Essay on Divine Law versus Human Law

Essay on Divine Law versus Human Law

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Divine Law versus Human Law

Sophocles' famous play, Antigone, can be perceived as a conflict between individual conscience and state policy. Yet the issue of the play goes beyond that conflict and touches the universal conditions of suffering, religion, and loyalty. Through Antigone's character--which represents the spheres of family loyalty, divine law, and human suffering, Sophocles conveys the idea that a law of man that violates religious law is not a law at all. He expresses this idea by having Antigone dutifully bury her brother's body although it is against King Kreon's ruling. Antigone's action is not only an act of family loyalty but is an act of piety demanded by the gods.
The play commences with Antigone announcing her decision to bury her dead brother, Polyneices, although Kreon, the King of Thebes, declared that Polyneices' body will remain unburied. He said, "[...] Polyneices, the exile, [...] will have no ritual, no mourners,/will be left unburied so men may see him/ripped for food by dogs and vultures" (Sophocles 237-242). This goes against Greek religion in which if a body is not given proper burial rites, the body's soul is condemned to torment and will wander aimlessly through space. When Antigone sprinkles dust three times over her brother's dead body, it is equivalent to burial and Polyneices' soul can take its place in the realm of Hades (Sophocles 522-3). Antigone defends her actions by saying that man-made laws are not dominant over the laws that the gods made: "I didn't suppose your decree had strength enough,/or you, who are human,/to violate the lawful traditions/the gods have not written merely, but made infallible." Antigone's actions suggest that divine law in this context is superior over mor...

... middle of paper ... did not want Ismene to take part of the plan because she wanted all the glory to herself. But this is not true because Antigone only said this to Ismene to prevent her from dying with her when she still had a fresh life to live. By hurting Ismene, Antigone subconsciously saves her life because Ismene would not want to die anymore.
Antigone represents the idea that family and divine law is more important than law of the state. By burying her brother and defying Kreon's ruling, she pleases the gods' wishes and alleviates her suffering. Her nobility could be seen by the citizens but not by Kreon who believed that nations belonged to men with power and not to gods. It was his greed that destroyed Antigone and the aspects of divine law, family loyalty, and suffering that she represented. "All the same, time after time, greed has destroyed good men" (Sophocles 260).

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