POLI 231 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Polynices, Sophocles
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POLI 231 – Notes on Antigone
Questions that can arise from reading Antigone:
To what extent is adherence to the law of the state associated with virtue? How
compatible are divine and state law, and what kinds of conflicts can arise from
The right of an individual to reject society’s infringement on his freedom to
perform a personal obligation, illustrated by Antigone’s refusal to dictate what
she does with the body of her family member (her brother).
“He has no right to keep me from my own”.
Which law is greater? That of men or the Gods? Sophocles insists that it is that
of the Gods, and otherwise would mean the moral downfall of his society.
State law is not absolute:
Creon demands absolute obedience, right or wrong. Sophocles presents that in
certain cases civil disobedience should be allowed, such as honoring the
Creon vs. Antigone. Creon defines citizenship as utmost obedience to the will
of the state, and thus condemns Antigone to death when he feels that she has
abandoned her citizenship by disobeying him. Antigone allows more room for
individualism within the role of the citizen.
Polyneices: For Creon, the fact that Polyneices has attacked the city effectively
revokes his citizenship and makes him a foreigner. As defined by this decree,
citizenship is based on loyalty. It is revoked when Polyneices commits what in
Creon's eyes amounts to treason. Antigone does not deny that Polyneices has
betrayed the state, she simply acts as if this betrayal does not rob him of the
connection that he would have otherwise had with the city. Creon, on the
other hand, believes that citizenship is a contract; it is not absolute or
inalienable, and can be lost in certain circumstances. These two opposing views
- that citizenship is absolute and undeniable and alternatively that citizenship is
based on certain behavior - are known respectively as citizenship 'by nature'
and citizenship 'by law.'
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