In the Greek play Antigone writer Sophocles illustrates the clash between the story’s main character Antigone and her powerful uncle, Creon. King Creon of Thebes is an ignorant and oppressive ruler. In the text, there is a prevailing theme of rules and order in which Antigone’s standards of divine justice conflict with Creon’s will as the king. Antigone was not wrong in disobeying Creon, because he was evil and tyrannical. The authors of “Antigone: Kinship, Justice, and the Polis,” and “Assumptions and the Creation of Meaning: Reading Sophocles’ Antigone.
Agree with the notion that Antigone performs the role of woman and warrior at once. She does not only what a kinswoman would, but also what a warrior would do. Antigone’s views of divine justice conflict with Creon’s will as head of the state. Two brothers fighting against one another in Thebes’ civil war died while fighting one another for the throne. Creon, who had become the new ruler of Thebes, decided that one brother Eteocles would be honored, while Polyneices would be put through public shame.
The body of Polyneices was to not be sanctified by holy rites, but was planned to be left unburied on the battlefield for animals to prey on it. Antigone, the sister of the two brothers wants to properly bury Polyneices’ body, but in doing so she would by defying king Creon’s edict. When Creon’s orders the Sentry to find out who had buried the body of Polyneices, Antigone is found to have buried the body of her dead brother. Since she disobeyed authority, her and her sister are temporarily imprisoned. He then wishes to spare Antigone’s sister Ismene and bury Antigone alive in a cave.
To some up the foregoing, in honoring her brother she is performing the role of woman and warrior at once. A few underlying messages of this story is the right of the individual to reject societies infringement on the freedom to perform a personal obligation, and the concept of divine law. Antigone refuses to let King Creon dictate what she does with her brother’s dead body. Antigone states, “he has no right to keep me from my own” (Sophocles, 441 BC, line 48). Antigone feels that nobody has the right to dictate how she plans to bury her family member.
In addition, Creon demands civil disobedience above all. Creon believes that the worst thing an individual can do is act against authority. In contrast, Antigone believes that state law is not absolute. Meaning one should be able to act against the law in extreme cases to honor the gods. Divine law could be proved valid, for example, “the fact that Polyneices’ dust-covered corpse had not been disturbed by animals could be taken as a possible sign that burial was accepted as valid by the gods” (Sourvinou-Inwood, 1989, pg. 142).
Sourvinou-Inwood is stating that because the animals had not touched the dead body, it could be a sign from the gods that a proper burial should be in order. That Creon could have been wrong and the gods wanted Polyneices buried. Moreover, the Greeks supported absolute monarchs, however, simultaneously they also believed in divine law and had a profound amount of respect for the gods and their laws. Creon states “am I to rule this land for others, or myself”? (Sophocles, 441 BC, line 823). This statement shows how Creon has little consideration for others around him.
He does not care that Antigone wants to properly bury her family member; he only cares about the fact that Antigone went against authority and disobeyed the law. Creon states “there is nothing worse than disobedience to authority, it destroy cities, it demolishes home” (Sophocles, 441 BC, line 720). The fact of the matter is that Creon is an oppressive tyrant who possesses numerous tyrannical qualities. By not listening to his people, and by only practicing his own beliefs, he in fact is destroying the city himself.
For instance, he is more concerned with preserving certain values of law rather than the good of the city. Another aspect of Antigone is the concept of kinship. Kinship could be defined as a group that perceives their social universe as divided into two opposed spheres of moral alignment. On one hand, there is the familial domain, on the other, the sphere on non-kinship. Warfare between kin is considered a heinous crime, for example, the brothers Eteocles and Polyneices murdering one another on the battlefield. In “Antigone: Kinship, Justice, and the Polis,” John D. B.
Hamilton states that “Antigone carries out a religious duty and observes the principles of kinship morality as she performs a symbolic burial rite for Polyneices, defying Creon’s prohibition” (Hamilton, 1991, pg. 87). In the act of honoring her brother, Antigone performs the function of woman and warrior at once. She is not only doing what a kinswoman should, and could do, but also what a warrior would do. Sourvinou-Inwood distinguishes two dominant action plots: mourning and burying. When a reference is made to mourners, these are mostly women; when to burial, they are men (Hamilton, 1991).
In addition, in carrying out funeral rites for her brother, Antigone creates a terrible conflict between herself and Creon. This brought up the issue of proper burial in Greece, and there is evidence that there are two types of funerals for the dead. One is the familial funeral; the other the public or grand one. This has proved to be apparent nowadays because there are small graveside scenes with family, and relatives. However, there are also funerals that are massively orchestrated to that of somebody such as John Kennedy (Hamilton, 1991).
The arrogant and cruel Creon fails to take Antigone’s honor in family into account, and completely disregards her justifications for her actions. Moreover, when Creon asks if Antigone dared to transgress his laws she responded by stating, “I did not believe that your edicts were so powerful that you, a mortal, could override the gods’ unwritten and unshakable customs” (Sophocles, 441 BC, line 449). Antigone believed that Creon’s edicts were not as powerful as the “gods’ unwritten customs,” therefore she should not be penalized for her actions against the state. Moreover, in honoring Polyneikes, she honors the womb.
In carrying out funeral rites for her brother, she is acting as a member of genos, as kinswoman. “Antigone’s action validates kinship based on the womb in compensation for its being dishonored; she restores equilibrium of honor to those from the same womb” (Hamilton, 1991, pg. 95). By proclaiming the power of the womb Antigone was expressing her moral right as kin, and also attempts to put all women in their proper burial place within a new polis. The conflict between Antigone and Creon is also personal for Creon beyond divine laws and mortality of kinship; it goes into the right of women to have integrity and free will.
Creon’s need to defeat Antigone is not only because of the order of the state, but to preserve his pride as king, and as a man. To sum up the foregoing, Creon exclaims to Antigone “die then, and love the dead if thou must; no woman shall be the master while I live” (Sophocles, 441 BC, line 522-424). This statement illustrates king Creon’s arrogance and desire to severely punish Antigone for not only challenging authority, but because Antigone’s rebellion is immensely threatening in that it upsets gender roles and hierarchy. Even when Creon realizes he may have been wrong he cannot admit defeat to a woman.
To conclude, through the study of the play Antigone, and the examination of the two critical articles, “Antigone: Kinship, Justice, and the Polis,” and “Assumptions and the Creation of Meaning: Reading Sophocles’ Antigone,” it is evident that few of the aspects of this play are divine law, kinship morality, and the rights of woman. Furthermore, John D. B. Hamilton, and Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood support the notion that the one of the purposes of the Greek play Antigone was to demonstrate how Antigone performs not only the role of kinswoman, but warrior as well.