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Amanda Lange March 11th, 09 English 112

Antigone: Divine Law vs. Human Law

The play entitled Antigone was written by a man named Sophocles, a scholarly author of philosophy and logic. The play Antigone is probably one of the most prominent

interpretations of a tragic drama. The two main characters of the play are Antigone and

Creon. There is much conflict between Antigone and Creon throughout the play, both of

them having their own ideas and opinions regarding divine law versus human law. The

theme that I am going to analyze is the conflict of divine law vs. human law. The reason

for this is because this theme seems to control the whole play. It is an issue of which law

is the "right" law, and if Creon's and Antigone's acts were justifiable.

The play Antigone can be summarized by the following: King Creon lets it be

known that Polyneices the traitor is not to be buried, but his sister Antigone defies

the order because of the values she holds. She is caught, and sentenced by Creon

to be buried alive - even though she is to be married to his son Haemon. After the

blind prophet Tiresias proves that the gods are on Antigone's side, Creon changes

his mind - but too late. He goes first to bury Polyneices, but Antigone has already

hanged herself. When Creon arrives at the tomb, Haemon attacks him and then kills

himself. When the news of their death is reported, Creon's wife Eurydice takes her own

life. Creon ends up being all alone due to the fact that his family members took their own

lives. Creon blames himself for all of these tragedies occurring, mainly because it was his

wrong doings that caused them.

The concept of divine law can be described as the law of God. Divine law

involves morals and beliefs that are presented by God. Charles Segal describes the idea .

of divine law as being the "unwritten laws of the Gods". This type of law is most likely in

effect when the idea of morals are apparent, such as when a moral decision must be made.

This type of decision would probably be considered right or wrong. Divine law is not

only in decisions, but also in the everyday actions of people. Things that are morally "

right" are in accordance with the law of God, while things that are morally "wrong"

tend to be actions that go against the law of God. Divine law may not apply to those

who do not believe in God. Even those who do believe in God may not follow this

type of law because they do not think that this law will have any type of impact

upon their lives. Most people are very skeptical about whether or not the laws of

god are truly upheld.

Human law is the type of law that is set up to govern the land and the community.

As it is stated on the internet site,, human law can be characterized as

"rules of conduct of organized society, enforced by threat of punishment" (Encyclopedia.

com "law"). Human law is usually set up by the head of a community or by the governors

of the land. This type of law is normally enforced by people known as officers or guards.

They make sure that the law of the land is followed accordingly. There are people in

communities that do not follow the laws that are put into effect by humans. This is

apparent in the play Antigone, when Antigone herself disobeys a law that was set up

by King Creon, a law that went against the beliefs she held towards the law of the


The issues that Antigone and Creon have between them are what ties this whole

play together, and the theme is also developed with the use of their issues between each

other and what they believe in. Both Antigone and Creon have their own ideas of what is

"right" and what is "wrong". This is to say that we should not make assumptions about

whether or not something is right or wrong, unless the answer to that is apparently clear.

Antigone believed that the actions she took were done for the right reason, because they

adhere to the law of the Gods. In opposition to that, Creon believes that the actions he

had taken were in fact the right ones, because he believed that Polyneices was a traitor

to the land, and that anyone who should give him a proper burial would suffer the penalty

of death. So, the actions that were taken by both of them individually were the right ones,

in their own minds at least.

Antigone, in her plan to give her brother Polyneices a proper burial, kept in mind

the consequences that she would suffer for having followed through with the plan. This

doesn't necessarily mean that Antigone does not obey the human law that is set up by

King Creon, it just means that this particular rule conflicted with the law of the Gods,

something that Antigone believes highly in obeying, especially when it deals with her

family. Antigone disregards the Olympian Justice that governs the land and also presides

over the set laws that make civilized life attainable.

Antigone goes up against human law, by burying her brother Polyneices, knowing

well that she will have to sacrifice her own life. She does this only because it is morally

and ethically right, and this is why she stakes her life based upon her strong beliefs.

She chooses the divine command over the human compulsion, and rejects life with

it's compromises for the absolutes of death. Indeed, in her terms these absolutes are,

paradoxically, just the things that live always.

By the end of the play Antigone is exonerated for having buried her brother

Polyneices and also for going against the law that was set by Creon. Even though she had

been excused for her actions, she still lost her own life and the lives of people close to

her. This is one of the reasons why the play Antigone has been referred to as one of the

most influential Greek tragedies written. This is truly a tragedy, and this never would've

happened if only King Creon hadn't made up the law that nobody could bury Polyneices

because he was a traitor. There was much conflict in this play, particularly between

Antigone and, over the matter of divine law vs. human law. Sometimes it is not possible

or feasible to obey and follow both of these sets of laws, unwritten or not.

In conclusion, it seems that Antigone's side of this whole conflict was more

"right" than wrong. Antigone was only following what she believed in, by giving her

brother Polyneices a proper burial despite what the human law set up by Creon had

specifically stated. There should be a point where both sides, divine law and human law,

should be looked at with an open mind, because many times conflict occurs over which

side should be taken. I believe that divine law should be highly regarded, but I also

believe that the laws set up by man should be acknowledged and followed, with the

exception of foolish laws that are set up, such as the law that King Creon made up.

One must carefully weigh out divine law and human law if they are put in a situation

where one of the sidesmust be taken. My conclusion is that Antigone was right for

having buried her brother, and that Creon was wrong for even making up this law

with the penalty of death.

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