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Kreon s Tragedy
In Sophocles Antigone, the struggles the main character, Antigone, faces concerning the burial of her brother, Polyneices, evoke a wide array of emotions towards Creon. Antigone is portrayed as a woman acting out of obligation and duty, to the gods, her family, and her conscience. She faces overwhelming odds and incredible hardships for doing what she knew was right, which was what led her to the death sentence from Creon. Creon is to blame for this tragedy because of his insecurity, his insensitivity, and his stubbornness.
As king of Thebes, Creon is obligated to make an example to those who perform traitorous acts; Polyneices falls under this category through his actions against the state. Eteokles showed valor and loyalty to the state of Thebes; so therefore, he is deserving of proper ceremony and burial. Polyneices, on the other hand, conspired against Eteokles and Thebes, so naturally, he deserves no honor in death. Creon sees Polyneices as a traitorous villain who deserves to be left in the sun to rot. Antigone’s family has already suffered tremendous hardships even before the play begins. Ismene, her sister, laments the tragic circumstances of their parent’s fate by saying, “Think of Oedipus, our own father, hated, infamous, destroyed; and Mother, remember, his mother and wife, two in one, her braids of rope that twisted life away (ll 58-63). Antigone has found the strength and courage to withstand both of these tragedies, only to have two more heaped upon her. “Then our brothers, two in one day, the hands that murdered shared twin doom (ll 66-69). Antigone’s strength to survive and to withstand these events is within itself a reason for Kreon to respect her wishes toward the burial of Polyneices. She wished nothing more than to know her dead loved ones were in the halls of Hades, with the gods, regardless of their sins on earth, as this would make their deaths bearable. To know both Eteokles and Polyneices were buried, regardless of their actions on this earth, and to know they have advanced to the afterlife was justification for her breaking Creon’s law.
Antigone feels that leaving Polyneices’ body unburied is an affront to the gods and a violation of their laws. Antigone noted this fact when Ismene declines her request to help bury their slain brother. She states, “If you believe you must, cast out these principals which the gods themselves honor (ll 5-96). Relationships with the gods were very important to the Greek people in life but also in death. Antigone buried all of her departed family members out of respect, but also as an honor to the gods. The gods created humans and have rights to their company when their time on earth is over. Antigone chose to defy the laws of man in favor of the laws of the gods. It is clear that Antigone feels that the laws of heaven take precedence over those of morals.
This is another one of Creon’s positions which holds no validity whatsoever. He is arrogant in thinking it is acceptable to use his position of power to deny the wishes of the gods. Antigone herself charges Creon with this fact, “I didn t suppose your decree had strength enough, or you, who are human, to violate the lawful traditions the gods have not written merely, but made infallable” (ll 55-57). While Antigone knew heaven’s law was in direct violation of Creon’s decree, she knew in her heart what the correct course of action was. Creon, on the other hand, considered himself higher than the gods in his decision, and chose to ignore immortal beings and their immortal laws to punish a dead man for his sins on a worldly plateau.
Antigone’s decision to bury Polyneices, had it not been also deeply rooted to emotional and religious feelings, was an obligation of a family nature, and so it was unfair to punish her for it. “He s my brother and yours too; and weather you will or not, I ll stand by him (ll 52-23). Polyneices and Antigone were of the same blood, and that fact should neither have been underestimated nor ignored. Antigone took it upon herself to do what her absent mother and father would have done out of love and bonds deeper than any law or state. Had it been Creon’s brother being picked at by birds and wild dogs, perhaps his feelings could have been different.
In the end, Antigone faces her death as nobly as any martyred heroine of any era. “There, in the farthest corner of the cave, we saw her hanging by the neck. The rope was of the woven linen of her dress” (1521). Instead of facing starvation and madness in the cave and wailing and weeping until she died, Antigone showed her integrity by taking her own life, on her own terms, with courage and bravery. This bravery is quite the contrast to the sniveling way Creon does when the prophecy of his fate is fulfilled. He states, “The end will welcome, the final day. Why don t you come at last? I m waiting for doom. I don t want to see another day (ll 1516-1518). Creon’s fate is no more heavy than the fate which Antigone was dealt since her birth, nor were his actions any less in his control than were hers, yet even though Antigone paid a greater price than he, Creon laments at his misfortune. Antigone believes that once a thing must come to pass and is unavoidable, there is no sense in mourning, or cursing the fates for misfortune, but rather, one must take the course of events into his/her hands. In Antigone’s case, she took control over the very last thing that she could – she took her own life, on her own terms. On those terms, she died with honor and dignity, despite the humiliating effect dying in the cave was supposed to invoke. Creon, whose life was spared, whines and snivels because of his misfortune. This very situation shows the weakness of Creon s character.
In conclusion, Antigone demonstrates that there are no such things as black and white issues in this world. Although Creon s actions are understandable, I do not feel they are right. Polyneices was a traitor who may have deserved no burial; however, through Antigone’s eyes, it was his right in death. I side with Antigone as she fought and died for her brother’s last dignity, and to release his soul to the next world. Polyneices was a human being deserving of proper ceremony and burial regardless of his actions in life. Should not Creon himself under his own law, be denied a burial due to the deaths of innocent people he caused? No, Creon deserves that right, regardless of the decisions he made in his mortal life.
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