Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
Antigone is the resolute and strong-willed daughter of King Oedipus. She is determined to give her brother, Polynices, a decent burial. She consciously risks her life with this action, which violates both Creon’s unjust decree, as well as the ancient custom of denying burial to enemies of the state. She obeys only the laws of the gods and the dictates of familial loyalty and social decency.
King Creon regards only the requirement of political expediency. Soon after the civil strife between Eteocles and Polynices ends in their deaths, he announces a decree denying Polynices’ burial. He is unrelenting in his stance, as he wants Thebans to know that he is a firm ruler. Thus he sentences his own niece, Antigone, to death for defying his law.
The climax of the play occurs during the encounter between Creon and Antigone. It is a scene marked by dramatic contrast. Here one can see the incompatibility between Creon’s world of physical power (which he takes to be absolute) and the world of spiritual, idealistic strength which Antigone represents. Creon’s vanity is hurt and his anger aroused by the stubborn disobedience of one whom he considers to be merely a mad woman. When he realizes he cannot break or bend her will, he resolves to send her to her doom.
The resolution of the play begins when the Chorus succeeds in making Creon see the injustice of his recent decisions. He orders the burial of Polynices’ body and rushes to Antigone’s cave, only to find that she has hanged herself. The deaths of Haemon and Eurydice soon ensue, and at end of the play, Creon is left alone in his wretchedness. He has paid a heavy price for his folly and rashness. The tragedy lies in the fact that realization has come to late for Creon.