Antigone: The Story

Sophocles’ Antigone is an ancient Greek tragedy about a teenage girl, who defies secular authority by declaring her allegiance to a higher law. Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter, wishes to bury her brother, Polyneices, who died in a brutal civil war against his own brother, Eteocles. Creon, their uncle, and new, untested king, who has just replaced the dead brothers on the throne, rules that Polyneices’ body must remain above the earth to be ravaged by vultures and wild dogs, because he led an army against his own country, Thebes, and must be punished as a traitor. Anyone who breaks this law, Creon orders, will be put to death. Antigone openly and intentionally defies him, honoring her brother’s body with proper burial rites, following a higher law, one that transcends that of the state-divine law. Creon is then forced, by his own political rhetoric, and by the fragile authority that he has barely begun to establish since the civil war, to make an example of his niece, by sentencing her to death. In the process of following through with his own decree, Creon loses everything: his son-who was engaged to marry Antigone-his wife, his throne, and the order he struggled so hard to defend. At its core, Antigone is a play about what happens when personal conviction and state law clash, raising the question: When everyone is right (or feels justified), how do we avert the violence that will inevitably take place?