates states, “Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him?” (Plato, Book 3). Socrates looks at the use of death for justice as something base because it reduces man to primitive behavior. In the previous quote, he specifically states that man cannot be functional when there is a looming fear of fatal justice hanging over one’s head. Although this notion of death as a tool for justice does not correlate with the notion of death in Antigone, both works view death as something justifying life. In The Republic, Cephalus addresses death as something man needs to enter with a clean conscience. He states, “It keeps him from having to leave life in the fear or owing debts to men or sacrifices to the gods,” (Plato, Book 1). While this quote also emphasizes Plato’s point that it is not just to use the fear of death for punishment, it also shows that death brings a complete closure and ultimate justification to all lives once ended.
Tyranny and immorality are key...