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Antigone by Sophocles

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"I would not count any enemy of my country as a friend." In the play Antigone, written by Sophocles, Antigone finds herself torn apart between divine law and state law. The play opens up at the end of a war between Eteocles and Polyneices, sons of Oedipus and brothers of Antigone and Ismene. These brothers, fighting for control of Thebes, kill each other, making Creon king of Thebes. Creon, as king, gives an important speech to the citizens of Thebes, announcing that Eteocles, who defended Thebes, will receive a proper burial, unlike his brother Polyneices, who brought a foreign army against Thebes. This speech introduces the major conflict of divine law versus state law. Furthermore, Creon cherishes order and loyalty above all else. He cannot bear to be disobeyed or watch the laws of the state be broken by anyone, especially by a woman. However, Antigone places her individual conscience and love for her brother Polyneices above and against the power and authority of the state, which costs her life. "You ought to realize we are only women, not meant in nature to fight against men, and that we are ruled, by those who are stronger, to obedience in this and even more painful matters." In the opening of the play, Antigone and Ismene meet in the night. Antigone laments Creon's decree that whoever tries to bury Polyneices or mourn for him must be stoned to death. Although Ismene declares that the sisters lack any power in the situation, Antigone insists that she will bury Polyneices, and asks for Ismene's help. Ismene states that though she loves Polyneices, she must abide by the king's decree. Ismene, unlike Antigone, fears death. She believes that there is nothing that she can do. She reminds Antigone that they are on... ... middle of paper ... ...assistance, resolves to give their brother a proper burial. Ismene feared helping Antigone bury Polyneices but offers to die beside Antigone when Creon sends her to die. Antigone, however, refuses to allow her sister to be killed for something she did not have the courage to stand up for. The position of women is an important theme in this play. Gender has an impact on Antigone and her actions. Antigone does not stress her own gender openly, but Creon does, refusing to take back Antigone's punishment because she, a woman, has broken his law. One can view Antigone as being fed up with restrictions and obsessed with death and martyrdom. Clearly, she is motivated by love for her brother and by her strong belief that the divine law has been violated. However, becoming a martyr makes the consequences of her action an additional advantage, rather than an obstacle.
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