Sophocles' Antigone: Conflict between Civic Authority and Natural Law

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In Sophocles’ Antigone, the main conflict is civic authority versus natural law. Creon, the king of Thebes, is faced with the decision of standing by the laws he has enforced or to make the people of Thebes happy. Antigone, the protagonist of the play, countered Creon by breaking his law to not provide a burial for her brother, Polynices. The fundamental struggle between the protagonist and antagonist is developed according to a set pattern that theater audiences have come to recognize (720). Sophocles thought dramatic structure was important because it heightened the emotions of the play that the audience experienced. Sophocles’ transition from one dramatic structure to the next makes for a quick and clear build-up to the play’s denouement.

Since the play has strict time limits, Sophocles had to make sure that the storyline of the play flowed smoothly. The point of attack starts off when Antigone and her sister, Ismene, are discussing Creon’s law to deny burial rights to their brother, Polynices. This quick start to the play helps get the story going and gets straight to the point. The exposition, or revelation of facts, begins as soon as the play does. Sophocles establishes his characters by using foils, a contrasting character who sets off or helps to define another character. Antigone’s foil, Ismene, helps to show Antigone’s stubbornness and independence. While Ismene wants to obey Creon’s law and to uphold the duties of a women, Antigone wants to do what she believes is just. For example, Ismene says, “What? You’d bury him- when a law forbids the city?” (54). Antigone replies with, “Yes! | He is my brother and- deny is as you will- your brother too. | No one will ever convict me for a traitor” (55-57). Also through Sophocles’ exposition, the readers better understand Creon’s character. He is a selfish ruler who only cares about his reputation of upholding the laws he has created. Creon and Antigone’s character differences are the main points of...
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