Antigone And Power
"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," said Lord Acton
generations ago. In the Greek tragedy Antigone, written by Sophocles, there was
a character named Kreon, the antagonist, who was the king of Thebes. Thebes was
an autocratic state where Kreon had absolute power. Throughout the course of the
play, Kreon abused his privilege of absolute power; and this caused him to
suffer greatly, even though he was warned by a few people of his bad deeds. What

Sophocles commented on absolute power was that one should not abuse it. If it
was abused, he or she had to expect bad consequences. This was indicated by what
happened to Kreon when he abused his power. Kreon settled a decree that
prohibited anyone from burying Polyneices’ dead body. He was proud of his
decree, and he also stated that he would be a good king by listening to what
people said regarding his decisions. When the decree was broken by Antigone,

Kreon sentenced her to death. This angered the gods because they wanted the dead
body of Polyneices buried, and they did not want a live body (that of Antigone)
buried in a cave. Kreon was told by Haimon to change his mind, but Kreon
rejected his request and went ahead and buried Antigone alive. Teiresias warned

Kreon that the gods were angry and his actions were to be blamed. Kreon rejected
both Haimon’s request and Teiresias’ warning, and as a result, he suffered
in the end. In the beginning of the play, Antigone and Ismene were found arguing
about whether Polyneices’ body should be buried. Antigone wanted to bury her
brother’s body, but Ismene objected because she said that they should not
disobey Kreon, who had absolute power and had prohibited Polyneices’ burial
(26-80). Ismene indicated that the citizens of Thebes did not dare to go against
what Kreon decreed. They all knew that if they objected to Kreon, punishment
would be the result. In the play, Kreon was first found addressing the senate as
to how a ruler should rule his state. He said in his long speech, "‘I
believe that he who rules in a state and fails to embrace the best men’s
counsels, but stays locked in silence and vague fear, is the worst man there. I
have long believed so’" (217-221). To impress the senate Kreon told them
that he would listen to any advice they gave him because that was what a good
ruler should do. However, this was not how he reacted when Kreon heard that
somebody buried Polyneices’ body. While he was talking to the senate, a sentry
came in and told Kreon that Polyneices’ body had been buried.

"‘...somebody up and buried the corpse and went off: sprinkled dust over it
and did the ceremonies you’re supposed to’" (310-312). Kreon got very
angry and threatened to kill the sentry if he didn’t find the culprit who had
buried the body. Kreon thought that all of the sentries were bribed into not
telling him who was the culprit (372-391). Koryphaios suggested that the gods
might have had buried the body: "‘My lord, we have been considering whether
a god might not have done this’" (350-351). Just like a dictator, as if he
knew the actions of the gods, he declared that it was impossible for the gods to
honor (bury) criminals (363-364). He defied what Koryphaios had said and just
declared that the gods would never bury Polyneices, and he got his way. Before,

Kreon had said that a good ruler like himself would listen to people, but Kreon
did not do that. He went against what he had said. This showed that Kreon was
very hypocritical, and he always only declared what he thought was right. Some
time passed, and the sentry came in the palace with Antigone, who had buried

Polyneices out of sheer respect. Kreon asked her if she really went against the
decree, and Antigone denied nothing. ‘Yes, because I did not believe that Zeus
was the one who proclaimed it; neither did Justice, or the gods of the dead whom

Justice lives among. The laws they have made for men are well marked out. I
didn’t suppose your decree had strength enough, or you, who are human, to
violate the lawful traditions the gods have not written merely, but made
infallible.’ (550-558) Antigone said that the choice of burying Polyneices or
not was not in the hands of humans. When a person died, the gods expected the
body to be buried so that they could take it to the underworld. A dead