Antigone Justice in The Western Discussion
Read :Antigone. http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/antigone.html
ASSIGNMENT: who defines justice in Antigone, the gods or the king/state? What is the purpose of Creon’s law against burying a traitor? How is it similar to the rules for proper behavior to keep one group in power (but prevent it from getting too powerful) in the section we read of Leviticus? Does it matter that Antigone is female? What does Ismene say is the appropriate way for a woman to behave? How does Antigone justify her actions? (Imagine whether this play would be as convincing with a male hero burying his brother. Also ask yourself if that male hero would have buried his brother or instead challenged Creon in some military manner?) Antigone’s obligations to her family strongly influence her notion of justice. What influences Creon’s definition?
Respond to one colleagues’ post:
” In Antigone, the king/state tries to define justice; however, the Gods are the only ones who can define justice. Creon, the King, sets forth an “edict,” stating that the bodies of Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, must be buried in different ways. Eteocles was to be appropriately buried “with due observance of right and custom” while Polyneices should be mourned or entombed, as well as left, “unwept, unsepulchred, a welcome store for the birds, as they espy him, to feast on at will.” Antigone does not listen to this mandate, and she buries her brother. Because of this, Creon punishes Antigone. The Gods, however, were very angry at the decision that Creon made. The blind prophet, Teiresias, tells Creon that the gods will bring down a curse on the state in pursuing these actions. Creon does not listen to the prophet. However, Teiresias is right as Antigone, Haemon, Creon’s son, and Eurydice, his wife, kill themselves and curse Creon. This acts as a message from the Gods saying that they are the only ones that can put out justice, and the King/state is only supposed to follow the words of the gods. By not allowing Polyneices to have a proper burial, Creon goes against natural and divine law, and this action prompts the gods to bring justice against him.
Creon does not want to bury Polyneices because Polyneices comes back from exile and tries to attack Thebes’ city, making him a traitor. These laws are meant to deter others from following in the path of Polyneices. Creon believes that the citizens need to see how traitors are treated after their deaths, and even former rulers like Polyneices will not be spared. This is similar to what we read in Leviticus. Priests like Nadab and Abihu were gaining too much power as they tried to disobey and imitate God. In Leviticus, Nadab and Abihu were punished with death, and this acts as a message to all to make sure that they do not act in the same way as these two traitors did.
I do think that it matters that Antigone is female. In some way, I think it hurt Creon’s pride that a woman like Antigone did not follow his rules. Women are supposed to be obedient, however, Antigone is the complete opposite of obedient. Because of this, there is more of a reason to punish her rather than show her mercy because of her gender. It is a way to make an example of her to others to say that the King makes all the rules, and everyone needs to follow them. Ismene does not believe that Antigone is acting as a woman should. She says that as women, they should try to “strive” with men as they are ruled by those who are stronger than them. She also believes that the right thing to do as a woman would be to obey what Creon has set as his mandate. Antigone justifies her actions by saying that it is her duty as a sister to bury her brother. She says that her brother is someone that she loved, and she owed “a longer allegiance to the death than to the living.” She ends her justification by saying that she would rather be guilty of dishonoring the laws created by the King if it means that she will be following the rules that have been established by the gods in honor. I think the important part about this play is that it is a woman challenging the King. She does not fight with violence, but instead, she tries to bring justice to her brother and carry on with the gods’ wishes.
Antigone has strong obligations to her family, which is what influences her notion of justice. However, Creon is affected by human law. As the ruler of Thebes, Creon implements statutes and rules for citizens to follow. However, Creon’s pride does not allow him to realize that natural law is the land’s supreme law. His pride also influences many of his decisions. Even when Haemon, his son, tells him why he is making a wrong decision, he does not listen to his son. Creon’s definition of justice is influenced by his pride and by human law. ”