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Often in plays, there are conflicting issues. This is what creates the storyline, or plot. Usually, each play has an antagonist and a protagonist. A protagonist is the main driving force in the play, whereas the antagonist the force that goes against the protagonist. Deciding who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist are really matters of opinion. In the play, "Antigone" by Sophocles, there are different opinions about who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist.
In "Antigone," Creon and Antigone have distinct conflicting values. Creon's regard for the laws of the city causes him to abandon all other beliefs. He feels that all should obey the laws set forth by him, even if other beliefs, moral or religious, state otherwise. Antigone, on the other hand, reveres the beliefs of the gods. She feels that the laws of the gods should be obeyed above all others, especially when in respect to family. Creon has a very strong opinion about the laws of the city and the laws passed by him. His method of enforcing them is very strict. In "Antigone," Creon orders that Polynices, Antigone's brother, will not be buried because of his dishonor towards Thebes. Furthermore, if anyone is caught burying him, they will be killed for disobeying his order. Polynices is being punished because he attacked Thebes and betrayed Creon and the people of Thebes. Creon says "Remember this: our country is our safely. Only when the voyages true on course can we establish friendships, truer than blood itself." (Antigone 210-213) Creon's harsh punishment on those who disobey the law makes many fear him and dare not to go against him. One example is Ismene's regard for Creon's laws. She tries to talk her sister out of burying her brother because of what could happen to her if Creon found out that she went against him. Ismene says, "I'm forced, I have no choice-I must obey the ones who stand in power." (Antigone 78-79) Not only do the people of Thebes obey the laws of the city because of their fear but because it is a shame to dishonor the king. To go against the king's claim and dishonor the law is to die a more shameful death than Antigone's mother and father.
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Consequently, Antigone does not want to let her brother be left without a proper burial. She believes that in order to show proper respect and love towards her brother she must bury him. Her beliefs in "The laws that the gods hold in honor" are far more important than those set by the king. (Antigone 91-92) She feels that the king cannot override the rulings of the gods. Antigone feels very strongly about burying her brother against Creon's orders. She refused to back down from her opinion even when confronted by the king and sentenced to death. Antigone's reasoning is: "It wasn't Zeus, not in the least, who made this proclamation-not to me…. Nor did I think your edict had such force that you, a mere mortal, could override the gods. (Antigone, 500-504) She goes on to say that she does not want to go before the gods after she had disobeyed them because of a decree made by a mortal king (458-459).
The loss of a brother is greater to Antigone then the loss of any other kind. She says, "For had I lost a son, or lost a husband, Never would I have ventured such an act against the city's will. And wherefore so? My husband dead, I might have found another; another son from him if I had lost a son. But since my mother and father have both gone to the grave, there can be none henceforth that I can ever call my brother"(907-914). To Antigone, this is another reason to honor her brother as she honors her brother she is honoring her mother and father as well. Creon, being a new king, wants to prove his abilities. He is being harsh, so the people of Thebes do not take him for a pushover and other problems arise. Creon feels that if someone dishonors the city in which he rules, they must be punished. If Polynices is not punished, then Creon's power may be taken for granted by the people of Thebes. Creon is also offended by the action that Polynices took against his family; he sees Polynices as a traitor. If he does not enforce this law, he fears that the people would think of him as a weak king, who can be dishonored without fear of punishment. Creon wants to be respected and feared as a king because this will give him more power. He does not want to be a bad king, using his power for evil things, but a strong king. However, in order to be a strong king, one must be strict and firm in one's decisions. Creon is a strong king because Thebes is important to him, and he wants Thebes to be a great city. Antigone and Creon have different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. However, one cannot say who is right and who is wrong, what is important and what is not.
Both Antigone and Creon have their reasons for their actions. Antigone has the laws of heaven as well as her family in mind; on the other hand, Creon's concern is his city and its greatness. Moreover, Antigone has the more convincing argument. The gods come first. They are all powerful and no mortal has the right to override the laws created by the gods. Antigone makes a very good point in justifying her burying Polynices. She says, "I have longer to please the dead than please the living here. (Antigone, 86-89) By this, she means that people live for only a short time, and when they die, it is forever. Therefore, she aims to please those she will spend the most time with--the dead. Overall, some may see Creon as the protagonist and Antigone as the antagonist because she is going against this law he set. However, perhaps the gods are the protagonist and Creon is the antagonist, going against the gods' will.