Antigone and Creon, from “Antigone” by Sophocles, encounter a philosophical war based on their moral views. A conflict arose when the principles that backed up their actions disagreed with each other. Antigone’s side of the conflict held a gods’ law is the way approach, as opposed to the “I am king” approach Creon chose to follow. The variation in the beliefs, opinions, and moral views of Antigone and Creon were constantly disputed through out the play.
Antigone felt that Creon was disregarding the laws of gods through his law. After she was captured and brought to Creon, she told him, “Your edict, King was strong, but all your strength is weakness itself against the immortal unrecorded laws of God. They are not merely now: they were, and shall be, operative for ever, beyond man utterly.” Antigone’s opinion is one that supports the Gods and the laws of heaven. Her view is set by her belief that if someone is not given a proper burial, then that person would not be accepted into heaven. Antigone was a very religious person, and acceptance of her brother by the Gods was very important to her. She felt that “…I will bury him; and if I must die, I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down with him in death, and I shall be as dear to him as he to me.”
Creon’s order was personal to Antigone, as she saw his law as invading her family life as well as offensive to the Gods. In Antigone’s eyes, Creon betrayed the laws of the Gods by not allowing her to properly bury her brother, Polynices. She believed that the burial was a sacred ritual, and Creon did not have the authority to refuse Polynices his entitlement. Antigone’s strong belief towards the burial of her brother is what led her to her death by the hands of Creon. Since Creon was ruler, whatever he said was the law, and since Antigone broke his law, Creon was in a sense to blame, because if that law wasn’t put into effect then Antigone wouldn’t have hung herself.
Nevertheless, she did not stop defending what she thought was proper. Right before her death, Antigone exclaimed, “… you see me now, the last unhappy daughter of a line of kings, your kings, led away to death. You will remember what things I suffer and at what men’s hands, because I would not transgress the laws of heaven.” She feels that Creon is abusing his power as king and dealing with her task on a personal level.
Creon’s actions were based off of the fact that, “… no ruler can expect complete loyalty from his subjects until he has been tested in office.” Polynices’ body left unburied is a symbol of Creon’s action to achieve the loyalty that he desired. “As long as I am King, no traitor is going to be honored with the loyal man.” Leaving the body unburied was done to show respect for Thebes, not in spite of the family. After all, how could the ruler of a kingdom honor a man who attempted to invade and conquer what is now his kingdom. This was far from the beliefs of Antigone. She believed that everyone deserved the right to have a proper burial, no matter what wrong doing that person may have done, and that the gods’ are the authorities that judge the afterlife.
Due to this belief, Creon turned Antigone into his prisoner, and not the public’s. The general population actually supported Antigone, but though they were too scared to stand against Creon. Haimon knew of this and told his father, “Died so shameful a death for a generous act: ‘She covered her brother’s body. Is this indecent? She kept him from dogs and vultures. Is this a crime? Death? – She should have all the honor that we can give her!’ This is the way they talk out there in the city.” Creon was exercising complete domination of political power. By not allowing Antigone to perform her religious ceremony of burying her brother is interfering with religious affairs. This act denied Antigone of her religious freedom.
Creon had to weigh each factor carefully, and had to decide between his morals and his beliefs. He was torn, trying to choose what was just. “… Oh it is hard to give in! But it is worse to risk everything for stubborn pride.” The conflict of beliefs was what led to Antigone’s, Haimon’s, and Megareus’ death. Both sides were just, but Creon was forced to decide and determine right from wrong when there was no clear answer. In the end, the Chorus’ opinion was the determining factor and they convinced Creon to set Antigone free, but it was already too late.
The conflict between the beliefs of Creon and Antigone are layered throughout the play. Both have logical arguments, but neither dominates the other. Antigone is motivated by her strong religious feelings, while Creon is trying to be lawful and do what’s right for his kingdom. Neither won this battle, as Antigone took her life, the lives of Creon’s wife and son followed, leaving Creon with nothing but his precious kingdom.