Moral or Civil Law? - Comparative Essay

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Moral or Civil Law?
Saad Zaghlul Pasha, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry David Thoreau, all are exemplary practitioners and proponents of civil disobedience. Civil Disobedience is the act of peacefully opposing a government through non-violent protests and non-cooperation. Should morality supersede the will of the state? This is Antigone’s main dilemma of the eponymous character in Sophocles’ play Antigone. The play itself does not strictly push towards a decision for either argument, both sides suffer tragedy, Antigone because she disobeys the laws of the king, Creon because he disobeyed the laws decreed by the gods.

Before the play’s beginning, Eteocles and Polynices, two brothers leading opposite sides in Thebes' civil war, died fighting each other for control of the crown. Creon, the new ruler of Thebes by his relation, “Now, since they perishd... sullied by mutual fratricide, I, as you know, in right of kinship closest to the dead, possess the throne” has declared that Eteocles shall be honored: “The foremost of our champions in the fray, they should entomb with the full sanctity of rites” while Polynices’ body should not: “Him the while his brother... no man shall bury... his body shall be left to be devoured by dogs and fowls of the air” (8-9). Considered the harshest punishment possible, leaving a body unburied would, by the laws of the gods, prevent him from moving on to Hades, the realm of the dead, cursing him to wander as a lost soul. This was considered a terrible punishment also because it was against the edicts of Olympus. Creon felt he was justified in overruling the common morality due to Polynices crimes against Athens.

At the play’s opening, Antigone and Ismene argue over whether or not to bury, at least symbolically, their brother Polynices. Antigony asks Ismene for help: “Look, will you join me? ...Help me lift the body up--” (2). Ismene realizes that her sister is breaking the king’s direct order: “What, would you bury...
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