Antigone is the protagonist in the story Antigone. She is a young girl who rises up against her uncle, King Creon to defend what she believes in. King Creon is seen amongst the society as a dictator and feels no one should go against his orders. One of King Creon’s orders is to not give Antigone’s brother, Polyneices, a proper burial because he thought Polyneices was a traitor. Antigone, however, chooses to bury her brother because in her heart she feels it is the right thing to do, knowing full well that Creon disapproves and has made it clear that if anyone attempts to touch Polyneices, they will be stoned in public.
Antigone demonstrates her strength as both a character and a female heroine throughout the entire play. In the beginning of the play, Antigone and her sister, Ismene, are arguing about whether or not to defy Creon’s law. Antigone believes in the god’s law, which requires a proper burial, however, Ismene fears Creon so she wants to follow his law. Creon’s law requires no one to touch or bury Polyneices, if someone does, they will be killed. Ismene is trying to convince Antigone that they should just follow Creon’s law because she is scared and Ismene does not want them to get executed.
As we consider these roles, we can look at Antigone who goes against the established expectations of the woman’s role of the time and stands up to Creon when she thinks he is being wrongful. Creon thinks that women should never disobey men; should a woman stand up against a man, he is inferior to the woman (pp 209). Antigone defies the King’s edict of civil law by following God’s law, burying her brother on two different occasions (pp 208). The first time she buried him was to keep her mind at ease because Creon would not allow anyone to bury him. The second instance was because the wind blew the dirt off her brother, after which Antigone decided to bury him for the second time.
The lack of support for Antigone’s plan leaves her no choice, but distances herself from her sister who obviously doesn’t share the same family loyalty beliefs as her (Lines 77-81). Ismene later in the play tries to claim some guilt in order to help Antigone’s cause. Yet again, Antigone refused to allow her sister to assume any punishment for her crime. Sophocles, Peter Meineck, Paul Woodruff’s Theban plays acknowledges Antigone would rather be dead with her brother than alive with a husband (Line 55-58). This is
Antigone’s strength allows her to defend her brother’s honor against Creon, who wants to make a statement about traitors. However, both Antigone and King Creon commit faults while trying to protect the things they love. Antigone should not have died for her beliefs as it puts her loved ones and community in danger, and Creon should not have forbidden the burial of Polyneices as it angers the Gods and causes him great suffering in the end. Antigone is a strong willed character who is not afraid to defend her beliefs. After learning that Creon has denied Polyneices of a proper burial she uses her free will to decide that she must lay her brother to rest, as she strongly believes he should be honored like the other fallen soldiers.
Her own laws, or morals, drive her to break Creon's law placed against Polyneices burial. Even after she realizes that she will have to bury Polyneices without the help of her sister, Ismene, she says: Go away, Ismene: I shall be hating you soon, and the dead will too, For your words are hateful. Leave me my foolish plan: I am not afraid of the danger; if it means death, It will not be the worst of deaths-death without honor. Here Ismene is trying to reason with Antigone by saying that she cannot disobey the law because of the consequences. Antigone is close-minded when she immediately tells her to go away and refuses to listen to her.
Will you come?”(pg.750 line 30). Ismene is too afraid of Creon to help Antigone. Antigone is determined to bury her brother at any cost, and unlike her sister, she is not afraid of Creon. “Creon is not strong enough to stand in my way,”(pg.750 line 35). Not even the threat of death is enough to make Antigone afraid of Creon.
In the end Antigone chooses to obey the gods and “loving and loved [she] will lie by [Polynices’s] side,” (Sophocles 3). By burying her brother she not only obeys divine law but her familial duty to her brother. Antigone’s desire to obey the gods shows that she understands the importance of divine law. Ismene, however, fulfills her familial duty to Creon and the state instead. By standing with Creon as a united front against the populace she is ensuring her family remains in power and tells Antigone that to disobey Creon “’tis wrong to attempt at all.” In this instance she chooses to obey the state over the gods and as well her duty to her uncle over her brother.
Antigone believes that as Polyneices' sisters, they are responsible for burying him properly, according to the god's rules. On the contrary, Ismene feels that they should not get involved, they are "women born, unapt to cope with men." (Sophacles, p.3) Antigone disregards this statement and still adamantly insists that they must bury him. She feels that by burying him, she will be following the gods, which is more important than following the ruler. As she says on page 3, “Loving and loved, I will lie by his (Polynices) side.
Justice should be served and women should have the same divine rights that men do. In the beginning of Antigone, we see Antigone struggling with the conflicting expectations between divine law and man’s law. The problem throughout the play is Antigone is a believer in divine law while Creon is a believer in man’s law. In the first scene, Antigone tells her sister that she will defy Creon’s law and bury her brother. Antigone says, “He has no right to keep me from my own” (Sophocles 1008).