Antigone Themes of Laws and Cunning Contrivance

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Whether one is planning out their life or not, everyone’s life is predetermined. In the Hindu religion, it is believed that one’s life is based on how they have lived in their previous lives before. This has to do with how people lived their lives before and how they treated others. In “Antigone” by Socrates everyone lives their lives based on their social class and gender. The characters in Antigone also have a destined plan of how they should live.

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Antigone supports “cunning contrivance” with its Laws. In Antigone gender played a major role on what people were capable of doing, even simple everyday tasks. It was not the norm for women to take charge or even share their true opinions.

When Antigone’s brother died in a battle with Polyneices, Creon stated that a proper burial was not permitted for Antigone’s brother. Antigone being the rebellious person that she is did not stand for king Creon’s ruling. She gave her brother a proper burial at night by herself even though it was not allowed. The cunning contrivance of humanity in this case played a major role because everyone was expected to live their lives under someone’s laws. In this predicament Antigone opposed to the law made by Creon and proceeded to do what she thought was the right thing to do. According to Antigone it says “Watchman: OK, here it is. The body out there-someone buried it Just now and went away.

They spread thirsty dust All over the skin and did the ceremony in full” (page 11 lines 245-247). This explains how the king Creon found out that Antigone took control and buried her own brother. Antigone takes charge of her own life plan instead of following the norm of society’s plan for her. She puts aside that she will not be able to get married and still remains brave when going against law. The laws in Antigone also coincide with “cunning contrivance” because most of the laws are made so everyone can act and live a certain way. It’s liked how they live their lives in Antigone is already planned out for them. Even though Antigone resisted the law and took it upon her own hands, she was not afraid to let Creon know that she was the one who performed the proper funeral ceremony on her brother.

This is shown on page 18, line 443 “Antigone: Of course not. I did it. I won’t deny anything”. At this point this exemplifies what valor she has in her perception of doing what is right. She spoke openly about what she has done and took full responsibility for her actions. Creon thought he could scare off people with his power and authority but it did not work for everyone. In this end Antigone did what was morally correct but she did not do good in terms of following the law. In Antigone the laws were followed by everyone because society thought god made them. In relation to present day, many people follow morals as a way of following how god expects them to live. In reality our laws are not made by god but rather by our government and judicial officials. In Antigone it is clear that laws followed mainly because if people did not follow them, they may feel like their opposing or disrespecting gods wishes. This is a wicked and unfair aspect on how people in Ancient Greece were ruled by kings and queens.

In Antigone it says “Antigone: What laws? I never heard it was Zeus…Who made that announcement. And it wasn’t justice, either. The gods below didn’t lay down this law for human use” (page 19, lines 450-454). This conveys that Antigone told Creon that she has never saw the gods make a law of condemning someone to bury their brother. She is very fearless when stating this and standing up for what she thinks are her natural rights of a citizen of Ancient Greece. Creon thought his “cunning contrivance” that was established by humanity could have dominated Antigone’s actions, because laws were known to be made by the gods. Antigone tried to reason with and explain why what she did was correct, but Creon was very ignorant and disagreed. He saw that with laws under god’s name that he was able to control everyone’s lives.

These laws were wrongly put forth and only was encouraged for Creon’s selfish intentions of not allowing Antigone’s brother a proper burial. Creon basically sneakily pre-planned everyone’s lives in Ancient Greece by using god’s name to carry out what he wanted people to do. On the other hand, the play Antigone can also be seen to not support “cunning contrivance because of the norm of everyone following the laws and regulations. A character that supports this opposition is Antigone’s sister Ismene. Ismene in the beginning of the play disagrees with Antigone’s plan to go against Creon’s law. It is clear that she is not willing to do anything but follow the set laws, presumably made by the gods. When Antigone tells her sister about her plan she responds by saying “Oh no! Think carefully, my sister. Our father died in hatred and disgrace… After gouging out his own two eyes… For sins he’d seen in his own self” (page 3, lines 49-53).

This emphasizes how Ismene is fearful of Antigone following in their father’s footsteps. She makes it clear that she does not agree with Antigone’s plan even if it’s her own brother. Ismene supports the claim that “cunning contrivance” is not supported throughout the play because she has not realized that how she lives her life is because of someone else’s selfish intentions. Ismene thinks following the laws are a way of pleasing the gods. Ergo, In Antigone “cunning contrivance” is supported and shown by Creon’s law to refuse the right of giving Antigone’s brother a respected funeral ceremony when he died in battle. The people of Ancient Greece lived their lives under a egoistic pre-determined plan made by King Creon, who had power in controlling people with god’s name. 

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Antigone Themes of Laws and Cunning Contrivance. (2021, Jun 11). Retrieved from