Within Sophocles’ play, Antigone, Creon, the king of Thebes, decrees a law stating that no one shall bury the body of Polyneices. The punishment for disobeying his command is the death sentence. Antigone’s moral conscience compels her to bury the body of her brother regardless of what the king commands. As the play begins, Antigone speaks with her sister Ismene and will challenge the king’s authority even if that means she will die. Antigone states, “I will bury him myself…even if I die in the act, that death will be a glory…I have longer to please the dead than please the living here (Sophocles 63). Antigone would rather act on her moral convictions and bring honor to her brother than follow the king’s inhuman orders. Antigone feels she will gain more in the end by following the beliefs she holds within her heart. She expresses, “What greater glory could I win than to give my own brother a decent burial?” (Sophocles 84). Antigone thinks it is an honor to serve her brother despite what the law states. She is a woman of virtue and courage. Antigone values her morals and would go against an unlawful decree and pursue justice fearlessly in the face of death.
Antigone is not afraid when she is caught burying Polyneices. Creon declares that Antigone shall be locked up in a cave and starve to death. The consequences do not threaten Antigone because she stands firm in her belief of honoring her brother. She declares, “To meet this doom of yours is precious little pain…if I had allowed my own mother’s son to rot, an unburied corpse that would have been an agony…this is nothing…I’ve been accused of folly by a fool” (Sophocles 82). Antigone will not be veered in her thoughts. She believes Creon and his law are absurd. No one or law will sway her heart from acknowledging Polyneices. Antigone feels as if she has nothing to lose by standing up for her brother. Death does not scare her because she would rather gain victory in her noble act. Antigone claims, “If I am to die before my time I consider that a gain…Who on earth alive in the midst of so much grief as I, could fail to find his death a rich reward?..to meet this doom of yours is precious little pain” (Sophocles 82). Antigone will suffer nothing while she is holding onto honor. She believes the law is unethical in deciding who gets a proper burial. Antigone could not stand to watch her brother rot. She is fearless against the law and others will recognize her noble actions.
Creon’s son, Haemon, betrothed to Antigone, considers her actions to be of nobility. Haemon claims that the people mourn her for her actions. Haemon states, “But it’s for me to catch the murmurs in the dark, the way the city mourns for this young girl…No woman, they say, ever deserved death less” (Sophocles 95). The citizens of Thebes recognize the acts of Antigone and claim she was only doing what was moral and virtuous. Like Antigone, Haemon also strongly disagrees with his father’s law. He argues that she should be rewarded for the great courage she poses. Haemon claims, “Such a brutal death for such a glorious action…she couldn’t bear to leave him dead, unburied, food for the wild dogs…Death? She deserves a glowing crown of gold” (Sophocles 95). Haemon and the people of Thebes acknowledge Antigone for her heroic actions against the king’s law. People are arguing that such a woman of great morality should not be sentenced to death. Haemon will then find his love dead from suicide in the cave she was sentenced to. Haemon will grieve over the loss of Antigone who in his eyes was a woman of honor. Haemon will take his own life as well, and the law that is against morality will have brought nothing but death and destruction.
Sophocles great work Antigone displays a conflict between an individual’s moral conscience and human law. Sophocles illustrates the struggle of one’s convictions and the courage to carry out one’s moral duty. Sophocles portrays Antigone has a fearless character who is willing to go against the king’s decree and have her beliefs publicly proclaimed. Antigone does not fear death but fears not acting on her convictions of burying her brother. Antigone finds strength and victory by standing firm in her moral beliefs even if there was adversity with Creon’s law. She would rather die than watch Polyneices become rotting flesh for the vultures. Creon does not allow anyone to challenge his decrees, but Antigone conscience compels her otherwise. Sophocles displays Antigone as a strong individual who is loyal to death towards her family. Antigone is an inspirational character and demonstrates the power one has in their acts of justice.