Compare and Contrast the Part That the City or State (Polis) Plays in Antigone and Oedipus the King.

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In both Antigone and Oedipus the King the city plays an important part with the majority of the action in both plays taking place in public in front of a chorus of Theban citizens. Personal conflict/crises take place in public, and when personal events take place off stage, they are relied to the chorus (and the audience) through messengers. The city also helps to move the plot of the plays along, as well providing dramatic tension. In addition the city helps to give us greater understanding of the characters of Oedipus and Creon, as the rulers of Thebes in Oedipus the King and Antigone respectively.

At the beginning of Oedipus the King, Thebes is facing destruction from a plague which is spreading throughout the city. Oedipus, in a bid to save the city, has sent Creon to Delphi to consult with the Oracle on how to save the city. When Creon reports back that the city can only be saved when the murderer of King Lauis is found and punished for his crime, Oedipus does everything within his power to see that this happens. Thus the importance of the city is established early on as it is Oedipus' desire to save the city and her citizens that lead to the eventual revelations of his true heritage and crime.

In contrast to this, at the beginning of Antigone, Thebes has just been brought back from the brink of destruction, having defeated the army of Argos, lead by Polynices. The city in Antigone helps to retain dramatic tension of the play, as the two central characters, Creon and Antigone clash over the obligations to the city against an individual's obligations to their family, and in extension to divine law. Creon's first speech in Antigone makes it clear that he believes that obligations of the city take precedence over the needs/obligations of one's family and friends, "And whoever places a friend above the good of his own country he is nothing" (Antigone lines 203-204). His first act as king is to decree that Polynices' body "must be left unburied"...
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