Sunday, January 29, 2017

Antigone by Sophocles

The unwritten law of the gods versus manmade decrees

Antigone has two brothers – one attacks their home city of Thebes, the other defends it. Both men die in combat. Creon, the ruler of Thebes, decrees that the brother who defended the city shall be buried, the other shall lie unburied, food for wild beasts. Whoever attempts to bury the traitor’s body will be executed. Antigone is the only one to obey the ancient edict from the gods that bodies cannot be unburied and sprinkles ceremonial dust on the rotting corpse. Creon cannot believe she defied him and condemns her to be walled up in a cave. The crowd is afraid to dissent. The blind prophet Tiresias chastises him, tells him he has left the dead unburied and buried the living. Creon repents, but not before tragedy strikes.

I love the stark simplicity of these plays. The direct dialogue between opposing point of view. And the themes which resonate today. Are there universal laws which must be obeyed, above any other? We have all met an Antigone, we have all met a Creon. (Probably more Creons than Antigones.) I love that Antigone doesn’t sneak around to bury her brother, she does it and eloquently defends herself. She won’t back down from Creon who is the voice of reason, of what’s best for the city. The viewer sympathizes with both of them.

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