Antigone In-class Essay In the play Antigone, Antigone has problems with two other characters: her sister, Ismene, and the ruler of Thebes, Creon. There are other conflicts in this play, for example the one between Creon and his son, Haemon, who ends up killing himself in the end. Hegel states that Antigone is a “tragic collision of right against right, with both sides equally justified. ” Hegel’s opinion on Antigone is a very accurate summarization of the moral dilemmas in the play.
The play opens with a conflict between Antigone, and her sister, Ismene.
Both of their brothers have died, in Creon’s words, “Eteocles, who in this city’s quarrel fought and fell, the foremost of our champions in the fray, they should entomb with the full sanctity of rites that solemnize the downward road of their greatest dead. Him the while, his brother, that Polynices who, returning home a banished man, sought to lay waste with fire his household Gods, his native country – sought to glut himself with his own kindred’s blood, or carry them away to slavery, it has been promulgated to the city no man shall bury, none should wail for him; unsepulchred, shamed in the eyes of men,”(p.
-9) What this is saying is that Polynices should not be buried because he killed his own brother, after he was banished from the land, and he is no hero to anyone in Thebes, and shall not have the honour of being buried. Etocles should be buried, because he stayed true to his land. Antigone doesn’t feel right about only one of their brothers being buried, especially because in the time when this play was written, it was considered an incredibly bad omen for someone not to be buried.
Creon has said otherwise, though, and that any man who attempts to bury the traitor Polynices will be punished with death. Antigone and Ismene, a perfect example of foil characters, argue over this. Antigone states, “Now you will quickly show if you are worthy of your birth or no. ”(p. 2) because in her mind, family and tradition comes before the law if the case is right, and no one should be left unburied, which is a strong basis for the themes of Custom and Tradition, as well as God and Religion.
Kohlberg’s moral scale states that Antigone would be a 5 on the 6 scale, because she would be ignoring the laws and/or rules and doing what’s right for the people. On the other hand, Ismene is staying true to Creon over her brothers, because he is the law, “What, you would bury him? Against the proclamation? // You are mad! When Creon has forbidden it? ” (p. 2) At this point, Ismene has reached a 4 on the scale, not doing because she might get in trouble, but because it is against the law.
Antigone and Ismene both have strong reasoning behind their decisions, Antigone has family bonds and Ismene the power of her ruler, and even though they have opposing decisions, both can be and are both correct. In another conflict, Antigone and Creon battle over the same problem. Antigone feels the same as she did during her dispute with her sister, and is still sticking up for it. Creon takes Ismene’s side, in a way, but does not have the same reasoning to back it up. Creon will not bury Polynices because he feels that he is not “friendly to this city. (p. 9) He reaches about a level 3 on the scale, because he is more worried about what the citizens of Thebes will think, and is using this as an opportunity to paint a picture of himself as a strong, independent ruler who knows what he wants and should not be messed with. Hegel’s statement is very accurate in describing this tale. It all ends tragically, with the deaths of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice. Throughout the entire play, even between arguments not mentioned like the son vs. ather fight between Haemon and Creon, the entire play is an epic battle of right vs. right, with the only thing ending the quarrels being death. Antigone and Haemon can reach up to a level of 5-6 on Kohlberg’s scale, whereas Creon and Ismene reach a maximum of a level 4. Both are right, but for different reasons. Creon and Ismene focus more on their selves and their relationships with others more than anything else, but Antigone would most likely do the same thing, even if it was not her brother she’d be sacrificing herself for. Hegel’s statement, in the end, is valid.
The tragic section is covered, with the deaths of three loved ones, and the clash of right vs. right is also picked apart by at least three different arguments. Antigone, Haemon, Creon, and Ismene are all right, but their ‘moral levels’ vary. Does this mean that one could be more right than the other? Sadly, this question is not as simple as math, where two plus two always equals four. In the combat between right against right, there will never be a conclusion, it’s held in the opinion of the reader, or in this case, the audience. Opinions, as we know, can always vary.
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