Moral Conflict in Antigone

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The major moral conflict in Antigone by Sophocles is the conflict over which value is most fundamental. The play presents the moral conflict over whether the god's law or the city's law is more powerful. This seems to be the most prominent theme. The conflict arises mainly between the tragic heroes Antigone and her uncle-in-law Creon, King of Thebes. The city of Thebes had been through a war in which Antigone and her sister Ismene have lost both of their brothers to it, Eteocles and Polyneices. Eteocles's fighting for Thebes was buried and honored as a hero. (lines 24-26) Polyneices was left unburied and dishonored because he is considered an enemy of the city. (lines 27-32) Creon edicts that whoever broke the law by burying Polyneices will be considered a criminal. (lines 203-209)

The conflict between Antigone and Creon arises when she decides she must honor her brother's death and gives him burial. (line 72) "I myself will bury him," she expressed to Ismene. Once Antigone has buried her brother, she is brought before King Creon to explain her actions. (p. 177) Sophocles presents the two sides of the conflict, moral law versus city law; Antigone expresses the side of moral law and Creon expresses his side with the laws of the city. Antigone begins by telling her sister Ismene it was her duty as a sister that she should bury her dead brother. It is a duty she owes to her family. She also expresses that the king will not "keep me from my own." In other words, duty to the family is above her duty to the city. Antigone also tells Ismene that she is willing to become a criminal and die for her beliefs. She believes her death will not be in vain, and it is honoring her family; and the gods, in turn, will recognize...

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...Ismene confronts Creon and tells him she had a part in Polyneices burial. (line 537) She is willing now to join Antigone in her troubles and is not ashamed to admit it. (line 539) She is willing to join Antigone in death. In the case of Ismene, her character is able to resolve the conflict on her own. She realizes she is nothing without her family and Creon's laws have taken her family away.

The conflict presented in Antigone involves all the characters and tragic heroes. Whether its internal conflict or conflict between two people, the theme is present throughout the entire play. Opposing views lead the main characters to take actions that eventually destroy all.

Works Cited

Sophocles. Antigone. Trans. Robert Fagles. Literature and the Writing Process. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X. Day, and Robert Funk. 6th. ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2002.
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