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The Theme of Divine Law in “Antigone” by Sophocles Essay


“Divine law” centers on the concept of immutable laws that supersede the edicts and laws of man. This means that even if a particular judgment, edict or law has been put in effect, if there is sufficient precedent in divine law to countermand its implementation, the aforementioned edict is considered null and avoid. In fact, it is even considered unwise to go against immutable divine laws due to the potential for “punishment from the heavens” to descend upon the individual that committed such acts. It is based on this definition that the character of Creon becomes a classic example of what happens to an individual that goes against the edicts of the divine.

In the story, we see that Creon has passed judgment on the corpse of Polyneices in order to deny it the benefit of being buried. What is important to take note of in this instance is that the burial rites of the dead are an important tradition for the ancient Greek city states due to the substantial amounts of myths surrounding burial rites. It is said that without a proper burial, the soul of the body continues to wander in the afterlife without ever entering into the Elysian Fields where they can get their eternal rest. It is based on this that to leave a body rotting out in the open is often considered a form of desecration of both the soul of the individual as well as the traditions that are greatly valued by ancient Greek societies. It is these ancient traditions that Creon is going against and, in this case, this is the apparent “divine law” that is being countermanded since Creon is in effect defying a tradition that has been set forth by Gods from before the time that Creon was even born.

While Creon was warned regarding the possible ramifications of going against “divine law”, his response was too late and in the end he lost his son and his wife. What is interesting though in the play “Antigone” is that the playwright ends with the council of elders stating that even though punishment was given in this instance, it also helps to bring wisdom to the individual being punished. In this particular case, it can be stated that Creon has learned not to go against the ancient traditions that are valued by the ancient Greek society that he is in since they are part of the immutable divine laws that have been implemented on Earth in order to guide and protect humans.

From a certain perspective, it can be stated that the actions of Creon and the resulting punishment that he received can be considered as a thinly veiled attempt at discrediting the actions of individuals that are trying to against the traditions that have been implemented within the society of Sophocles (Beushausen 16). It is all too evident that the play itself seems to be politically motivated in its creation since it showcases the violation of tradition (i.e. not burying the dead) in such a way that the person who goes against it is immediately punished. This sends the message that the various traditions and edicts that have been implemented within the society of Sophocles have their basis in divine law and, as such, should not be carelessly changed lest the person that attempts to do so meet the same end as Creon.

Works Cited

Beushausen, Katrin. “Dangerous Fracture: Undermining The Order Of The Law In Sophocles’s “Antigone..” Mosaic: A Journal For The Interdisciplinary Study Of Literature 41.3 (2008): 15-30. Print

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 19). The Theme of Divine Law in "Antigone" by Sophocles. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-divine-law-in-antigone-by-sophocles/

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"The Theme of Divine Law in "Antigone" by Sophocles." IvyPanda, 19 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-divine-law-in-antigone-by-sophocles/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Theme of Divine Law in "Antigone" by Sophocles." June 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-divine-law-in-antigone-by-sophocles/.


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IvyPanda. "The Theme of Divine Law in "Antigone" by Sophocles." June 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-divine-law-in-antigone-by-sophocles/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "The Theme of Divine Law in "Antigone" by Sophocles." June 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-divine-law-in-antigone-by-sophocles/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Theme of Divine Law in "Antigone" by Sophocles'. 19 June.

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