Antigone - Following Law vs. Passion
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Antigone chose to follow the moral law or what she believed is god’s law. She believed that regardless of what the civil government stated, all people deserve proper burial. People faced with different circumstances are normally forced to make very difficult decisions. For instance, one may be in a situation, which demands choosing between government law and God’s law. In such a situation, many people would choose what they believe is right. Antigone did the same. She makes her decision on what she believes within her heart to be the right thing. She acted on what she felt were the right actions. She did all this with an understanding that her actions would bring severe consequences. This shows that she is a courageous woman who passionately believes in herself. Since the law of the land conflicted with her believes, she felt that it was unjust. Therefore, she made a decision to bury her brother against the law. She could not stand the thought that her brother’s soul would suffer because of an unjust law. Many citizens backed Antigone up because of her passionate belief. Creon’s own son, Haeman, informed his father of what the people thought. "The people feel sorry for Antigone. They say it isn't equitable that she must die." Antigone acted upon the inspiration of God and the love she had for her brother. In doing the right thing, she believed that even the dead would welcome her if she happened to die. In the end however, the truth is revealed. Morality prevails, this shows that what one thinks in his heart, is what counts. Heart made decisions matter the most.
Antigone is a play that portrays the theme of conflict that exists in the society. The play invites opposing views from its audience. The conflict between the state and the individual is clearly brought out. Does ones duty to family outweigh his duty to the state? What are the boundaries of the government and how far can it hinder personal choice? Young Antigone is faced with these questions. The conflict develops because of the law that Creon has created. Creon is a good representation of the civil law. Civil law stated that if anyone fought against Thebes, he or she does not deserve a grave. Polynices following his own morals fought against Thebes. He believed this to be the right thing and gave his life to this cause. Without reflecting on the prevailing circumstance, Creon lashed out hastily and made a decision, which in fact made him suffer more than Antigone. Teiresias told him "The sun won't run its course for many days before you have to repay a corpse of your own..." He refused to take such advice. Antigone has no choice but to break the law. Creon an Antigone finds themselves in conflicting positions. Antigone is portrayed to be at a position of weakness but she is very strong. Her passion and courage are both signs of strength. Creon is in a position of strength but his actions show his weakness. He is consciously innocent but objectively guilty. His inability to take advice and rash decisions are characters of weak people. The law only tells one of the dos and don’ts, but will not leave the chance for one to exercise what he or she considers is right. This is the basis of conflict between Creon and Antigone. This is the cause of Antigone’s civil disobedience.
Tragedy is portrayed in Antigone’s refusal to obey the prevailing civil law. She is faced with possible capital punishment for following her instincts of loyalty to family. Creon insists that whoever disobeys state law which he is persuaded outweighs all laws should be put to death. He claims that the state law far outweighs family loyalty. When he finally relents, it is already too late. The tragedy is that one faces capital punishment for obeying the “law of good” instead of the law of state, love against state or personal duties against state duties. Antigone walks knowingly towards capital punishment from the beginning of the play with a confidence that cannot be changed. The tragedy is that the hero mistakenly creates his own downfall. The impartial knowledge, which exists in all people, is the cause of this. The knowledge that a human beings posses of himself as impartial. Hall quotes "The limited error prone perspective of the individual. Subject is always imperfect and human and these limitations include our ability to know in any reliable way ourselves."The play portrays Tragedy than history or poetry. History narrates what had happened while tragedy dramatizes what may take lace before it does. It creates a possibility of what might take place. Tragedy deals with events, which are universal by developing a chain of cause and effect showing how the world operates. It has the capacity to frame human experience and relate to universal events. Tragedy arouses different emotions in the audience. Emotions such as pity or fear are common since the audience can picture themselves caught in the tragedy.
The individual and society
The play portrays that the individual is king and directs his destiny. He commands and influences every activity and fate. The individual dwells in the society, which has laws, but the decision an individual makes independently has the ability to influence the entire society. His input is far more important than what society provides. He is the one that influences the society and his contribution has the effect of affecting the entire universe. This is the reason why the decision, which Antigone makes independently, has far-reaching effects. The aim of an individual should thus be, to influence humanity not to conform to the dictates of the society. Antigone is an illustration of an individual who refuses to conform to a law she believes is unjust. She conforms to what she believes in her heart is right. Rather than listening to the many views that society may put across, the individual is far much better off obeying his thoughts. History is full of examples of exemplary individuals like Plato and Milton who influenced society by firmly stating their thoughts. These men teach us that the individual should listen to his thoughts than to relay on the teachings of the society. This is because at times the society is wrong and may enforce wrong ideas. These great philosophers explain that learning everything from ones neighbor is an illustration of ignorance. “There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance”. Imitating or coping what others are doing is not wise. Imitation means that the idea is not original. This shows that the individual is conforming to the dictates of the society instead of listening to his own inner voice. Antigone believed all people have the ability and power to act in a manner that one believes is right. This is why she made the decision to bury her brother regardless of what the prevailing civil law stated. She believed that she is the only one who could benefit from this treasure, which resided in her, even the ability to execute her independent decisions. She did not listen to external voices that may have discouraging her from using this ability.
The problem comes in when people express themselves inadequately. “We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents” Antigone expresses her God given inspiration fully. People who are reluctant to do this find no peace. The situation causes them to have no peace. One can only attain peace if he utilizes his god given inspiration in a gainful way. “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into the inspiration gained from God and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace”. He can only attain this if he does not listen to the many voices that society presents to him.
Listening to ones inner voice calls for taking courage and refusing to listen to other interfering ideas. Antigone was courageous and passionately pursued what she believed to be right. Such courage can only be attained if one operates with a mindset that excludes or assumes the existence of society. If an individual believes that in the absence of society, he or she would still do what is right. It is a fact that if the individual was to operate in an environment with no rules and regulation, no government and all the dictates that society easily put on the individual. He would live according to what his mind teaches him. The mind of an individual generates goodness that should be explored. Society however, hinders this as it promotes the idea of conformity.
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