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antigone - divine law vs human law

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Introduction

Is the divine law or human law more powerful? In the play "Antigone" written by Sophocles, the conflict between divine law and human law is one of much debate. Divine law, also known as the "law of God" is a term used to describe the morals, beliefs, and actions, which represent God's will. On the other hand there is the human law, which is defined as a set of rules of conduct that govern the land and the community, usually enforced directly through the threat of punishment. In "Antigone," these two laws are represented through the two main characters - Creon (human law), and Antigone (divine law). By contrasting the moral backgrounds of these two laws, the audience can benefit from deciding whether Creon and Antigone's actions were justifiable. The theme of the conflicting laws is first introduced when King Creon explicitly forbids the burial of Polyneices. Creon states that under the land law, Polynieces chose to revoke his citizenship when he displayed his disloyalty to Thebes by attacking the city. He believes that loyalty and obedience to the laws of the land is of utmost importance and that a traitor should never be given another chance. ...read more.

Middle

However, because of the Creon's infatuation with the misogynist rule, he becomes blinded by his own pride. Pride itself is seen as a despicable trait by the gods - worthy of no mercy. The gods believe that no man can ever create laws equal to or above the divine laws. However, Creon continues to enforce the misogynist rule and attempts to execute Antigone because she favored the honoring of her brother. He remains stubborn - bashing Antigone for being a traitor, and later in the play - still refuses to admit to his mistakes even when Tiresias makes them explicit. He responds to Tiresias, "Just don't speak it out for profit." Here Sophocles uses the pun of "profit" which sounds like "prophet", providing a close link to the two as to degrade the respected role of the prophet. This highlights Creon's paranoia and his need to demean Tiresias as he shows a more defensive rather than diplomatic attitude to the idea of his actions being wrong. He only agrees to take into consideration Tiresias' prophecy because Tiresias has never been wrong - not necessarily because he believes in the divine law. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the divine law is seen to have a much more powerful effect than that of human law. Antigone being representative of the divine law sacrifices her life to honor her brother and please the gods. Condemned at first by her uncle Creon, she is later exonerated for her actions while Creon suffers a harsher fate. He believes in human law and believes that a traitor should never be forgiven - thus explaining his decisions to condemn the burial of Polynieces, and sentence Antigone to death. In the end, Creon's failure to respect the divine law leads to his family deserting him for death and he suffers from the ultimate punishment of guilt. He becomes so blinded and infatuated with the misogynist rule that he fails to consider any other human laws, which could balance the inequality of the genders, and benefit the people of Thebes, demonstrating the detrimental effects of following human law. Sophocles also mentions the name of the king of gods - Zeus, to emphasize the fact that the tragic events in the play do not occur as a result of divine intervention -but rather human error. He also demonstrates the withstanding power of the divine law through the passing of Oedipus' curse through subsequent generations. ...read more.

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