Last week, I read Antigone by Sophocles. This Roman drama was easily read in a sitting while my children played outside. They played in the sunshine merrily while I grappled in my armchair with the conflicting themes of familiar honor and absolute obedience. By the end of the play, I had completely changed my opinion regarding whom the “wicked” desires no part.
King Creon gives a decree that a rebel must remain unburied, shamed forever for the crime of instigating a civil war. Antigone, the rebel’s beautiful sister, disobeys the order. She claims fear of heaven’s retribution if she does not reverence her family in showing her beloved brother his final respects. To her sister, who takes no part in this crime against the crown, she states:
You know now, and will soon show
Whether you are nobly bred or the base daughter of a noble line.
And when the King challenges her belief that what she has done is right, she responds:
It is not my nature to join in hating, but in loving.
The tragedy unfolds, as we learn that Antigone is the fiance of Haemon, King Creon’s son and heir. When he learns his betrothed has committed this unforgivable crime against the state and is condemned to death, he is torn between obedience to his father and his love for his promised bride. His resolution in the end is touching.
Father, I am yours,
And in your wisdom you trace the rules that I should follow.
No marriage shall be deemed by me a greater gain
Than your good guidance.
King Creon is stedfast in his belief of clear right and wrong.
Yes, this, my son, should be your heart’s fixed law ~
In all things to obey your father’s will.
It is for this that men pray to see dutiful children grow up around them in their homes,
to requite their father’s foe with evil, and to honor his friend as he himself does.
But the man who begats unprofitable children –
what shall we say he has sown but troubles for himself and much triumph for his foes?
Then do not you, my son, at pleasure’s call dethrone your reason for a woman’s sake,
knowing this is a joy that soon grows cold in clasping arms –
an evil woman to share your bed and your home.
What wound could strike deeper than a false friend?
But this is not the lesson of the story. Creon has much yet to learn about leading his country and his home, and much is at stake if he cannot change his ways in time.
This particular tale came close to home for me. I have personally seen the heartache and ruin families can suffer when parents don’t learn to bend and seek wisdom continually. No one is above learning, and no rule can be absolute until Heaven. This tale is a MUST-READ for parents.
On a humorous note~ I think Sophocles has met his share of little boys:
I wish to tell you first about myself –
I did not do the deed;
I did not see the doer;
It is not right that I should come to harm
~ Guard, to King Creon
Have we ever heard that before?