Antigone is a tragic play written by Sophocles in about 441b.c. The play is a continuation of the curse put upon the household of Oedipus Rex.
Sophocles actually wrote this play before he wrote Oedipus, but it follows Oedipus in chronological order. The story of Antigone begins after the departure of Oedipus, the king of Thebes, into self-exile. Oedipus two sons, Eteocles and Polyneices, were left to rule over Thebes. An argument over rights to power forces Polynices to leave Thebes.
Some time passes and Polynices returns with the army from Argos and attempts to overthrow his brother. The two brothers fight and kill one another and the war ends. Creon, the uncle of the two brothers becomes the new king of Thebes.
Because Polynices proved to be an enemy of the state, Creon chose to leave his body unburied. In the Greek culture, the denial of Funeral rights was a fate reserved for the worst criminals (). This is the point where the dialogue of the play actually begins. Antigone, sister to Polynices and Eteocles, disobeys Creon and properly buries the body of Polynices. When Creon hears what Antigone has done he has her placed in a cave and essentially buried alive.
This enrages Creons son, Haimon, who turns his own sword upon himself. When Eurydice, Creon wife her the news she to kills herself. Creon is left at the end to mourn the death of two nephews, a niece, a son, and a wife. This play more than an issue of right verses wrong or fate verses free will; it is a collision between the rightful demands of the family and the laws of the state ().
Creon being in the position of ruler chooses to follow the demands of the state. There is much debate as to which character was in the right. Was Antigone right to disobey the king for the sake of her family or was Creon right in his duty as ruler to preserve order and punish enemies of the state? Through looking at the history of the era, the intentions of the playwright, and the critical analysis and commentary offered on the play, it is in my opinion that Sophocles intended Creon to be the character who was in the right, not Antigone.The start of theater and drama in Ancient Greece took form in about 5th century b.
c, with Sophocles being considered the master of tragedy. In his plays and those of the same genre, classic fables that the people of the era knew well were used to tell the stories. The tragic heros of these stories often strive to live honorable and righteous lives, but because of some mistake their lives would often great and noble death. The idea that serving the state was proper way to gain honor was a popular belief during this time period. This philosophy was echoed by Plato in his book, the Republic.
Plato dealt with establishing the ideal state. The way to achieve the ideal state was through striving for justice. Justice, according to Plato, is doing only the tasks assigned to them by nature. This is the fundamental notion for his creation of an ideal city.
It is both knowing what true justice is and where one belongs in the city that the ideal can be achieved. Justice in a city can be found in an individual as well outside the individual because it is a concept that is universal. If a ruler of a state was to maintain order and control over his people he must then seek the best way to obtain justice. In crucial decisions, the ruler must look the see what is the good for the whole if he is to achieve this idea of justice. If Sophocles, believed along these same lines, and it is my opinion that he did, then Creons actions toward Polynices were justified.
Creon acted in the best interest of the people. A trader of the state could not go unpunished. This was Creon’s duty as a ruler: it was the task assigned to him by nature. If Creon was right in his decision to punish Polynices then Antigone was wrong to defy the king. Creons next step, the imprisonment of Antigone, must also be considered justified since she has defy deliberately disobeyed his orders.Looking at the dialogue of the chorus may provide insight into the intentions of Sophocles. The chorus was partly considered to be a character participating in the story and a mouthpiece for the author.
The chorus in Antigone seems to justify the decision of Creon to take the life of Antigone. In the prologue, the choragos states Polynices was the the wild eagle shouting insults above our land. This line establishes Polynices as an enemy to the state of Thebes.
If Polynices is the enemy, then Creon must punish him for his actions. In Ode I at the end of scene I, the chorus states when the laws are kept how proudly the city stands! When the laws are broken what of this city then? This is in response to Antigones action of covering the body of her brother. The chorus takes the position that Creons order must be followed for the state to maintain justice. This puts Antigone in the wrong for her actions.
If she disobeys the king deliberately then her she must accept the consequences of death. Creon had no choice but take the life of Antigone if he was to maintain order. In Ode II the chorus comments on the mortal arrogance of Antigone which seems to reassert the actions of Creon. The arrogant, headstrong Antigone seemed almost willing for her punishment.
The chorus in Scene IV points to the fault of Antigone when it says to Antigone, You walk at last to the underworld; untouched by sickness, broken by no sword. What women has ever found your way to death?The chorus here continues to blame Antigone for the result of her death, not Creon. In the same Scene, the chorus continues and says, You made your choice, Your death is the doing of your conscious hand. Commentary on the play offers several opinions as to which character acted rightly. One commentary makes the point that for Creon to maintain order in a city that has recently undergone civil war the he had to take punish Polynices as a criminal. This was not an action based on personal hatred.
This was an action taken as a rightly appointed ruler for the overall welfare of his state. This is a duty that must be upheld by any ruler, president or politician. Their main responsibility is the welfare of the people the serve. This means putting family matters second to the good of the entire people. Another point made by several different critiques is that the play focuses on the actions of Creon, not Antigone.
By focusing on the action of Creon then it seems that Sophocles intended Creons actions be given highest priority. This is further support by the removal of Antigone from the play only two-thirds of the way through. Sophocles might have done this to allow the chorus of the play to follow Creon and therefore side with him on his decisions. Creon undoubtedly suffers the most for his actions. His decisions cause him to loose many members of his family. The grief he must have felt for these decisions is hard to comprehend. Whether or not Creon wanted to be king was not a circumstance that he had power over.
But since he was king he know had a responsibility to lead and protect his people. This meant punishing those that opposed the state of Thebes family or not. Therefore it was a correct decision.
It served to good of the whole not Creons own selfish desires. Antigone defied this decision putting her in the same category of her brother a trader of the state. Therefore she must also be punished in much the same way as a criminal of the state was punished. Through looking at the history of the time period, the statements of the chorus, and the critical analysis offered, I believe it was Sophocles to portray the character of Creon as the character that acted correctly.Bibliography: