by Sophocles In the play "Antigone" by Sophocles, Creon and
have distinct conflicting values. Creon's regard for the laws of the city cause him to abandon all other beliefs. He feels that all people ruled by him must obey the laws set forth by him, and may not follow any other ones, regardless of whether they are moral or religious. Antigone, on the other hand, holds the beliefs of the gods in high reverence. She feels that the laws of the gods should be obeyed above all others, especially when it pertains to family. Creon has a very strong opinion about the laws of the city and the laws passed by him. His method of enforcing them is very strict. In "Antigone", Creon orders that Polyneices may not be buried because of his dishonorable behavior towards Thebes. Furthermore, he decrees, if anyone is caught burying him, they will be killed for disobeying his order. Polyneices is being punished because he attacked Thebes and betrayed Creon and the people of Thebes. Creon's harsh punishment on those who disobey the law makes many fear him and dare not go against him. Ismene is an example of someone who was totally intimidated by Creon. and would not disobey the law of the king. She shows her fear when she tries to persuade her sister, Antigone, not to insist on burying their brother, Polyneices. She is afraid of what could happen to them if Creon found out that they disobeyed him. Ismene says, "We must obey them.....I yield to those who have authority"(5). Not only do the people of Thebes obey the laws of the city because of their fear but because it is a shame to dishonor the king. To go against the king's orders and dishonor the law, is to die a more shameful death than if one dishonored one's mother and father(59-60). Antigone, on the hand, feels differently about this issue than her sister and does not want to let her brother's body remain without a proper burial. Her belief is that she can only show respect and love for her brother if she provides a proper burial for him. Her beliefs in "The sacred laws that Heaven holds in honor" are far more important to her than those set by the king (Antigone 78). She feels that the king cannot override her belief in the gods. Antigone feels very strongly about burying her brother even though it would mean disobeying Creon's orders. Antigone refuses to change her opinion even when she is confronted by the king and sentenced to death. Antigone's reasoning is, "It was not Zeus who published this decree, nor have the powers who rule among the dead imposed such laws as this upon mankind; nor could I think that a decree of yours- a man-could override the laws of Heaven, unwritten and unchanged"(450-455). She goes on to say that she does not want to go before the gods after she had disobeyed them because of a decree made by a mortal king(458-459). The loss of a brother is greater to
than the loss of any other kind. She says, "For had I lost a son, or lost a husband, never would I have ventured such an act against the city's will. And wherefore so? My husband dead, I might have found another; another son from him if I had lost a son. But since my mother and father have both gone to the grave, there can be none henceforth that I can ever call my brother"(907-914). To Antigone this is another reason to honor her brother; because by honoring her brother she is honoring her mother and father as well. Creon, being a new king, wants to prove his power. He is being harsh, so that the people of Thebes don't think of him as being a weak king. Creon feels that if someone dishonors the city in which he rules, they must be punished. If Polyneices is not punished, then Creon's power would be questioned by the people of Thebes. They would think of him as a weak king who can be dishonored without fear of punishment. Creon wants to be respected and feared as a king because this will give him more power. He does not want to be a "bad" king, using his power for evil things, but he feels that a show of strong convictions is important. In order to be a strong king, one must be strict and firm in one's decisions. That is the kind of king that Creon is. Creon is a strong king because Thebes is important to him, but he also wants to be respected. Antigone and Creon have different ideas of what is right and what is wrong; therefore, one cannot judge who is right and who is wrong. Both Antigone and Creon have justifiable reasons for their actions. Antigone has the laws of heaven as well as her family in mind; on the other hand, Creon's concern is his city and its greatness as well as the need to be an all powerful king.