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Tyranny Is Tyranny

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Tyranny is Tyranny

The tragedy, Antigone, is ripe with conflict. There are plenty of issues for people to have an intelligent and lively debate with: the perceived righteousness of Antigone’s actions, the logic behind Creon’s order to show no respect to the remains of an enemy of the state, and whether divine law or state law should reign supreme. However, one point that would be difficult to argue is the justification of the death sentence Creon hands down to Antigone in the aftermath of her actions. This ruling, that the people of Thebes do not agree with, is a disproportionate response from a man who is threatened not only by any apparent doubt in his authority but that a woman would openly disregard his orders. The death sentence is an unjustified action by a narcissistic and tyrannical king.

Creon and Antigone are both tragic heroes in this Sophoclean play. That is, heroes who have flaws. Some of these same flaws they share with one another: arrogance and hubris. But these two traits come off entirely different within each character. Antigone is stubborn and arrogant and ready to martyr herself for her beliefs. She is acting out of duty to the Gods and love for her brother, “I, then, will go to heap the earth above the brother whom I love.” (100-101) By her actions and for her reasons the character flaws of arrogance and hubris, which she owns, are seen as righteous individualism and dutiful religious obligation. Whereas Creon is acting in service of his state but also in service of himself to assert his powers as king. Here his arrogance and hubris make him out to be the dictator in an autocracy, a system of government wherein one person has absolute power. He is ruling with no regard for the will of the people because he believes he knows what is best for Thebes and in the face of questioning he is infuriated by the idea someone might know better than him. His hubris is portrayed in an argument he has with his son, Haemon, who while imploring his father to listen to the will of the people tells him, “That is no city that belongs to one man,” (888), to which Creon responds “Is not the city held to be the rulers?” (889) Haemon’s reaction was to tell his father “Thou wouldst make a good monarch of a desert.” (890) Creon is unwilling to listen to the advice of council or the will of the people for in his mind he is king and knows best.

Creon’s first order as the newly appointed king of Thebes is that Polyneices, brother of Antigone’s, body is not to be buried or shown any sort of respect. This position does not immediately come off as an unreasonable one. Polyneices was an enemy of the state “who came back from exile and sought to consume utterly with fire the city of his fathers and the shrines of his fathers’ gods, sought to taste the kindred blood, and to lead the remnant into slavery” and in doing so murdered his own brother, Eteocles the beloved King of Thebes. Even after one finds out that leaving a body unburied damns the soul to a miserable eternity, this decision does not lose all of its merit. Creon wants to set the precedent that enemies of the state will not be rewarded with glory in death, “Such the spirit of my dealing; and never, by deed of mine, shall the wicked stand in honour before the just; but whoso hath good will to Thebes, he shall be honoured of me, in life and in his death.” (243-246) This is not, in my eyes, an unreasonable stance for the king to take. He wants security in Thebes and to dissuade any potential enemies who attempt to threated Thebes with the knowledge that their remains will be left for the scavengers and their souls will not move on. However, Creon’s decision to murder Antigone after she disobeys his order and buries her brother’s body is an unjustified disproportionate response.

Proportionality, making sure that things are equal, is a large part of justification, especially when discussing crime and punishment. The idea is popularized through the adage “an eye for an eye” but predates that biblical interpretation. It is pure logic behind this notion, it makes sense that if someone steals an apple the punishment is not killing their whole family. Antigone’s actions, illegal as they may be, do not justify Creon’s death sentence. By

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