MoralLessons in Sophocles Play “Antigone”
MoralLessons in Sophocles Play “Antigone”
Thispaper will evaluate the play “Antigone” and then trace the morallessons that come out. Sophocles’ play “Antigone” describes theconflict between the protagonist Antigone and Creon. The play beginsin the aftermath of a war that has taken the lives of Eteocles andPolyneices- Antigone and Ismene’s brothers. King Creon accordsEteocles an honored burial as a hero who fought for Thebes. On theother hand, Polyneices was considered an enemy of the city and wasleft for the dogs and cravens as he was left unburied and dishonored.King Creon had given a decree that any of the citizens who buriesPolyneices will be considered as an enemy of the state and must bepunished by death. This is the starting point of his conflict withAntigone who desires to accord her brother a decent burial. Antigonefelt that she had a duty to her family as a sister to accord herbrother a decent burial and insists that King Creon will not "keepme from my own." To her, fulfilling this duty is an obligationshe must meet to appease the gods even if she met death.
IdeasThat I Like About the Play
Ilike the ideas in the play because Sophocles presents idealisticcharacters that are firm and principled. This makes Antigoneadmirable as much as she moves away from the normal ways of followingthe laws as set by leaders. She is resolute and sometimes ruthlesswhen it comes to making decisions and one can feel that she ispassionate and firm about what she stands for. This characteristic iscovetable but again a problem arises when there is need to compromiseand this affected both Antigone and Creon. Antigone stood by her firmbeliefs that her brother deserved a decent burial despite the decreeby the king that his body should be left for the cravens and dogs. Onhis part, Creon was a reasonable man most of the time as hehad frequently sought after and listened to prophet Tiresias and thewisdom of others before making decisions (Sophocles 2001, lines993-995). On the matter pertaining to giving Polyneices a decentburial, he stubbornly stood by his laws despite advises from varioussources until it was too late. This idea of consultation and abilityto listen to others is an important attribute of leadership thatCreon missed. A leader who addresses the plight of the majority ofthe citizens should at the same time be flexible enough to compromiseand follow the voice of reason. Creon failed when he did not consultbefore giving the decree on the treatment of Polyneices.
Further,the play also highlights the place of the noble and responsiblecitizens of a country. Haemon and Ismene are seen to be realistic andreasonable at first. Refusing to join Antigone’s quest, Ismene saidshe did not intend to dishonor the dead but it is her nature to be agood citizen (line, 80). In subtle ways, the playwright highlightssome of the roles that we play as citizens. Haemon and Ismene are notfanatics as they try to abide by the set laws and submit toauthorities. However, they are pushed out of their comfort zones bythe decisions and actions of the relentless Antigone and Creon. Thisindicates that people meekly carry the burden of some laws andsometimes are forced to act not out of there will but externalforces. The moral dilemma between choosing to stand by one’sconviction and upsetting the established order and maintaining thestatus quo still exists. For the greater good, most citizens chooseto compromise their convictions at a lesser prize.
StateLaws and Personal Conviction
Themoral of the play is clearly brought out in the conflict betweenAntigone and Creon. Sophocles does well to appeal to the emotions ofthe reader by creating a definite tone to supplement the direction ofhis message. He presents Antigone and Ismenes’ as very helplesswomen in a society that disregards women and Creon an embodiment ofthe cruelty of the law. As we read into the play, we sympathize withthe state the two women find themselves. The desperation is veryclear upon which we are unable to act were we in Antigone’s shoes.Antigone is faced with a dilemma where she has to obey her conscienceand the wills of the gods by disobeying Creon’s degree against theburial of her brother. She is definitely a strong-willed woman, firmon her principles but portrayed as stubborn and rebellious. Theplaywright shows the magnitude of state laws on the plight of theoppressed citizens who meekly carry there burdens. A messengerreports to Creon that Antigone has gone against his degree by buryingher brother and he replied saying that he has an obligation toexecute the laws of the land as he has to show his skill in rule andlaw (line 174). To him, Polyneices was a traitor and an enemy of thestate in life and must be dishonored even in death.
Itis important to appreciate the manner in which Sophocles presents hischaracter’s personal philosophy regarding the law. Theconfrontation between Antigone and Creon is a highlight of what shebelieved in and was ready to die for and what Creon believed in. Thisis a matter of principles and standing firm on what one believes in.In ordinary circumstances, we are faced with situations that requireus to go a peg or two down on what we stand for to allow harmoniousexistence. This usually requires sacrifice and it is easy tounderstand the position Creon finds himself. As a leader, he mustexecute and implement the laws of the land and if he failed in hisduties then anarchy will be inevitable (line 191). He must be seen asfair and just in the eyes of all citizens and this complicatesmatters for him since Antigone is a relative. On the other hand,Antigone also stands firm on her principles and places her familyfirst. To her, the laws as decreed by Creon should not hold hercaptive and she cannot bare the shame of abandoning her dead brothereven in death. This is a dishonor even to the gods.
Antigoneargues that city laws are mutable since they are not proclaimed bythe gods and are made by man. On the other hand, the laws of the godswill only be fulfilled if she accords her brother a decent burial.This is based on the fact that these laws were proclaimed by gods forall mankind. When questioned as to whether she intends to honor anenemy of the state, she claims that her brother was not her enemy andthat she loves her as her family. She also informs Creon that it isnot her alone that is rebellious when she tells him that many othersare unable to speak because they fear him. Being idealistic, shereadily surrenders herself to death as she implied that she is verymuch willing to join her family in death. This way, the gods willjudge her actions.
Theresolution to the conflict comes in form of Antigone’s death andCreon’s realization of his errors. Antigone takes her own life asshe refuses to submit to what she considers unjust society. Readingcarefully, it is clear that Antigone takes her own life because sheis at the extremes of behavior. This is seen from the observationfrom the chorus that “You’vegone too far! You are extreme, impetuous. My child, you caught yourfoot and fell…” (Sophocles 2001, p. 853- 854). Shefirst believed that human beings must be in a cordial relation withthe gods by fulfilling their wishes. She believed that hers is acursed family and takes it upon herself to correct some of herfather’s misdeeds. This is the sole motivation for her actions, tosacrifice her own life for a worthy course.
Onhis part, Creon realizes his mistakes quite late when his son Haemonwho is also Antigone’s betrothaladvices him to relax the law and allow Polyneices to be buried. Hetells him that if trees bend, they’re saved, and every twigsurvives (Sophocles 712-714). This is a premonition of the impact ofstubbornness not only for Creon but also Antigone. He also adviceshis father’s that his decision will not go well with the gods.Despite this effort, Creon was unable to see anything good inAntigone’s quest and only changed his mind a little bit too late.
Asseen, Sophocles play Antigone has a number of moral lessons thatinforms our relationships. The first level is about individuals‘personal convictions and the state law that requires one tocompromise and even sacrifice on the personal conviction. The secondis about an individual in relation to other where one has to bereasonable and realistic at all times. The last is for the leader.Leaders too are supposed to heed the plight of the citizens.Actually, “Antigone” is a political satire with salient lessonsfor everyone.
Sophocles.(2001) Antigone.Trans., with Introduction and Notes by Paul Woodruff. Indianapolis: Hackett,