Nature of the Conflict in Sophocles’ Antigone
The Nature of the Conflict in Antigone
In “Sophocles’ Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone,” Charles Paul Segal explains the nature of the conflict between Antigone and Creon:
The conflict between Creon and Antigone has its starting point in the problems of law and justice. At any rate, the difference is most explicitly formulated in these terms in Antigone’s great speech on the divine laws. . . . Against the limited and relative “decrees” of men she sets the eternal laws of Zeus, the “unwritten laws of the gods.” She couples her assertion of these absolute “laws” with her own resolute acceptance of death (460) (64).
In Antigone the protagonist, is humble and pious before the gods and would not tempt the gods by leaving the corpse of her brother unburied. She is not humble before her uncle, Creon, because she prioritizes the laws of the gods higher than those of men; and because she feels closer to her brother, Polynices, than she does to her uncle. The drama begins with Antigone inviting Ismene outside the palace doors to tell her privately: “What, hath not Creon destined our brothers, the one to honoured burial, the other to unburied shame?” Antigone’s offer to Ismene (“Wilt thou aid this hand to lift the dead?) is quickly rejected, so that Antigone must bury Polynices by herself. The protagonist, Antigone, is quickly developing into a rounded character, while Ismene interacts with her as a foil, demurring in the face of Creon’s threat of stoning to death as punishment for violators of his decree regarding Polynices. The main conflict thusfar observed is that which the reader sees taking shape between Antigone and the king.
Antigone is a religious person who is not afraid of death, and who re…
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… pervading themes in Sophocles is the justice of the universe. We are to understand that, in some sense, cosmic justice ultimately prevails (718).
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
Segal, Charles Paul. “Sophocles’ Praise of Man and the Conflicts of the Antigone.” In Sophocles: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Thomas Woodard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by R. C. Jebb. The Internet Classic Archive. no pag.
“Sophocles” In Literature of the Western World, edited by Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. NewYork: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.
Watling, E. F.. Introduction. In Sophocles: The Theban Plays, translated by E. F. Watling. New York: Penguin Books, 1974.