Was Antigone right to defy Creon? Throughout the history of mankind, people have had to make choices on whether to follow the law of the state or God’s laws. God’s laws or divine laws are any laws (or rules) that in the opinion of believers, comes directly from the will of God. These laws are independent of the will of man, who cannot change it. However it may be revealed or not, so it may change in human perception in time through new revelation. In the play Antigone by Sophocles, there is a conflict between Creon and Antigone over which law to obey in regards to Antigone attempting to bury her brother, the law of the state or God’s laws.
Antigone believes in following God’s laws, even if it means breaking the law of the state, a law set by Creon which states that Antigone’s brother Polynices is not to have a burial and no one is to touch him. On the other hand, Creon does not want Polynices to receive a burial because he betrayed his native city and should receive a suitable punishment. Even thought it was strictly forbidden, Antigone decides to defy the state’s law by giving her brother a burial.
Antigone was right in defying the King Creon because she had the right to bury her brother and her brother had the right to receive a respectful burial which would honor their family. Every person deserves a respectful burial because the body is like a loan to the individual from the god, to which the cadaver will inevitably return. Even though Antigone was committing a crime according to the laws set by state, according to her she was right because she was just following the will of the gods. Even though Antigone’s decision to defy Creon was the right one, it still might be contradictory.
By defying King Creon, Antigone has defied the law of state. Laws of state control and administer public policy, and direct and control the actions of its members. It is set up to maintain order within the society. Without some sort of government, people would be rational animals. Creon also considers the law of state above anything else. As Creon states, “There had to be one man who said yes. Somebody had to agree to captain the ship” (419). This shows that Creon believed that government is an essential part of a society. The fundamental purpose of government is the maintenance of basic security and public order.
It is duty of the citizens to abide by the government’s decision. Creon also believes that being a ruler of an empire gives him authority to control people’s lives and their decisions and that is why he is forcing everybody to abide by his rules or else they will die. Another reason why Antigone’s decision could have been objectionable was because Polynices was a traitor. He fought against his native city. Citizenship is a relationship between a citizen and a nation. Even though citizenship provides an individual with rights, it also carries with it some responsibilities.
Citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public service, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens. One of the responsibilities of a citizen is to obey the criminal laws enacted by government, even while abroad and being loyal to the nation. By failing to stay loyal to his native city, Polynices lost his right to receive a burial in the city. As Creon states, “Burying him would dishonor the loyal” (415). If he was given a burial in the city, the loyal would have been dishonored because then there would be no difference between the respect given to a traitor and loyal citizen.
The people who died for their country deserve admiration and are entitled to receive a respectful burial in the city. Even though civil law maintains order and security within a society, it is divine law which is far more superior to civil law. Antigone is outraged and gives a proper burial because it’s the moral and right thing to do. To her, the gods determined her fate completely. Obeying the gods was more crucial to obeying the government. “I know I am pleasing those I should please most” (416). She chose to bury her brother Polynices, though she knew that in doing so she would face her own certain death because King Creon forbids it.
According to the Divine law, the dead need to have a proper burial in order to make the journey to the underworld. Even though Polynices revolted against his city, he deserves a burial because that is his right. Not allowing him to receive a burial is immoral because that is man’s right. Antigone would not let her brother go without it. Antigone states, “I owed it to him. Those who are not buried wander eternally and find no rest. I owe it to him to unlock the house of the dead in which my father and my mother are waiting to welcome him.
Polynices has earned his rest” (415). This shows that Antigone believes that she has a moral responsibility to the gods over her obligation to the nation and is willing to suffer the consequence in order to do what is morally right. The dead deserve a burial with full funeral rites to ensure the peace of their soul. It is law of god to get everybody a burial or cremation to unlock their path to their journey to the underworld. Creon denied the burial of Polynices because he considered him a traitor because he fought against his native city.
He believed that burying Polynices would dishonor the loyal but what about the honor of his own family. If Polynices does not get a burial, wouldn’t that be a dishonor to his own family? Since Polynices is his nephew, it becomes his duty to ensure his proper burial. An improper burial or no burial for Polynices would not only dishonor the will of the Gods but also Creon’s own family. Also here is where Creon commits the logical fallacy of “Oversimplification” when he states that Polynices is a traitor because he fought against his native city.
Creon blames Polynices for betraying his native city but he never states why Polynices has chosen to do so. Polynices might have fought his native city to ensure that the people get justice or to kill the tyrant who currently is not ruling for the welfare of the public but himself. Even though Creon fought against his own native city, it does not make him a traitor because he might have done so for betterment of his own community and/or his fellow citizens. Antigone’s decision to defy King Creon was a right one. It is more important to simply rather obey and trust the Gods than a ruler stepping beyond his powers.
Also not following God’s will would be immoral because the fate of a man is independent of anyone’s will. Antigone makes a strong case for her religious beliefs. Nobody in the society’s existence has ever been successful to change the laws of the Gods. Creon may be a king but could not possibly know the truth behind altering death rights. Polynices deserved a burial because he was part of the family, and dishonoring him would mean dishonoring the family. Also it is God’s duty to decide whether one was honest and ethical throughout his/her life.