There were three basic conflicts that caused Antigone and Creon to clash as violently as they did. First, was the conflict of the individual versus the state, in which Antigone represented the individual and Creon the king, the state. The second conflict can be described as following ones conscience and ideals versus following the law strictly. In this conflict Antigone makes decisions based on her conscience and ideals while Creon is the strict law abiding king.
Finally, the main and most important discord, which is similar to the second conflict, is the debate of moral and divine law versus human law. In this most important contention Creon strictly observes human laws and Antigone follows the divine or moral laws. Creon’s beliefs and his unwillingness to change ultimately cause the downfall of Creon and everyone that he cares about. Through the three roughly related conflicts we are given a picture of why and for what causes Creon and Antigone combat. Creon represents the laws of the world, while Antigone represents the laws of the soul.
This creates obvious conflicts in the course of life. There are certain human laws that are for one reason or another unfair under certain circumstances. One such circumstance presented itself after Polyneices Eteocles, brothers to Antigone, are killed in the Thebes’ civil war. In the eyes of Creon Eteocles chose the noble and correct side in the war while Polyneices fought against Creon’s cause. As a result of Polyneices’ actions, which clearly defied the state and its laws, Creon decides that he will not be given a proper burial.
Naturally, as his sister Antigone want to see her brother buried properly, and was especially important in this time period because of the various polytheistic beliefs. Because of her morals, ideals and the fact that what she felt was more important than any law, Antigone gave her brother a proper burial despite Creon’s demands. Throughout the story Creon is given several chances to change his foolish disposition. The fist of which was his decision in how to deal with the death of Polyneices.
He failed to do what was right because he was too obsessed and bound to the laws that he valued entirely too much. His opportunities become increasingly easier and blatant as well. While the lines were still gray on what to do with Polyneices’ deceit, it seemed much more obvious about what action to take after discovering how Antigone had disobeyed him. He had advice from several people that were trusted and close to him telling him that he should not punish her for following her heart. Creon receives his advice from several sources.
The most important advice comes from his son, Haemon, and Teiresias, a blind prophet who speaks directly with the gods. Haemon, who is engaged to marry Antigone, tells his father how the people of Thebes sympathize with Antigone and her actions, and that he will never forgive him if he executes her. Creon again decides to abide by his laws and not by those of the gods and immortals, despite learning the fact that Antigone, who disregarded his laws and followed her own, is in favor with the people; his people.
In a final seemingly desperate effort by the gods to tell Creon to abandon his loyalty to the state and its laws, Creon is told his fortune and future by Teiresias, an old blind prophet. Teiresias tells Creon that not only do the people of Thebes disapprove of his decisions but the gods do as well. Now blessed with the knowledge that the gods and the people of Thebes disapprove of everything that he held sacred, the laws of the state, he feels threatened and insults Teiresias. Teiresias responds by foretelling Creon of the death of one of his children and that all of Greece will despise him if he does not relent.
Creon’s pride and undying faith in the state law all contributed to his stubbornness. Creon was also jealous the Antigone won the hearts of the people by trusting her own heart and not the judgement of the state. These factors led Creon to condemn Antigone to death, and like Teiresias predicted he lost his only son. Haemon was so distraught over Antigone’s death that tried to kill Creon (unsuccessfully) and then took his own life. To top it all off, Creon’s wife Eurydice killed herself upon learning the fate of her son and Antigone.
The message that Sophocles put forth was that the laws of the gods and human judgement are much more important that laws made by man. Creon lost everything that was dear to him as a direct result of his strict observance of the laws of Thebes. While obeying the law is important, Sophocles seems to believe that if ones own beliefs, ideals and morals must be put aside to obey that particular law, the law may be disregarded. Creon didn’t learn this lesson until it was far too late, and had to pay the price with the lives of his wife and son.