Essay on Nature of the Conflict in Sophocles' Antigone

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The Nature of the Conflict in Antigone

In “Sophocles’ Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone,” Charles Paul Segal explains the nature of the conflict between Antigone and Creon:

The conflict between Creon and Antigone has its starting point in the problems of law and justice. At any rate, the difference is most explicitly formulated in these terms in Antigone’s great speech on the divine laws. . . . Against the limited and relative “decrees” of men she sets the eternal laws of Zeus, the “unwritten laws of the gods.” She couples her assertion of these absolute “laws” with her own resolute acceptance of death (460) (64).

In Antigone the protagonist, is humble and pious before the gods and would not tempt the
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shall rest, a loved one with him whom I have loved, sinless in my crime; for I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living: in that world I shall abide for ever. But if thou wilt, be guilty of dishonouring laws which the gods have established in honour.

Ismene is unmoved by the reasoning and sentiments of her sister: “I do them no dishonour; but to defy the State,-I have no strength for that.” Her conflict with her sister over the unlawful interment is not a serious conflict for either of the sisters. Ismene, in parting, accuses Antigone of foolishness in her bold plans: “Go, then, if thou must; and of this be sure,-that though thine errand is foolish, to thy dear ones thou art truly dear.” Ismene, one might say, is “humble and pious” to the king first and to the gods secondly.

Creon is introduced into the drama, the antithesis of humility and piety; he replaces Eteocles as ruler in Thebes: “I now possess the throne and all its powers, by nearness of kinship to the dead.” Creon explains to the elderly Thebans of the chorus the rationale behind the new edict regarding Polynices, which stipulates: “. . .it hath been proclaimed to our people that none shall grace him with sepulture or lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for birds and dogs to eat, a ghastly sight of shame.” No sooner has the edict been promulgated than a guard reports to the king that the edict has been violated: “The corpse-some one hath just

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