A brief character and conflict study of the play Antigone by Sophocles.
Antigone, by the Greek playwright Sophocles, is a tragedy about a conflict between the law of Creon and the law of the gods. When Polynices leads an army against the city of Thebes, his brother Eteocles, king of Thebes, raises an army to defend the city. When they are both killed in battle, their uncle Creon (now king of Thebes) allows Eteocles to receive a proper burial but he makes a law that anyone who attempts to bury the body of the Polynices shall be put to death.
Antigone defies Creon’s order, saying that she is honoring the law of the gods by burying Polynices. She says that the law of the gods comes before the law of man. Angry at Antigone’s defiance, Creon has her thrown in a cave. After he does this several tragic occurrences befall Creon’s family (his wife Eurydice, his son Haemon, and Antigone all kill themselves in the end). Antigone shows the conflict between the law of Creon, the main character of the play, and the law of the gods.
Creon, not Antigone, is the main character of the play because the main conflict involves Creon and the gods. The gods have a law giving everyone the right to be buried, and Creon disobeys this law causing tension between him and the gods. Antigone is simply caught in this conflict. She is in trouble with Creon for defying his law and, because of the sins of her father; she is in trouble with the indiscriminate law of the gods. So, Creon is the main character because the conflict is between him and the gods.
The conflict of the play is between Creon and the gods, between the law of man and the law of the gods. Creon does not want Polynices to be buried because of his treason against Thebes. This rejection of burial rights puts Creon into conflict with the gods because they have a law that gives everyone a right to a proper burial. By going against the gods, Creon is basically upsetting the constant cycle that the pagans strongly belief in (pagans belief that history constantly repeats itself).
For instance, a person lived for a certain period of time and then they eventually died. After they died, they were required to be properly buried, no matter what kind of person. The gods made an unwritten law assuring that after a person died, they must be buried. When Creon goes against this law denying Polynices burial, he angers the gods because he is disturbing the constant cycle that they have tried to enforce. So as punishment for breaking the cycle, tragedy befalls his family. First Antigone hangs herself, then Haemon kills himself, and finally Creon’s wife Eurydice takes her own life.
The blind prophet Teiresias foretells this series of fateful events. His blindness symbolizes the blindness of Fate. Fate is indifferent, it doesn’t look at the quality of the person it affects. This indifference is parallel to the indifferent punishment handed out by the gods. Just as Fate and the gods’ act of punishing are indiscriminate, so is the law of Creon. He doesn’t really aim his law at a specific group of people. If the law is broken then the penalty of death is given out, no matter who the doer is or what the circumstances are. Therefore, the conflict between Creon and the gods is a clash between the indiscriminate law of Creon and the law of the gods.
In conclusion, the main character of the play Antigone is Creon and not Antigone. This is because the main conflict is between the law of Creon and the law of the gods. When Creon makes a law prohibiting the burial of Antigone’s rebellious brother Polynices, Antigone openly defies it and she is forced to live in a cave. Creon’s law disrupts the constant flow that the gods created. He keeps Polynices from being buried, and the right of burial is a right given by the gods that no man has the authority to take away. But Creon gives himself this authority by taking away the burial rights of Polynices given to him by the gods.
Therefore, because of Creon’s illegal act of authority, the blind prophet Teiresias foresees that terrible things will happen to Creon because of what he does and this prophecy becomes fulfilled: Creon suffers the loss of his family. It takes the loss of his family to see that the law of god is more powerful than the law of man. The conflict between the law of Creon, the main character, and that of the gods is the main conflict of the play.