While researching texts about Sophocles’ “Antigone”, I found three articles that discussed the historical significance of the story. These articles explored various themes in the story. They explain how Antigone’s past experiences are still relevant in the present. My goal in this paper is to discuss the historical context of the story with regard to its timeless significance.

To achieve this goal, I have organized my paper into three sections and four subsections. In the first section, I give a brief introduction about Sophocles’ “Antigone”. In the second section, I outline three elements that link the story to the present. I explain the reasons that prompt Antigone to defy her king. I discuss Antigone’s actions with regard to present day societies. I end my paper with a third section which explains the timeless themes that are evident in the story.

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An understanding of history usually elucidates the present. Antigone’s story is still relevant in the present. Sophocles writes about a fictional king named Oedipus, who rules the city of Thebes (Anouilh 17).

Oedipus is banished from Thebes because he has inadvertently committed incest (Woodruff 92). He has two sons named Polyneices and Eteocles (Braun 62). He also has a daughter named Antigone (Woodruff 22).

After Oedipus is banished, Eteocles banishes his older brother and claims the throne. Polyneices leaves Thebes with plans to overthrow his sibling (Braun 137). He returns and attacks the city with the help of his newfound military. Polyneices and Eteocles kill each other in the midst of the onslaught (Braun 148). Creon, a despot, is later crowned king of Thebes (Woodruff 160).

Creon decrees that Eteocles will be remembered as a hero while his brother will rot in disgrace (Braun 128). Creon is the antagonist in of the story (Woodruff 14). He is a ruthless leader. He can be described as a dictator. His penalty for disobedience is death. Antigone defies Creon by planning to give Polyneices a proper burial (Braun 142).


Sophocles’ opinions about war are evident when the two brothers kill each other in the story (Woodruff 140). Sophocles believes that in war, there are no victories. When countries go to war, every side expects to have casualties. Lives are lost for the sake of petty squabbles. Antigone is also a casualty of war (Anouilh 134). She loses both of her brothers to a conflict that could have easily been resolved.

Failed State

Oedipus represents a failed state (Woodruff 129). He was the king of Thebes. He failed to meet the standards of his people. He was therefore banished shortly after he blinded himself for the atrocities he had committed. He also ruled his father’s kingdom before discovering that he had committed an act of patricide (Braun 31).

Many political leaders have been destroyed by mistakes that they made in the past. For example, a certain Italian minister was accused o having sex with an underage prostitute. Like Oedipus, his statesmen have lost faith in him. His integrity has been compromised.

Freedom of Expression

One of the political elements evident in the story is freedom of expression. Antigone intends to bury her brother in a dignified manner. Creon represents an oppressive regime (Braun 92). He plans to have her punished because her actions are akin to civil disobedience (Woodruff 152).

Creon justifies his cruelty by regarding Polyneices as an enemy of the state (Braun 147). In the present, Polyneices would be regarded as a traitor and a domestic terrorist. Attacking Thebes may be termed as an act of treason (Woodruff 67). However, his sister’s compassion for him is not an act of treason. It is an act of love and honor. Antigone believes in the gods of her people (Anouilh 24). She defies her king because she believes that her actions are justified. She is even willing to die in the name of honor.

Antigone is a symbol of martyrdom (Braun 167). She is willing to die for her beliefs. She believes that she must honor her brother. Creon represents an autocratic government (Woodruff 150). Antigone’s actions drive Creon mad (Anouilh 45). He accuses Antigone’s younger sister, Ismene of committing the same offence (Braun 178). Ismene confesses to burying her brother despite the fact that she was not involved (Woodruff 192).

Ismene’s selfless actions represent family ties. She is willing to die for her sister. Shortly after her confession, Creon discovers the truth. He orders his men to bury Antigone alive in a cave while sparing her sister (Anouilh 67). Creon’s subjects notice a change in his behavior. They assume that he is a lunatic. His son, Haemon is appalled by his actions (Braun 90). Antigone’s simple act of compassion leads to the fall of an empire (Anouilh 78).


Antigone invokes Theban law by stating that Creon’s actions are dishonorable (Braun 126). Antigone’s defiance rallies the people of Thebes (Anouilh 97). Some scholars have argued that Antigone represents the feminist movement (Anouilh 142). She is strong and compassionate. She defies an oppressive king. She also inspires the people of Thebes (Woodruff 165). Sophocles’ story is timeless (Braun 174). It elucidates the present.

Works Cited

Anouilh, Jean. Antigone. Chicago: Illinois, 2004. Print.

Braun, Richard. Antigone: Greek Tragedy in New Translations. New York: New York,
1990. Print.

Woodruff, Paul. Antigone. Los Angeles: California, 2001. Print.


Antigone did the right thing by defileing
Creon’s strict orders on burying Polynices because the unalterable laws
of the gods and our morals are higher than the blasphemous laws of man.

Creon gave strict orders not to bury Polynices because he lead a rebellion,
which turned to rout, in Thebes against Creon, their omnipotent king. Antigone
could not bare to watch her brother become consumed by vultures’ talons
and dogs. Creon finds out that somebody buried Polynices’ body and sent
people out to get the person who preformed the burial. Antigone is guilty
and although she is to be wed to Creon’s son, Haemon. He sentences her
to be put in a cave with food and water and let the gods decide what to
do with her. He was warned by a blind profit not to do this, but he chooses
to anyway, leaving him with a dead son, a dead wife, and self-imposed exile.

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Antigone had good reasons for her actions.

She did obey the rules of her gods, which were that any dead body must
be given a proper burial, with libatations. This would prevent the soul
from being lost between worlds forever, along with wine as an offering
to the gods (page 518- side note). Nor could Antigone let Creon’s edicts
go against her morals (lines 392-394). She chooses to share her love, not
her hate (line 443). She couldn’t bare to see one family member be chosen
over the other because of what a king had decided was right, which she
contravened. Why condemn somebody who stood up for what they believed in
and is now dead for it anyway? Bringing homage to the family was very important
to Antigone (line 422-423).

The gods’ laws come before mortal laws
in Antigone’s point-of-view, which is how I believe also. In death, you
will answer to your god and no man will have control of your fate in the
world that lies hereafter. Therefore by obeying the gods, hopefully, will
result in a happy afterlife, which are what most people strive for in ancient
times and now. If man does not honor you for noble efforts, your gods’
will. Antigone’s act was honorable. She stood up to the highest of powers
so she could honor her brother, knowing the consequence would be death.

Most likely she figured there is only a certain amount man can do to you,
so she might as well stand up for not only her family and beliefs, but
her gods as well (lines 377-389).Creon could have easily changed his mind,
and there were fair amounts of warning. But his decisions lead him into
an empty life that could have been adverted if only he would have put his
pride aside for a while. Simply because he was too egotistical and too
tempermental, his son died (line 986) along with his wife (lines 1080-1081),
which left him hapless and with a deep sense of deplorable sorrow leading
to self-imposed exile (lines 1119-1126).

Antigone, Heamon, and Creon’s wife all
could have been saved if only one man could have put aside his pride. It
is clear that Antigone is not the one who did the wrong in this story,
but Creon.


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