In Athens they said: “Above all in human life is the law, and the unwritten law is higher than written.” The unwritten law is eternal, it is given by nature, on it is held every human society: it commands to honor the gods, to love relatives, to pity the weak. The written law is in every state, it is established by people, it is not eternal, it can be published and canceled. The fact that the unwritten law is higher than the written one was composed by the Athenian Sophocles, the tragedy of Antigone.
There was a king Oedipus in Thebes – a sage, a sinner and a sufferer. By the will of fate he fell a terrible share – unknowingly, to kill his own father and marry his own mother. By his own will he executed himself – he gouged
From the incestuous marriage at Oedipus there were two sons – Eteokl and Poligonik – and two daughters – Antigone and Ismena. When Oedipus renounced power and retired into exile, the two became Eteokles and Polynik, under the supervision of the old Creon, the proprietor and counselor of Oedipus. Very soon the brothers quarreled: Eteokle expelled Polynic, he collected on the enemy side a large army and went to Thebes war. There was a battle under the walls of Thebes, in a duel brother fell in with a brother, and both were killed. About this Aeschylus wrote the tragedy “Seven against Thebes.” In the end of this tragedy appear Antigone and Ismen, mourning brothers. And about what happened next, Sophocles wrote in Antigone.
After the death of the Eteocles and Polynicus, the power over Thebes assumed Creon. The first thing was a decree: Eteokl, the lawful king, who fell for the fatherland, to be buried with honor, and Polinik, who led the enemies to his native city, to deprive the burial and to throw
But a weak girl, Antigone, thought about people and about gods, about honor and piety. She is a brother to her, like Eteocles, and she must see to it that his soul finds the same afterlife. The decree has not yet been announced, but it is already ready to violate it. She calls her sister Ismen – from their conversation the tragedy begins. “Will you help me?” – “How can we? We are weak women, our destiny is obedience; beyond demand, there is no demand for us:
I honor the gods, but I will not go against the state.” “Well, I’ll go alone, even to death, and you stay, if you’re not afraid of the gods.” – “You’re mad!” “Leave me alone with my madness.” “Well, go, I still love you.”
The choir of the Theban elders enters, instead of the alarm, jubilation sounds: after all the victory is won, Thebes are saved, the time to celebrate and thank the gods. Creon comes out to meet the choir and reads his decree:
Hero is an honor, a villain is a sham, Polikik’s body is thrown to scold, guardians are assigned to him, who violates the royal decree, to that death. And in response to these solemn words the guard runs in with confused explanations: the decree has already been violated, someone has sprinkled the corpse on the earth, albeit symbolically, but the burial has been completed, the guard has not followed, and now he answers, and he is horrified. Creon is furious: find a criminal or guard not to demolish the head!
“A man is mighty, but he is insolent,” the choir sings, “he conquered the earth and the sea, he owns thought and word, he builds cities and rules, but to good or to bad his power? Whoever honors the truth is good, who fell into the crooked, that is dangerous. ” Who is he talking about: the criminal or the Creon?
Suddenly the choir stops, amazed: the guard comes back, and behind him – the prisoner of Antigone. “We brushed the earth off the corpse, sat down to guard further, and suddenly we see: the princess comes, weeps over the body, sprinkles earth again, wants to make a libation, – here it is!” – “Have you transgressed the decree?” – “Yes, for he is not from Zeus and not from eternal Truth: an unwritten law above written, to violate it is worse than death, if you want to execute – executions, your will, but my truth.” – “Are you going against fellow citizens?” “They are with me, only you are afraid.” – “You disgrace the brother-hero!” “No, I honor the dead brother.” “The enemy will not become a friend after death.” – “To share love is my lot, not enmity.” Ismen comes out on their voices, the tsar showered her with reproaches: “You are the accomplice!” – “No, I did not help my sister,
Creon was not easy to decide to doomed to be executed by Antigone. She is not only the daughter of his sister – she is also the bride of his son, the future king. Creon summons the prince: “Your bride has violated the decree;
Death is her verdict. The governor must obey in everything – in lawful and illegal. Order – in obedience; but the order falls, the state will perish. “” Perhaps you are right, “the son objects,” but why then does the whole city complain and regret the princess? Or are you the only one who is just, and all the people you care about are illegitimate? “” The state is subject to the tsar! “Exclaims Creon.” There are no proprietors over the people, “the son replies to him: the king is adamant: Antigone will be immured in an underground tomb, let her underground gods, whom she so honors, save, and her people will not see again, “Then you will not see me again!” And with these words the prince leaves. “Here it is, the power of love! exclaims the choir. “Eros, your banner is the banner of victories!” Eros – catcher of the best prey! You have conquered all people – and, having subdued, you are insane… “
Antigone lead to the execution. Her strength is over, she cries bitterly, but she does not regret anything. The cry of Antigone echoes the crying of the choir. “Here instead of wedding to me – execution, instead of love to me – death!” – “And for that you have eternal honor: you yourself have chosen your own way – to die for God’s truth!” – “I live happily in Hades, where my father is Oedipus and the mother, the winner is a brother and a defeated brother, but they are buried dead, and I am alive!” – “The birth of your own sin, your pride carried away: unwritten by honoring the law, you can not transgress and written.” “If God’s law is higher than human law, why should I die, why pray to the gods if for godliness they call me wicked? If the gods are for the king, I will redeem the guilt, but if the gods for me – the king will pay.” Antigone is being led away; the choir in a long song remembers the sufferers and sufferers of the past, the guilty and the innocent,
The royal court is complete – God’s judgment begins. To Creon is Tiresias, a favorite of the gods, a blind prophet – the one who warned Oedipus yet. Not only the people are dissatisfied with the royal punishment – the gods also are angry: the fire does not want to burn on the altars, the prophetic birds do not want to give signs. Creon does not believe: “It is not for a man to defile a man!” Tiresy raises his voice: “You trampled on the laws of nature and gods: the dead was left without burial, the living was locked in the grave!” Now, in the city of contagion, like under Oedipus, and you pay the dead for the dead-to lose your son! ” The king is embarrassed, he is asking for advice for the first time at the choir; give in? “Give in!” says the choir. And the king abolishes his order, orders to release Antigone, to bury Polinik: yes, God’s law is higher than the human. The choir sings a prayer to Dionysus, the god born in Thebes: help fellow citizens!
But it’s too late. The messenger brings the news: there is no living Antigone or her fiancé. The princess in the underground tomb was found hanged; and the royal son hugged her corpse. Entered Creon, the prince threw himself at his father, the king recoiled, and then the prince thrust his sword into his chest. The corpse lies on the corpse, their marriage was committed in the grave. Vestnik silently listens to the queen – the wife of Creon, the mother of the prince; after listening, turning
and leaving; and a minute later a new messenger runs in: the queen rushed to the sword, the queen killed herself, unable to live without her son. Creon, alone on stage, mourns for himself, his family and his guilt, and the choir echoes him, as Antigone echoed: “Wisdom is the highest good, pride is the worst sin, arrogance is a haughty execution, and for the old age it teaches the unreasonable mind.” These words end the tragedy.