Free Essay About Morality And Law In Sophocles’ Antigone
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In his play ‘Antigone’, Sophocles examines the eternal dilemma faced by people between morality and law through the characters of Antigone and Creon. Creon accuses Antigone of disobeying his decree and thus the laws of the state when she buries her brother Polyneices who fought against Thebes and was considered a traitor by Creon and the Thebans. Antigone however believes that what she did was right and her act would please the Gods and the soul of her brother. Creon believes in the law of the state or his decree and punishes Antigone with death for disobeying. The dilemma that Antigone faces is that of between morality and human law. She argues that she would choose her moral decision fuelled by love over a law decreed by Creon. Both Creon and Antigone have valid points but because Antigone’s actions are a result of love and not pride, her arguments seem to be more valid than that of Creon. Antigone prefers listening to her heart and familial love over a rule and this dilemma is faced by almost everyone. Some choose to follow the law while others choose to follow their heart and do what is right.
Antigone argues with Creon telling him that Polyneices, although deemed a traitor by Creon had a claim on her religious duty and natural piety as much as her other brother. Creon’s soldiers bring Antigone to him when they find her burying her dead brother who had been left to rot in the battlefield. Since he had fought against Thebes, Creon considers him a traitor and orders that he should not be accorded a proper burial. Antigone does not deny this charge against her and tells Creon that she does not think in terms of state and laws but rather thinks like a sister and mourns for a brother who would not be given a proper burial. When Creon asks her how she could willfully digress a law dictated by him she answers him saying, “Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven. For their life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all time, and no man knows when they were first put forth.” She tells Creon that she would follow the rules set forth by Gods and her heart and not the ones put forth by mortals who thinks he could override the laws set by the Gods. She also tells him that there is “nothing shameful in piety to a brother.”
Creon is not only angered by Antigone’s refusal to follow his decree but is also unnerved by the fact that antigone by having done this has broken out of the station normally reserved for women. He sees her as not only as a citizen who is going against the law but also as a woman who dare rise against her position in the society vis a vis a man. Creon tells of Antigone that not only has she insulted the ruler and the state by disobeying the law but has also added injury to the insult by remaining steadfast in her belief and not denying anything.“This girl was already versed in insolence when she transgressed the laws that had been set forth; and, that done, lo, a second insult,-to vaunt of this, and exult in her deed.” He says that if she were to have her way she would be the man and not him.
The reader is prone to be favorable to the arguments laid out by Antigone as her actions are only motivated by a sense of religious duty and love for her brother. Antigone’s arguments are this legitimate as it is not pride or a desire to break the law that makes her bury her brother. She believes in morality, her sense of duty to her brother and the Gods and risks losing her life so she could be in peace. Creon on the other hand suffers from hubris, an extreme pride that would eventually bring him down. Creon can only see that someone has gone against his decree and cannot see antigone as a grieving sister. He punishes her with death which is not supported by even people who admire him. His arguments that the laws of humans are greater than that of duty and religion fall flat when it comes before the dedication that Antigone shows towards her dead brother. Creon thinks his decree is powerful than that of the Gods and that leads to his downfall. Creon believing in his own superiority comes across as a rigid ruler that shows no mercy towards a grieving sister and this act makes his arguments less alluring and legitimate. A rule passed for the sake of pride cannot justify dishonourable death and burial.
Everyone faces a dilemma between choosing what is morally right and what is legally right. While towing the laws would guarantee a safe life away from punishment a life fulfilling the moral duties and doing what is right would free the person of guilt and give peace of mind. With issues like racism, abortion and LGBT rights, every person has to choose between what is morally right and legally right. It is not easy to solve this dilemma as what could be morally right could go against the laws of the state. People could come together to change the laws affecting right decision making and persecuting people. Even though it is not impossible it is something that could be a reality in an ideal world. Antigone chose death bravely over what she believed was an unjust decree. If more people were to go to such extent for their belief, the dilemma could be overcome; for when there is a stubborn belief in what is right, there can be no dilemma and only a sense of what is right can exist.
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