4# Antigone’s choice, Tradition or Her Life?
Polynices, in a war against his brother Eteocles for ascension to the throne, dies in battle. When two brothers die, Creon takes the throne. Creon is very frustrated because of the battle that had to take place, he orders Polynices not to be buried or to be mourned, because he was a traitor.
Antigone is sister of Polynices, and the daughter of infamous Oedipus. Antigone loves her brother, and wants a decent funeral for him. She also has an argument; divine rules can not be overridden by human rules. She disobeys King Creon, and gets caught. Her punishment is to be buried alive.
At this point, we see an avalanche effect, surrounding all characters. Antigone doesn’t want to die in a terrible way and she hangs herself. King Creon changes his mind, but Antigone is already dead. Haemon, son of King Creon who is in love with Antigone, kills himself. Hearing this, Queen Eurydice also kills herself. Now, everybody around Creon is dead.
Let’s break down the story. We can say, there are three important decision points, and a message to be given.
- Antigone’s decision is about choosing between tradition or death. We could also categorize this as, a choice between protecting the family status or death.
- Another decision of Antigone is about choosing between a death by herself, or a worse death by somebody else. Inflicting the death upon yourself instead of somebody else could mean keeping the freedom, thus the honor till the last moment. The other rationale could of course be, not to take too much pain.
- Creon, on the other hand, by forbidding funeral of Polynices, could be seeking to show the people that his category, kingship, is untouchable. If you dare, you get the worst punishment. We need to keep in mind that this is huge, in Ancient Greece, if you don’t get buried, you can’t make it to the underworld, wandering around forever. What could be another possible reason to Creon’s decision? Maybe just an unplanned, hot frustration? Traitor!
We could even make up another plot, “He wasn’t going to kill anyway, he just wanted to be seen as the forgiving person, and this ended with an accident.” But well, this version would be problematic for the message of the story.
So what is the message of the legend? Cruelty will turn back to its owner? Looks like an appropriate message to be propagated to the society.