Phusis and Nomos in Sophocles's Antigone College
Greek tragedy played a large role in ancient Athenian culture. Every year, Athenians would gather together for the Dionysia, a festival to the god Dionysus. During this festival, plays from prominent poets would be performed in competition with one another. In 442 BCE, Antigone by Sophocles was performed as the last installment of a trilogy that also included Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus. Like many Greek tragedies, Antigone was not created simply to be entertainment; Sophocles used this play to comment on contemporary issues in Athens. A prominent issue of the time was the tension between human nature, phusis in Greek, and civic law, nomos in Greek (Muntz, 3). In Sophocles's Antigone, the struggle between the characters Antigone and Creon symbolizes Athens's eternal battle between primal phusis and orderly nomos.
The narrative of Antigone is set after the narrative of Oedipus at Colonus. The play describes the defeat of Polyneices, King Oedipus’s son and Antigone’s brother, who attempted to seize the throne of Thebes from his brother after King Oedipus’s death. Unfortunately, the fraternal battle ended in death for both brothers. The play opens with the lamentations of Antigone as she mourns her brothers and scorns...
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