Antigone was Right The story of Antigone deals with Antigones brother whos body has been left unburied because of crimes against the state. The sight of her brother being unburied drives Antigone to take action against the state and bury her brother regardless of the consequences. The concept of the Greek afterlife was far more important and sacred than living life itself. Everything they did while they were alive was to please the many gods they worshipped. They built temples for their Gods, made statues to symbolize their Gods, and had a different God to explain things that we now say are an act of mother nature. Antigone percieved her actions to be courageous and valid, and Kreone, the King, percieved them as blasphemous.
The entire story focuses on deciding whos right. The question arises, “Did Antigone take proper action?” Was it right to go against her Uncle Kreons wishes and go ahead and bury her brother that was to be left out for the vultures? Would it have been better just to leave the situation how it was? The fact is, Antigone did the right thing. She was acting out of divine influence so to speak. Since divinity and humanity are shown to be colliding forces where divinity out weighs humanity in ancient Greece. Antigone was justified in her actions. Antigone was following divine laws, or walking with divine shoes, while Kreone followed the laws of the state.
Her brothers afterlife was so important to Antigone that she was willing to give up anything to ensure her brothers happiness and “future” after his death. This supported in the play by the way she is so outspoken about what she had done after she is caught and while she is being questioned. “Why should I be ashamed of my loyalty to my brother?” (Sophocles line 624). Kreon didnt like her speaking in the manner such as this because it shows him that she has no remorse for disobeying his orders. Furthermore, it damaged Kreones incredible pride. Kreones pride is so great in fact, that he cant even be swayed by his son Haimon.
Haimon asks his father to take his advice and not have Antigone executed, but, because of Kreons stubborness for the law of the state, Kreon gets furious and makes the situation worse then it already was. He was way too proud to take advice from someone younger, and in his anger he decided to kill Antigone right away in front of Haimons eyes. “Just understand: You dont insult me and go off laughing. Bring her here! Let him see her. Kill her here, beside her bridegroom” (Sophocles 919-921).
This was too much for Haimon to take, and he runs out of the room, yelling, “her death will destroy others” (Sophocles 908). Blinded by his pride and arrogance, Kreon takes that remark as a threat to himself, unknowing that it wasnt directed to him, but was a suicide threat by his own son. Yet, Kreone may have been viewed as justified in his actions as well. Kreon states that the gods would be unhappy if a traitor to their earth were to be buried. Someone that was a traitor to the Gods land would not be admired. The gods would agree that the person should be punished.
Kreon “should” have been taken as correct on this argument because kings were the lawgivers and thought to be god-like. The same type of thing goes on in todays government with our president. If we dont like him , which many may not, that does not give us the right to ignore his laws or the laws of this country. The fact is laws are made for a reason, be it good or bad. Even though they may seem a little far-fetched now, they were probably very reasonable then. The law may seem to be unjust to us in todays society but that does not give anyone the right to create their own laws to live by.
Unless, they are rebeling against a absoulutism; and this is precisely what Antigone was doing. In the story, Kreone was refferred to as a tyrant. “In the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. in one city-state after another, an individual “tyrant”-by which the Greeks meant someone who held the power contrary to the established traditions of the commmunity” (Bulliet pg. 141). In other words, by defining Kreone as a tyrant in the text, they meant that he was dictator who took control and changed the laws of the land. Therefore, his laws were absoulute, and unjust in the first place.
The morals that Antigone had instilled in her since the day of her birth are what caused her to rise above Kreones tyrany. Her moral concious could not allow her brother not to be burried. The fact that she was a woman standing up to the King, of all people, didnt help sway Kreones decision. Back then women did not have any more rights than the slaves did and to be talked to in such a powerful way by a woman was just unheard of, especially to a ruler. Only a strong willed woman with divine law in her corner could hope to accomplish a goal like standing up to a tyrant.
Yet, Kreone had a chance to make amends. He was forewarned of his stupidity by many people “All mankind is subject to error. Once a mistake is made it is wise of him to make amends and not be unbending. Stubbornness is stupidity” (Sophocles 1180-1184). Teiresias, a old man who could accuratley tell the future, spoke these words to Kreone. However, Kreones stubborness held strong.
This is why Kreones ego kept him from being righteous. Antigones actions were justified in tragedy of Antigone. But the magnitude of her actions can only be viewed when set against the background of the time period. A strong woman was unheard of in ancient Greece. But the interpretation that Antigone was justified in her actions and that she acted on the side of divinity, can help to visualize the text and the culture that produced Antigone.
Work Cited Sophocles. Antigone. Trans. Richard Emil Braun. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. Bulliet, Crossley, et al.
The Earth and its Peoples. New York : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.