Antigone: Divine Law vs. Human Law
Possibly the most prominent theme in Sophocles' "Antigone" is the concept of divine law vs. human law. In the story the two brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices have slain each other in battle. The new King Creon, who assumed the throne after Eteocles' death, decrees that because Polyneices committed treason against the king, he shall not be buried, but instead "He shall be left unburied for all to watch The corpse mutilated and eaten by carrion-birds and by dogs" (Sophocles). Herein lies the dilemma; in Greek culture, the spirit of a body that is not buried by sundown on the day that it died cannot find rest but is doomed to walk the earth. This is the Crux of the theme, the conflict between the law of King Creon, and the law of the gods. In fact, according to Greek belief, Creon would have been ordained by the gods to be king, and thus, should not his law be their law as well? This is the hurdle that Antigone has to face; should she abide by the law of Creon and leave her brother to rot, under penalty of death? Or should she disregard Creon's edict, follow the law of the gods and bury her brother? Creon is a brother to Jocasta, and thus next in line to become king after Etocles is killed in battle. The king is believed to be the chosen of the gods and to rule in their stead. Why then would the king attempt to punish Polyneices after death and so blatantly violate the rules of the gods? However, Creon is the king, and the penalty for disobeying this law of his is very real and very brutal, death. On the other side of the argument, the law of the gods rules over all, even the king. The punishment for breaking the gods law is not death but according to the Greeks something far more eternal. Since it is the will of the gods that Creon be king, should it not therefore be their will that Polyneices be punished? Possibly not, because the Greek gods are far different from the God of modern religions. The Greek gods were not...
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