Character Motivations in Antigone

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The main characters in Sophocles’ drama, Antigone, are Antigone herself, the play’s tragic heroine and Antigone’s uncle and King of Thebes, Creon. Both characters are ruled by powerful motivations and beliefs; however, they differ from one character to the next. Antigone’s motivation is love for her family- she puts it above all else. In fact, she is willing to sacrifice her life to defend that love. Antigone goes to great lengths to bury her deceased brother, who according to an edict issued by King Creon, died in dishonor, consequently making it illegal for anyone to bury his body. Through her actions to comply with her motivations, it is revealed that Antigone’s actions are also fueled by her strong beliefs that, first, the gods’ laws are more powerful than any law made by man, and second, that it is better to die a heroic death than a cowardly one. Throughout the play, Antigone stands firm on these beliefs by standing up for them even through her death as demonstrated through the following dialogue in which she admits her crime, and voices her beliefs to Creon; “It was not Zeus who published this decree, nor have the powers who rule among the dead imposed such laws as this upon mankind; nor could I think that a decree of yours- A man- could override the laws of heaven unwritten and unchanging…For me to meet this doom (death) is little grief; But when my mother’s son lay dead, had I neglected him and left him there unburied, That would have caused me grief; this causes me none” (437-459). This scene illustrates the essence of Antigone’s character. She’s defending her “crime” of burying her brother, thus demonstrating that she is motivated by the love that she has for her family. She’s further justifying her act by stating that Creon’s law is not the law that she feels she must adhere to- she follows the gods laws, another one of her guiding beliefs, and finally, she’s not only accepting her impending doom, but actually welcoming it because she’s dying...
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