Antigone: Absolute Power Corrupts Essay

1619 Words Sep 16th, 2008 7 Pages
"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'
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'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 body was the property of the gods. Burial was a tradition the gods had set for the people, and it was to be be continued. Kreon acted selfishly, abused his power, and went against the will of the gods to get his wish. As a reaction to Antigone's infallible concept of burial, Kreon said, "'...these stiff minds are the first to collapse. Fire-tempered iron, the strongest and the toughest, that's the kind you most often see snapped and shattered'" (578-580). Ironically, what Kreon said applied to himself. Kreon himself was stiff-minded about Polyneices not to be buried. Like all dictators, Kreon did not realize his stubbornness because he thought he was always right. Another case of when Kreon rejected other's suggestions was in the scene with his son, Haimon. Kreon explained to Haimon the situation Antigone was in and the death penalty, and Haimon objected too it. Haimon

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