In Ancient Greece, life was full of complicated questions centered around theexpanding field of science. Freedom of religion was encouraged to be exercisedin the city-states and man was focused on more than the Gods or heavenlyconcerns.
As a result many new ideals and beliefs surfaced. These new ideals andbeliefs, though good in intentions, often conflicted with one another andcreated complex moral dilemmas. Such was the case in Sophocles play Antigonethat was written in this era. In the play, Antigone and Creon battle aphilosophical war concerning their ideals. They both base there actions on whatthey believe is right and wrong. The conflict arose when their ideals thatbacked up their actions on the burial of Polyneices clashed, creating acontradiction between morals.Order now
Antigones side of the conflict held a much moredivine approach, as opposed to the mundane path Creon chose to travel. Antigonefeels that Creon is disregarding the laws of the heavens by ordering it unlawfulfor anyone to provide a proper burial for her brother Polyneices. Antigonesopinion is one that supports the Gods and the laws of the heavens. Her reasoningis set by her belief that if someone were not given a proper burial, that personwould not be accepted into heaven. Antigone was a very religious person and theacceptance of her brother by the Gods was very important to her. Creons orderwas personal to Antigone and his edict invaded her family life as well as theGods.
An important ideal in Ancient Greece was the belief that the governmentwas to have no control in matters concerning religious beliefs. In Antigoneseyes, Creon betrayed that ideal by not allowing her to properly bury herbrother, Polyneices. She believed that the burial was a religious ceremony, andCreon did not have the power to deny Polyneices that right. Antigones strongbeliefs eventually led her to death by the hand of Creon. Creons actions areguided by the ideal that man is the measure of all things.
Creon believes thatthe good of man comes before the Gods. An example of Creons belief was theunburied body of Polyneices. Creon doesnt want to give honor to a man whoattempted to invade and conquer his city. He denies burial for Polyneices toshow respect for Thebes. From this standpoint, Creons decisions for denyingburial for Polyneices are completely just and supports the ideals.
Creonsreasonings coincide with the Greek ideals except for two that stronglycontradicts his actions. The first is that Creon exercises complete dominationof political power. He defies this ideal by holding Antigone as his prisoner andnot the publics. The people of Thebes supported Antigone but were too scared todo anything about it.
Creon found out about this through his son Haemon. Thesecond is freedom of religion. By denying Antigone to perform burial ceremoniesfor Polyneices, he is denying Antigone the ideal that supports freedom ofreligion. The contradictions between the beliefs of Antigone and Creon arestrong throughout the play. Neither of their arguments dominates the other eventhough they are both right and wrong at the same time. Antigone is followingdivine law while Creon is trying to protect the integrity of the city-state.
Inthe end, Creon was convinced to set Antigone free after he weighed the factorsand debated the ideals. But it was too late. The contradiction of ideals was thecause of Antigones, Haemons, and Megareus death. Both sides were just and allbeliefs were supported. The downfall is that Creon had to decide theunanswerable, and determine right from wrong when there was no clear answer.