Family vs Law

Family, an important theme of life, gets expressed throughout many ways in society. Family may take precedence over many things, including authority and the law. Within the tragic play, Antigone, the author Sophocles presents situations where the characters have to choose between their family and the law. The characters must choose what is more important to them, their family or obeying the laws of Thebes. Throughout the play, Sophocles presents a strong theme of family values and the importance of it through the actions of Antigone, Creon and Haimon.

Antigone, placed in many situations throughout the play, has to choose between her family and the law. Antigone chooses to honor her brother, Polyneces, by burying him even though she will break the law by doing so. Antigone asks her sister Ismene to help bury their beloved brother, but when Ismene says no, Antigone responds by saying, “But as for/ me/ I will bury the brother I love” (Prolouge. 192). Antigone chooses to honor her brother and risk breaking the law because family means more to her. Antigone puts her family first, presenting her as a selfless person.

Along with the risk of breaking the law, Antigone also risks her death. Once Creon tells Antigone of her punishment after finding out she buries Polyneces, she has to decide whether or not burying her brother is worth it. After Creon tells Antigone of his plan for her, she says, “This death of mine/ is of no importance; but if I had left my brother/ lying in death unburied, I should have suffered. / Now I do not” (SceneII. 208). Antigone shows Creon that he cannot stop her from saving her family by trying to punish her with death.

Antigone chooses to help her family and stand up for them, even when faced with death. Sophocles shows Antigone as a brave person by denouncing Creon’s rules and saving her brother. Through Antigone’s actions, Sophocles shows how he favors family over authority and the law. Sophocles expresses his devotion to family throughout Creon’s actions in the tragic play. Prior to Creon’s initial decision to let Antigone die, the Choragos convinces him to let her go free. Creon, reluctant at first, listens to the Choragos and says to them, “It is hard to deny the heart! ” (SceneV. 235).

Creon knows deep down inside that he will be doing the right thing by letting Antigone go free. Although Creon wants Antigone to pay for breaking the law, his family ties with her prove to out shine his devotion to the law. As Creon orders the Choragos on what weapons to bring, he says, “I buried her, I/ Will set her free” (SceneV. 236). Creon realizes that his family ties with Antigone mean more to him than justice and he wants her to know that by freeing her himself. Creon wants to prove to Antigone that he does care about her safety and her future so he will set her free so she can go on living her life with Haimon.

Although Creon decides to free Antigone partly out of guilt, he mostly does it because of her love for her. Sophocles shows throughout the tragic play that he prefers family over the law through the actions of Creon. Sophocles shows his devotion to family over the law by the actions of Haimon. Haimon has to decide whether to fight for his wife’s life or obey his father. Haimon, driven mad by the situation he has at hand, decides to kill himself after he finds out Antigone has done the same.

The messenger delivers the horrible news to the Choragos and says, “Haimon is dead; and the hand that killed him/ Is his own hand” (Exodos. 239). If he cannot live with Antigone, then Haimon does not want to live at all. Haimon’s devotion and love for Antigone is stronger than his will to obey the law. Even as Haimon “died/ He gathered Antigone close in his arms again,” (Exodos. 241). By having Haimon’s last moves before his death be hugging his wife one last time, Sophocles shows that family takes precedence over the law through Haimon’s selfless acts.

Haimon wants to show to everyone, especially his father, that his love for Antigone overrules everything else, particularly the laws that Creon creates. Throughout Haimon’s actions in the play, Sophocles shows that family means more to him than the law. Throughout Antigone, Sophocles shows that his strong devotion to family overrides authority and the law. Sophocles proves this to the reader through the actions of Antigone, Creon and Haimon and the choices that they make throughout the play. Even at the face of death, Antigone chooses to honor her brother over obeying the law as a way of showing Sophocles’ devotion to family.

Prior to Creon’s original decision to kill Antigone, he changes his mind and decides to spare her life to exemplify Sophocles’ loyalty to family life. Haimon chooses to spare his own life to support his wife and rebel against the laws his father creates to prove Sophocles’ commitment to family. Sophocles shows that his devotion to family overrides the law by the situations and decisions Antigone, Creon and Haimon make. Not just in the play Antigone, but even in the world today, family values have high precedence over the laws and rules created to follow.