Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Antigone: Innocent or Guilty?

Sarita Beekie
Ms. Peifer
10 IB – Hour 5
25 November 2008

Antigone: Innocent or Guilty?
In the Greek tragedy Antigone written by Sophocles, moral aspects such as honor, obedience, and the justification of one’s actions can be seen throughout the ancient story of one fearless princess’ desire to honor her late brother, who bore the mark of shame for his hostile rebellion against his former kingdom. In the end, the princess would walk straight to Hades’ gates in the name of familial honor, which was her only crime, but does honor justify disobedience?

Our princess, Antigone, wholeheartedly admits to disregarding Creon’s proclamation when he asks as to whether she is guilty of breaking his law pertaining to the forbidden burial rights of her late brother, Polyneices, traitor of Thebes. He then asks, “‘And yet you dare to defy the law.’” (Sophocles) In her defense, she replies: “It was not God’s proclamation. That final Justice that rules the world below makes no such laws. Your edict, King, was strong, but all your strength is weakness itself against the immortal unrecorded laws of God.” (Sophocles) In saying this, she implies that Creon’s law is punitive in comparison to the judgment of the gods. She is also implying that she will be judged as innocent by the gods in the end.

It is true, when Creon says, “‘Disobedience is the worst of evils. This it is that ruins cities; this makes homes desolate; by this, the ranks of allies are broken into head-long rout; but, of the lives whose course is fair, the greater part owes safety to obedience. Therefore we must support the cause of order.’” (Sophocles) This would justify Creon’s condemnation of Antigone, had it not been for the vision of the oracle Teiresias, who tells Creon, “‘For the altars of our city and of our hearths have been tainted, one and all, by birds and dogs, with carrion from the hapless corpse, the son of Oedipus: and therefore the gods no more accept prayer and sacrifice at our hands.’” (Sophocles) In this statement, Teiresias tells of the gods’ displeasure, and then soon after proclaims:

“‘A time not long to be delayed shall awaken the wailing of men and of women in thy house. And a tumult of hatred against thee stirs all the cities whose mangled sons had the burial-rite from dogs, or from wild beasts, or from some winged bird that bore a polluting breath to each city that contains the hearths of the dead.’” (Sophocles)

Teiresias proclaimed of horrible misfortune that would befall Creon for punishing Antigone so unjustly, but instead of righting the error of his ways, he let fate come to pass, and inadvertently caused the deaths of his son Haimon and his wife Eurydice.

Antigone was guilty of honoring her brother and acting on what the gods (in the end) viewed as righteous behavior. Had Antigone’s actions not been viewed as such, Creon wouldn’t have lost two of the people of whom he held so dear to himself. However, in the end, even after her death, her actions were judged as if she was completely innocent, so therefore she must be innocent.

Works Cited
Sophocles. "Antigone." Literature Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: World Literature. Trans. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001. 814-826
Sophocles. "Antigone." The Internet Classic Archive. Trans. R.C. Jebb. 4 Oct 2000. Classics. mit. edu. 25 November 2008 <http://classics.mit.edu/sophocles/antigone.html.>

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