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In Antigone, one of the most renowned Greek tragedies, Sophocles constructs a conflict that questions the very definition of justice.

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Introduction

Judicial Hierarchy In Antigone, one of the most renowned Greek tragedies, Sophocles constructs a conflict that questions the very definition of justice. Since the play is based on the defiance of a king's decree, the questions of right and wrong is a primary question. The difficulty is understanding and deciphering the opinions of the two conflicting characters, Creon and Antigone, as they clearly have opposing perspectives on the issues of right and wrong. In the play, it becomes very important to understand the concept of justice in the eyes of the chorus, who are the only ones able to provide unbiased commentary about each of the characters. Throughout the play, the chorus demonstrates and supports a judicial hierarchy in which the subjects of the polis must abide to the laws of their king, and the king must fulfill his obligations according to the universal concept of justice which is established by the gods. From the very begging of the play, the concept of the judicial hierarchy is being put together by the chorus, and it is finally articulated clearly in the final lines. According to the chorus, justice requires that the ruler of a polis has absolute power, and that his citizens follow his decrees. Early on, the chorus says, "to use any legal means lies in your power, both about the dead and those of us who live," (213-214). ...read more.

Middle

enact such laws as that, for mankind" (450-452). By simply answering "yes" to Creon, she acted against justice because the judicial hierarchy requires that all subjects follow the laws of their rulers. The hierarchy of justice as explained by the chorus quite precisely states that it is the duty of the subjects to follow the laws of their rulers. The chorus elaborates on this later with Antigone, cautioning her for going "against the high throne of Justice" (854). The "high throne" is no reference to Zeus, but rather, a reference to Creon. Without direct contact between the gods and the subjects of a polis, it is imperative that those subjects follow the decrees of the leaders. It then becomes the duty of the rulers to create laws compatible with the divine system of justice. Although Creon upholds the concept of law regarding his subjects, he fails to recognize the divine law that supersedes his own in the hierarchical judicial system. As Antigone says of god's ordinances, "They are not of today and yesterday; they live forever..." (456-57). The laws of the gods are inherently superior to those of men because they live forever, supported by the all-knowing divinities. Creon recognizes the hierarchical system that the chorus articulates in the play, he simply doesn't understand the details of divine law in the blindness of his obsessive pursuit of good for the state. ...read more.

Conclusion

Throughout the play, they follow the rigid structure of the judicial hierarchy, while simultaneously attempting to help Creon realize divine law without active interference by disobeying his laws. When Creon first addresses the chorus, he acknowledges their "loyalty to the throne" (164). This doesn't necessarily demonstrate the chorus's agreement with Creon's policies; it simply shows that they are strict followers of the hierarchical system. When the chorus is considering the fate of Antigone, they feel pity; however, they are able to understand that justice can not be taken away by sympathy. The ability of the chorus to distinguish between pity and justice allows them to adhere to the laws more easily, and therefore they are good citizens, enacting justice. Sophocles' chorus in Antigone constructs the controversial idea of judicial hierarchy, which places accountability for the actions of a country's subjects in the hands of the ruler and the accountability of that ruler in the hands of the gods. According to this system, both Antigone and Creon are guilty of injustices, and both received the just punishment for their actions. Antigone rightly suffered at the hands of her ruler for the violation of his decrees. For what is a constitution in which the word of the sovereign is inefficacious? Creon suffered at the hands of the gods, to whom he alone was accountable. The pain that he feels as a result of the death of his son and wife is swift retribution from the gods, ending his path towards injustice. ...read more.

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