In the plays Antigone and the Crito the two lead characters, Antigone and Socrates, showed completely different ideas regarding their responsibilities to the State. Antigone believes in divine law and does what she thinks that the Gods would want her to do. Socrates, on the other hand, believes that he owes it to the State to follow their laws whether he thinks they are right or not. In Antigone, her brother Polynices, turned against his own city by attacking his own brother just so he could become king. On this day, both brothers died. One, Eteocles, was given funeral honors, but the other, Polynices, was not.
This decision was made by Creon, Antigone’s uncle and the current King of Thebes. Creon said ‘He is to have no grave, no burial, no mourning from anyone; it is forbidden. ‘; (Pg. 432; l. 165) He also announced that anyone who should attempt to bury him would be put to death. After hearing this decision, Antigone said that Creon couldn’t do that and that the Gods would want Polynices to have a proper burial, therefore Antigone promised to her sister Ismene that she would be the one to defy Creon and bury her brother; and she didn’t care if the whole city knew of her plans.
After being caught in the act, she was taken to the palace and when asked by Creon why she did it. Knowing the punishment that would come from it, she replied by saying that she didn’t think Creon had the power to overrule the unwritten laws or the Gods and that there are actually many more citizens who agree with what she did, but they were all too afraid to do anything about it. It is clear that Antigone follows divine law and has little respect for the laws of the State.
In the Crito, Socrates is approached by his life-long friend Crito while in prison awaiting execution. Crito used many different ways to attempt to persuade Socrates to escape. The best argument Crito uses is that he says Socrates would be betraying his children if he were to stay in prison. He says that Socrates should bring them up and educate them, not leave them. Socrates, contrary to what Crito says, feels that he has an implied contract with the State.
He believes that his family staying in Athens and raising him there was the greatest compliment they could have given him, so he feels that he owes it to the State to accept its laws and to remain a willing partner to the State. Socrates’ feelings were summed up on page 64 when he says: ‘If the state leads us to wounds or death in battle, we follow as is right; no one can yield or leave his rank, but whether in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place, he must do what his city and his country order him…if he may do no violence to his father or mother, much less may he do violence to his country. ; (Pg. 64) By this quote, he means that a man must do what the State tells him to do and should back the State in all of the State’s endeavors. Personally, I am torn between the two ideas. I believe that the State usually makes laws that do protect most of its citizens and if it doesn’t, they usually realize it and make a change. On the other hand, if you truly believe that a law is unjust, then you should follow your convictions until the law is changed or becomes acceptable.
I think that if I were in either Antigone’s or Socrates’ position, I would probably have done the same thing that they did. Clearly, Antigone and Socrates have very different ideas regarding the type of law they follow. Whether it is a responsibility that each person has towards the State or to some other authority, they are both respectable ways to go through life.