moralant Morality in Sophocles' Antigone


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Antigone: The Obedience of One's Morality


According to the Bible, after Jesus was arrested by religious leaders, the apostles, his closest followers, fled his side. The apostle Peter was later recognized as one of Jesus' companions by the people who helped arrest him. Peter, however, denied even knowing Jesus three times. Peter believed that, should he remain faithful, he would be granted eternal life by God, and he knew that denying Jesus was a grave sin. However, his fear of his accusers caused him to err, and to stray from what he believed to be right. Today, many of us have been told to "do what you believe is right, no matter what the cost." However, human weakness often causes one to falter, as Peter did, in an attempt to protect oneself. While many people advise others with the aforementioned motto, few will use it to the extent that is insisted upon in Antigone, the extent to which the apostle Peter should have applied it.

            Antigone is an outstanding example of someone who did what she thought was right, while she was among fools, many hardships, and people who were discouragingly uncourageous. Although we may not defend the self-sacrificial actions of Antigone, or may not have the strength to do something similar, we should follow principle behind her actions. Antigone believed, as did most people of her time, that a dead person's soul could not rest if that person's body was not buried. Creon, the King, ordered that the body of Polyneices, Antigone's brother, be left to rot unburied because he had died attacking the city, a traitor. This presents a huge problem for Antigone; she feels she must obey the laws of the gods and bury her brother, but the penalty would be earthly death.

Antigone's moral values were so important to her that she was willing to die in order to uphold them. She reasoned that her reward (or punishment) after death would reflect the nobility of her decision--and the reward would last much longer than her terrestrial life. However, Peter believed the same thing, and had complete faith in his beliefs, but did not act accordingly. He became too overwhelmed by the present, and his possible suffering then. It is human nature to fear death, and this overwhelmed Peter's desire to adhere to all godly laws. Such was not Antigone's case; no doubt ever entered her mind as to what she was to do.

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Antigone is an almost superhuman example of steadfastness and control. While someone under similar circumstances might decide to defy Creon, as Antigone did, few would not be unnerved by the barrage of obstacles hurled at Antigone. The only person she let into her confidence, Ismene, her only possible source of comfort and fortitude served only to sway her confidence. Antigone was already grieved, and the insensitivity displayed towards her by the sentries, Creon, and the Choragus was no help.

            A striking, dominant element in this play, especially in our age of overwhelming feminists, is the gross, excessive chauvinism displayed by Creon. He realizes he might pardon Antigone because of her kinship, but says: "Who is the man here, she, or I, if the crime goes unpunished?" After all her trials, Antigone had to face a prejudiced fool as her judge and ruler. The chorus often champion Creon, instigates his judgment, and adds to Antigone's troubles. It was enough to make anyone cry, but Antigone went to her death with dignity. This play reveals a rock-solid martyr, whose beliefs and obstacles are much more formidable than those of the average "do the right thing" advocate. Finally, Ismene, Haimon, the Chorus and even Creon come to realize that Antigone was right. During the course of the play, the Chorus asks many questions the audience must also be asking, and helps advance the plot. The play obviously attempts to show that Antigone made the best decision, as she gets the support of the gods (the all-mighty, truly relevant force), and her opposition, Creon, suffers. The view of the play is that it is unquestionably important to follow the laws of the gods, to do what is right.

            Whether we agree with this play's message, or follow it, it's theme lies in Antigone's triumph against mundane opposition. It definitely showed support for her conviction, and the reader should be able to accept or reject this view. Whether one gives one's life for a cause depends on how deeply our moral standards are imbedded in one's heart, and on our acknowledgment of the importance of a sacrifice.


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