Creon, as head of state and lawgiver in Thebes, believes in obedience to man-made laws. But in defying Creon's command that no one bury Polynices, Antigone appeals to a different set of guidelines—what is often called "natural law." Whether its source is in nature or in divine order, natural law states that there are standards for right and wrong that are more fundamental and universal than the laws of any particular society.
Antigone believes that the gods have commanded people to give the dead a proper burial. She also believes she has a greater loyalty to her brother in performing his burial rites than she does to the law of the city of Thebes that bans her from doing so. The wishes of the gods and her sense of duty to her brother are both examples of natural law. To Antigone, these outweigh any human laws. In Antigone, Sophocles explores this tension and seems to suggest—through Antigone's martyrdom, the people's sympathy, and Creon's downfall—that the laws of the state should not contradict natural laws.
Natural Law ThemeTracker
Natural Law Quotes in Antigone
to please the dead than please the living here:
in the kingdom down below I'll lie forever.
nothing as great as death without glory.
she hasn't learned to bend before adversity.
have never tasted devastation. For others, once
the gods have rocked a house to its foundations
the ruin will never cease, cresting on and on
from one generation on throughout the race—
like a great mounting tide
driven on by savage northern gales,
surging over the dead black depths
roiling up from the bottom dark heaves of sand
and the headlands, taking the storm's onslaught full-force,
roar, and the low moaning
echoes on and on
the gift of eloquence, he and no one else,
and character too…such men, I tell you,
spread them open—you will find them empty.
smashing against the high throne of Justice!
Your life's in ruins, child—I wonder…
do you pay for your father's terrible ordeal?
nothing worse than they mete out to me—
these masters of injustice!
raging through the girl.
once more, on the razor-edge of fate.
I don't even exist—I'm no one. Nothing.
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.