The focal point of this paper is to analyze and evaluate the characteristics of Creon and Antigone and compare and contrast their personalities in the image of the two famous comments by each of the main characters (Creon and Antigone) in the play by Sophocles. The central paradox of the play is interwoven with concepts of obedience, law, justice, and belief. However, the bottom line of the paper would enumerate whether if Antigone has an obligation to obey or disobey Creon’s law or not.
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In Antigone, Creon declares that “There is no greater wrong than disobedience. This ruins city, this tears down our homes, this breaks the battle-front in panic. If men live decently, it is because discipline saves their very lives. So, I must guard the men who yield to order, not let myself be beaten by a woman” (Sophocles 126-7, 672-677). It is an interesting fact that the actions taken by Creon, the King of Thebes, are unsolicited by the citizens of Thebes but hardly anyone has the courage to utter it. Thus both these characters appear to be strong believers of their own judgments and are not open to any negotiation in this respect. Thus in certain ways, both are similar in nature even though their standpoint is completely opposite to each other.
On the other hand, in another passage, Antigone declares that “For me, it was not Zeus who made that order. Nor did that Justice who lives with the gods below mark out such laws to hold among mankind. Nor did I think your orders were so strong that you, a mortal man, could over-run the god’s unwritten and unfailing laws” (Sophocles 123, 450-56). Thus, the actions taken by Antigone can well be enumerated as a person opposing the government policy or standing against the state. It could be ascertained that Antigone is standing against an action that is appeared to be wrong and unjust.
The rigidity of the characters is best shown in the play when both Creon and Antigone appear together in the scene. Antigone is attached to her principal and states that she may die for her cause. To this comment, Creon is equally inflexible and unyielding and he hardly considers any compromise by completely overlooking the aspects of conclusion from either Antigone or Ismene. He comments that both the conflicting characters are fundamentally not in senses. This comment is very significant as it helps the readers to understand the rigid nature of Antigone and the manner she is looked upon in her surroundings and particularly Creon.
Creon on the other hand is also very unbending of his thought process. The support for Antigone is characterized by Haemon when he argues with his father, Creon, that the Theban folks are in fact backing Antigone. This point of view presented by Haemon agrees on the fact that there is a positive reaction from the citizens of Thebes about the actions taken by Antigone and that Creon is viewed on the wrong side. This is the main difference between the characters of Antigone and Creon as their position is situated on the opposite poles of justice and truth.
This becomes more evident when Tiresias openly identifies Creon as sick and ailing. This ailment is the malady of the mind that came from absolute authority that is actually the child of arrogance, no matter how much Creon seeks salvation through doctrines of discipline and law. However, such words from a person of integrity and truth as Teiresias are evident enough to prove the actual position of Creon in the context of the play. This becomes more obvious when leaders of the King’s confidence appear skeptical of the decisions of Creon. It is seen when the reports came that the corpse has been removed and the leaders fear that even the gods must be offended by Creon’s acts and they are about to punish the population. Thus it was obvious that even the closest of the King’s men were skeptical about the order.
Thus it could be ascertained that whatever actions were taken by Antigone was just against the injustice of Creon. Creon wanted Polyneices’ body to be left without a ceremonial burial as he fought against the motherland and thus was labeled as a traitor. This was viewed as a sacrilege and disrespect by the ancient Greeks. As a result, Antigone found herself in a position where she must protect her brother’s dignity by proving him with a proper burial. Antigone feels that this is the right action and she is determined to complete the act no matter anybody supports her or not. Thus it is obvious that Antigone was doing the right deeds and deeds that were completely supported by the citizens too.
On the other hand, knowing all these affairs Creon remains arrogant and rigid to his verdict of disgracing Polyneices. He is so unyielding to his verdict that he renders the death penalty for Antigone This makes Creon extremely rude as a ruler and ultimately paves the way for the eventual tragedy. He even warns his son Haemon about the dangers of going against the state, or his father in this case, and this makes Creon a person who is unwilling to evaluate others’ viewpoint and thus becomes the tyrant ruler who can easily ramify other’s will for his own resolve.
In conclusion, it would be relevant to mention that like all rulers who became an oppressor, Creon too should be held responsible for the ultimate tragedy of the play. It should be remembered that Antigone was only performing the duty to her brother and her family and her deeds were viewed as justice by the Thebans. Thus it is clear that though there is a striking similarity between Antigone and Creon in their character and approach it is imperative that their positions are completely opposite to each other. One stands for rigid law and demands obedience that makes him unpopular with the general population and the other is the representative of anti-establishment beliefs backed by a humane approach that finds support from the common mass.
One stands for freedom and justice and the other for oppression and domination and these qualities of characters are viewed all over the play and the two central characters, Antigone and Creon, can be epitomized by their personal beliefs of existence. Thus, as Antigone is pursuing her own belief and faith, which is justice in a broader sense, she has no obligation to obey Creon’s law. In any case, Creon’s law, rather its implementation, is more out of arrogance and absolute authority rather than proper enactment for the welfare of its citizens. As a result, Antigone has all the reasons to disobey this law by a tyrant like Creon.
Sophocles. Readings in Classical Political Thought. Trans. Peter J. Steinberger. New York: Hackett Publishing, 2000.