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The Attribution of Creon’s Downfall in Antigone

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Introduction

The Attribution of Creon's Downfall in Antigone The accepted wisdom of a culture is most accurately, and most often, reflected in the constructive efforts of its general population. Most artisans, authors and historians of Ancient Greece, for example, convey in their art and literature the norms of everyday life in Ancient Greece. More specifically, the artistry and compositions of the age were irrefutably linked to religion. Acclamations and histories of the myriad gods are often found portrayed in sculpture, paintings, poetry, and drama. One dramatist who expresses religious philosophy in his works is Sophocles. Antigone, one of his most prominent plays, discusses the conflict between the belief in the state as the top authority and belief in the gods as the highest ruling power. At the center of this conflict are the play's two main characters: "Antigone chooses to serve the gods, or divine law, while [her uncle, King] Creon[,] makes the state his top priority. Both serve their principle with all the force of their being" (Weigel 252). Creon believes that without his government there would be total anarchy. Antigone opposes this view and instead believes that no mortal laws could conceivably outweigh the power of the gods. In Antigone, Sophocles puts forth that there are consequences when a political leader is not wary of a power that he, and Greek culture, imagine is much higher than that of a king. ...read more.

Middle

On the surface, Haimon is siding with Antigone with his backhanded comment. In actuality, Haimon still recognizes the importance of mortal law, he just finds fault in Creon's methods of carrying it out, that being to follow them to the letter without consideration for the circumstances. They unknowingly agree with each other on a certain level; each understands that laws without leadership, be they mortal or divine, are not enough to base a government on. But Creon fails to consider this valid criticism. "He sees and hears only the evidence of the senses: a female threatens to take over the man's rightful mastery" 3 (O'Brien, "Defense," 67). In his mistrust of opinions which appear to differ radically from his belief in the government, Creon does not listen when given the advice, numerous times, to back down and admit he is wrong. Instead, he blames his son's disloyalty to him on Antigone being Haimon's future wife. Also, Creon fails to see Antigone's actions as anything more than a woman trying to get the better of a man. In aggressively defending his culpability, Creon "immediately assigns political motivations to Antigone's act. If his enemies had wanted a symbol for the rebellion, who could be more appropriate than the heir to the throne?" (Melchinger 77). This accusation is a further manifestation of Creon's pride-induced paranoia. ...read more.

Conclusion

Antigone sees no choice facing her; she simply does what is right according to her interpretation of divine law and her reverence for kinship. Her actions cannot even be thought to be premeditated because, for her, aligning her actions with her beliefs is not a thought process, but a reflex. This same course of action can be attributed to Creon's dealings as well. If Creon had merely considered the opinions of others before automatically dismissing them, his fate could have been avoided. He failed to recognize that keeping an open mind does not mean accepting every idea, only considering them, and that one is not weak-minded to do so. Had he overcome his pride in his government and attempted to transpose the original intent of the archaic laws to the present situation with compassion and fresh thought, instead of applying them directly and universally, the outcome would have been more positive. Laws, even divine and unwritten laws, are not universal, which is why leaders need to exist. The gods in Antigone play a very small role, 5 especially when compared to its prequel, Oedipus the King, where the main character's fate could not be avoided, even in retrospect. Here, the downfall lies with human error, not any sort of divine intervention. The essential moral is not to warn those in power against transgressing divine power, but against failing to temper political action with mercy. ...read more.

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