Study Guide

Antigone Rules and Order

By Sophocles

Rules and Order


I urge no more; nay, wert thou willing still,
I would not welcome such a fellowship.
Go thine own way; myself will bury him.
How sweet to die in such employ, to rest,--
Sister and brother linked in love's embrace--
A sinless sinner, banned awhile on earth,
But by the dead commended; and with them
I shall abide for ever. As for thee,
Scorn, if thou wilt, the eternal laws of Heaven.
I scorn them not, but to defy the State
Or break her ordinance I have no skill. (69-79)

Antigone elevates religious law above the law of the state, while Ismene is more concerned with the laws of the state.


Bethink thee, sister, of our father's fate,
Abhorred, dishonored, self-convinced of sin,
Blinded, himself his executioner.
Think of his mother-wife (ill sorted names)
Done by a noose herself had twined to death
And last, our hapless brethren in one day,
Both in a mutual destiny involved,
Self-slaughtered, both the slayer and the slain.
Bethink thee, sister, we are left alone;
Shall we not perish wretchedest of all,
If in defiance of the law we cross
A monarch's will?--weak women, think of that,
Not framed by nature to contend with men.
Remember this too that the stronger rules;
We must obey his orders, these or worse.
Therefore I plead compulsion and entreat
The dead to pardon. I perforce obey
The powers that be. 'Tis foolishness, I ween,
To overstep in aught the golden mean. (49-68)

Ismene fears betraying the laws of state, whereas her sister is more concerned with divine law.

(Ant. 2)
Passing the wildest flight thought are the cunning and skill,
That guide man now to the light, but now to counsels of ill.
If he honors the laws of the land, and reveres the Gods of the State
Proudly his city shall stand; but a cityless outcast I rate
Whoso bold in his pride from the path of right doth depart;
Ne'er may I sit by his side, or share the thoughts of his heart. (368-375)

The Chorus explains that it is essential to honor both the laws of the land and of the gods.

The Theban commons with one voice say, No.
What, shall the mob dictate my policy?
'Tis thou, methinks, who speakest like a boy.
Am I to rule for others, or myself?
A State for one man is no State at all.
The State is his who rules it, so 'tis held.
As monarch of a desert thou wouldst shine.
This boy, methinks, maintains the woman's cause.
If thou be'st woman, yes. My thought's for thee.
O reprobate, would'st wrangle with thy sire? (734-742)

Haemon suggests that Creon’s sense of justice is flawed.


And yet wert bold enough to break the law?
Yea, for these laws were not ordained of Zeus,
And she who sits enthroned with gods below,
Justice, enacted not these human laws.
Nor did I deem that thou, a mortal man,
Could'st by a breath annul and override
The immutable unwritten laws of Heaven.
They were not born today nor yesterday;
They die not; and none knoweth whence they sprang.
I was not like, who feared no mortal's frown,
To disobey these laws and so provoke
The wrath of Heaven. I knew that I must die,
E'en hadst thou not proclaimed it; and if death
Is thereby hastened, I shall count it gain.
For death is gain to him whose life, like mine,
Is full of misery. Thus my lot appears
Not sad, but blissful; for had I endured
To leave my mother's son unburied there,
I should have grieved with reason, but not now.
And if in this thou judgest me a fool,
Methinks the judge of folly's not acquit. (449-470)

Antigone challenges Creon’s moral and legal authority by elevating religious rites above his worldly law.


The slain man was no villain but a brother.
The patriot perished by the outlaw's brand.
Nathless the realms below these rites require.
Not that the base should fare as do the brave.
Who knows if this world's crimes are virtues there? (515-523)

Antigone looks to divine law for justice, while Creon elevates his own notions of pragmatism and morality.