Conflicting Values in Antigone
In the play “Antigone” by Sophocles, Creon and Antigone have distinct and conflicting values. Creon’s regard for the laws of the city causes him to abandon all other beliefs. He feels that all should obey the laws set forth by him, even if other beliefs, moral or religious, state otherwise. 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 in respect 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. Creon orders that Polyneices will not be buried because of his dishonor towards Thebes. Furthermore, if anyone is caught burying him they will be killed for disobeying his order. Polyneices is Antigone’s brother. He 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 to go against him.
One example is Ismene’s regard for Creon’s laws. She tries to talk her sister out of burying her brother because of what could happen to her if Creon found out that she went against him. Ismene says “We must obey them…..I yield to those who have authority”(5).
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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 kings claim and dishonor the law is to die a more shameful death then Antigone’s mother and father(59-60).
Antigone does not want to let her brother be left without a proper burial. Her belief is to show respect and love towards her brother she must bury him. Her beliefs in “The sacred laws that Heaven holds in honor” are far more important 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 against Creon’s orders. She refused to back down from her opinion even when confronted by the king and sentenced to death. Antigone 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 Antigone then 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; as she honors her brother she is honoring her mother and father as well.
Creon, being a new king, wants to prove his abilities as king. He is being harsh, so the people of Thebes don’t take him for an easy king and therefore cause other problems arise. 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 may be taken for granted 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 a strong king. However in order to be a strong king, one must be strict and firm in one’s decisions.
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That is the kind of king that Creon is. Creon is a strong king because Thebes is important to him. He wants to be respected. He also wants Thebes to be a great city. Antigone and Creon have different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. However one cannot say who is right and who is wrong, that would be a matter of opinion. Both Antigone and Creon have their 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.