Individuality and law

The question of guilt is perhaps the most difficult one to answer in Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone. There are many aspects and many points of view to consider. From one point of view, for example, Creon may seem like a doomed hero. From another, he turns out to be the cause of his misfortune. The same is true for Antigone. Is she guilty of breaking a state law, or is she a moral person, since she follows the commandment of the gods? Has she ever actually had the chance not to end tragically?

An opposite relationship determines the fate of the tragic heroine or the tragic person in the play: on the one hand, individuality, self-determined freedom; on the other, heteronomous limits or laws imposed by someone else.

Concerning Antigone, we can first note that she decides to bury Polynices herself, although she is aware of Creon’s law against this. After being captured, she tells him straightforwardly that the will of the gods is above any state law: “And I never thought your announcements / Could give you—a mere human being— / Power to trample the god’s unfailing, / Unwritten laws […]” (Act 2, Scene 5, ll. 454-457).

Like Ismene, Antigone could have bowed to the king, but she considers such an attitude inappropriate toward her family and the gods. Here we recognize her independent actions, which suggest she might overall be innocent: Antigone is free to act as she chooses, since she has the option of making her own decision. She did not have to bury Polynices, but she chose to do so.

Freedom and heteronomy

However, Antigone’s individual freedom is limited by external factors, in this case Creon’s law. Antigone is guilty at the point when she defies this law. And it is precisely here that the source of her tragedy arises. Antigone faces the dile...

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