Sophocles' Antigone: Lessons in Following the Heart

Sophocles presents us with a high standard of moral courage and character in his play Antigone. Among the many thematic questions raised, Sophocles pursues in depth the issue of whether it is best to obey the law or to follow one's conscience. Antigone displays the strength to follow her conscience against the demands and threats of authority, and therefore she proves herself to be a truly admirable and exemplary heroine. Such a moral choice is one that could drive a less brave individual to madness.

Antigone is forced to choose between love and life in her situation in the opening of the play. Her two choices are clear: she can either disobey Creon and bury her brother Polyneices, or she can yield to authority and leave Polyneices unburied. Yet Antigone lets us know that in her mind, there is no choice to be made, for she knows what she will do. She asserts: "I will not prove false to [my brother] [...] It is not for [Creon] to keep me from my own" (52-54). As she speaks to Ismene, we see that each sister represents either side of the debate and all the accompanying characteristics: Ismene is obedience, passivity, and subservience; Antigone is loyalty, honor, valor, and truth to one's self. In the dialogue...

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