Essay about The Burial at Thebes

Words: 1329
Pages: 6

Saleem Akbar
Prof. Ryna May
English 207-C101
10 May 2012
Mo[r]tal Law
In Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes, the protagonist defies the law of the state to observe what she sees as higher law. In this regard, Antigone’s actions were ethical in nature for she pursued what she felt was morally righteous. When mortal laws conflict with what we feel are moral laws, we should stand up for the values we believe to be true within ourselves. Sophocles’ play builds a contrast between the ideas of duty and obedience. Duty being the idea that one should uphold truth and value; while obedience, the idea that one should do their best to uphold the laws of man. While Antigone’s methods of pursuing truth are unethical in terms of mortal law, her actions
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"To refrain mutually from injury, from violence, from exploitation, and put one's will on a par with that of others: this may result in a certain rough sense in good conduct among individuals when the necessary conditions are given... it would immediately disclose what it really is--namely, a Will to the denial of life, a principle of dissolution and decay" (Nietzsche, 125).

Antigone’s decision to take matters into her own hands can be seen as stemming from a place of duty as opposed to disobedience. Kant describes duty, “like a jewel, it [shines] by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value in itself. It’s usefulness or fruitlessness can neither add, nor take away anything from this value” (Kant 296). Kant suggests that one who is dutiful is a self-sufficient, humble, instrument of moral value. This applies to Antigone in her willingness to pursue truth for herself rather than the truth of Creon or society. She is doing what she deems necessary in regard to her own moral compass. If she had went along with Creon’s decision, she would have been dishonoring her own system of moral value. Early on in the play, Antigone tells her sister, Ismene, “No. No. Broadcast it. Your cover-ups sicken me. I have nothing to hide from the powers that see all. I’m doing what has to be done” (Heaney, 12). Even this early on in the play, she makes a conscious decision to choose duty over obedience and is not ashamed to admit it. Kant says that we should “Act only