Ethical reasoning is related to the wrongs and right of human behavior as every individual ascribes to standards that are defined by their personal values. These standards and values often come into action when a person is faced with a conflicting situation or a dilemma in life and they need to make a decision. The difference in ethics will often occur because of peoples interpretation of a situation and people interpret events in life differently. Ethical or unethical behavior will often affect the outcome of an event regardless. The Burial At Thebes highlights the story of Antigone, who is caught defying the kings orders as she goes ahead to bury a brother who has been declared a traitor in death and should be shunned. She is banished and sealed in tomb where she dies. Her death causes the death of the kings son; her fiancee and the kings wife who commit suicide as a result of the kings actions. The central theme of the play is a conflict between an individuals freedom and the constraints of the state. It also underlines a conflict between religion and the law (Blundell 112). This paper is going to look at how ethical and unethical behavior affects the outcome of events in Sophocles drama in relation to religious freedom, politics, and gender equality.
Ethical behavior demands that a person conducts himself or herself in a manner that enhances the wellbeing of others. The political angle of Seamus Heaneys translation of the Greek Tragedy, Antigone looks at how political actions in the play defy ethics. The kings actions of creating laws aimed at being a substitute for divine doctrines is an unethical conduct that affects the tragic outcome of the play. The events leading to the death of Antigone, the kings son and wife are a result of the political actions of the king. Creon exercises his political power as an authority to sentence Antigone. His decision is directed at communicating the consequences of the law to the people. If he had not done this, the order of the state would be in jeopardy as he would have come across as a political leader who cannot follow through with the laws that he has laid down. In politics, people are sensitive to the idea of order and the actions that a leader takes in establishing order are fundamental. However, Creons actions point to an abuse of power albeit in a subtle manner. By decreeing his laws as a result of divine will is unethical since no man has the political power to establish laws that can be deemed divine. It is important to note that Creon is often a sympathetic person in many ways but his political loyalty to the state makes him subject to weakness. This leads him to exercise poor judgment by acting in a manner many would deem ethical but affects the wellbeing of others. His actions are ethical in the sense that they are aimed at reinforcing the order of the state and communicating a good political stance. However, the same ethical behavior affects the outcome of the tragedy that follows the play (Fergusson 28).
Gender equality has a central place in the play as Antigone is a woman. Society is inherently patriarchal and the actions that lead to the tragedy of the play are centered on the fact that Antigone if a woman. Her actions have a profound implication in leading to the tragic end that befalls her and others. It is not every day that the orders of the king are defied and especially by a woman. She acts in what she believes is of divine benefit since a decent burial is what is required to set a soul free. Her actions are also for her benefit. The conflict of Antigones actions in relation to ethics is the fact that the defy law and order and the position of a woman in the society. As a woman, she should know her place as the play depicts women to be subservient. Her defiance highlights the issue of gender especially in relation to the kings reaction. Creon thinks that it is important to defeat Antigone especially since she is a woman. In ancient Greece, the freedom accorded to women was limited. Antigones actions, which can be termed ethical or unethical depending on the standpoint that one argues from, are threatening to the gender roles of the society. Her rebellion challenges the fundamentals of society in relation to gender roles. This challenge to gender roles leads the king to take action against her thus leading to the tragedy that underlines the play. Her sister Ismene is the opposite of Antigone as she sticks to societal beliefs about women being subservient and obedient to the rule of men. Creon himself says that even if the actions he has taken are wrong, he would not admit defeat to a woman and as such, acts in a manner that contributes to the tragedy that follows. It is important to note that the kings actions can be termed unethical in the sense that they are influenced by gender bias. The argument he professes in his defense is a switch of standpoint that heavily implies societal disdain for female disobedience. Gender equality is thus a foreign concept in the play and contributes to the tragedy that befalls Antigone, Creons son and wife.
Religious freedom is a concept that underlines the play was owing to the actions taken in the name of the belief that consequently led to the tragedy of the story. The ideals of religious freedom have conflicted liberally in Seamus Heaneys translation of the Greek Tragedy, Antigone. The ideals are conflicted and hence create moral dilemmas as every person takes actions based on what they believe to be true according to religion. The King and Antigone are engaged in a philosophical war based on the ideals of religion. Their actions are based on their individual belief of what they purport to be wrong or right. The conflict that comes because of these beliefs is based on a religious clash and a contradiction of morals. Antigones actions are based on what she believes is morally right and of religious importance. She goes ahead to bury her brother as this means his soul will be free. She deeply feels that the king is disregarding religious laws. When she is brought to the king, she tells him I dont believe your edicts are strong enough to overrule the laws of God and heaven as you are only a man. Her actions in pursuing religious freedom and acting in what she deemed to be godly led to the king sentencing her. The sentencing leads to her death and that of others.
Blundell, Mary Whitlock. Helping friends and harming enemies: a study in Sophocles and Greek ethics. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Fergusson, Francis. The idea of a theater: a study of ten plays, the art of drama in changing perspective. Princeton University Press, 2015.
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