In Sophocles’ Antigone, the most prominent theme is the concept of divine law versus human law. The play opens with the debate between the sisters Antigone and Ismene concerning which law comes first- the devout obligations of citizens, or civic duty. Antigone requests for Ismene to assist her in burying their brother Polyneices, though the new king Creon, has prohibited burial on pain of death. It can be argued that Creon’s edict, which deprived Polyneices of his funeral rites, is understandable. The young man had been killed perpetrating the most atrocious crime of which a citizen could be guilty, and Creon, as the responsible head of state, naturally supposed that exemplary punishment was the culprit’s right...
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... others-or myself?
Haemon: It’s no city at all, owned by one man alone.
Creon: What? The city is the king’s- that’s the law! (819-25)
In addition, Creon disregards what had historically been the best counsel for the city, the blind prophet Tiresias. Despite Tiresias’ warnings that his “high resolve that sets this plague on Thebes,” will “strike [him] down with the pains [he] perfected,” Creon’s stubborn commitment to the laws of state turns to be his error. Eventually convinced by Tiresias’ warnings, Creon resolves to release Antigone from her isolated tomb. Regrettably, he’s too late and the consequences of his insolence for the divine laws were far worse than if he had “[L]ay[ed] [my] pride bare to the blows of ruin” (1220). Creon’s undoing can be viewed as an allegory of the calamities that ensue when the laws of man pursue to challenge the ancient laws of gods.
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