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God Versus Man in Sophocles' Antigone

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God Versus Man in Antigone

Throughout Sophocles’ drama, Antigone, there are many themes that can be traced. One of the most predominant themes is god versus man, which appears not only in Antigone, but also in many of the classic Greek tragedies written in Sophocles’ time.

Choragos: There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;

No wisdom but in submission to the gods.

Big words are always punished,

And proud men in old age learn to be wise. (158)

The quotation above serves as the moral for this tragedy, which includes an illustration of the theme as it was applied to the play. In the drama, Antigone, the theme of the inner struggle between allegiance to human law versus divine law can best be seen through Antigone’s reverence for the gods in relation to her actions, Kreon’s realization of the effects of his selfish pride, and the people of Thebes’ observations about Kreon’s decisions.

Antigone has the most direct struggles with human law and a higher law in the drama, for it is the application of this theme that decides her fate. Faced with the decision to defy the King and properly bury her brother, Polyneices, or leave his body unprepared for death as Kreon wished, she chose to obey the wishes of the gods and bury him. At the time of the drama, the Greeks believed that a decent burial was essential for the soul to be at rest. Kreon accused Polyneices of fighting against his own country and forbade all citizens of Thebes to prepare his body. Instead, it was left to decay on the field on which he was killed. When Antigone first hears this news, she immediately reacts by telling her sister, Ismene, that she wants Polyneices’ soul to be at rest, and th...

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...edited by Dudley, Lavinia P. et alii. New York:Americana Corporation, 1957. vol. 2.

Segal, Charles Paul. “Sophocles’ Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone.” In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Sophocles. Antigone, Trans. by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. Adventures in Appreciation/Pegasus Edition. Orlando: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Publishers, 1989.

“Sophocles” In Literature of the Western World, edited by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. NewYork: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.

Woodard, Thomas. Introduction. In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Watling, E. F.. Introduction. In Sophocles: The Theban Plays, translated by E. F. Watling. New York: Penguin Books, 1974.
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