Compare and contrast the part that the city or state (polis) plays in Antigone and Oedipus The King. Antigone is a play about the tension caused when two individuals have conflicting claims regarding law. In this case, the moral superiority of the laws of the city, represented by Creon, and the laws of the gods, represented bt Antigone. In contrast, Oedipus The King is driven by the tensions within Oedipus himself.
That play both begins and concludes within the public domain, the plot being driven by the plague that troubles the city, and which is so graphically brought to life by the Priest. In both Antigone (ll 179-82) and Oedipus The King (ll 29-31) the city is likened to a storm tossed ship, and it cannot be merely coincidence that Oedipus The King was written at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, a time when Athens itself was suffering the effects of plague. Oedipus The King reaches its climax with a now blinded Oedipus daring to show himself to the people of Thebes, forgetting that he is no longer the leader of the state. In Antigone, it is Creons abuse of absolute power that leads to his tragic downfall. Whilst Oedipus determinedly tried to get to the root of his peoples ills, ultimately discovering that he was in fact the cause of them, Creon morphs from a supposedly caring leader into a tyrannical despot, eager to take the law into his own hands.
It is the actions of Antigone that helps to bring about Creons fall from grace, as her steadfast refusal to accept the law of the city over the rule of the gods exposes the true motives of Creon, and leads to both her own death but also to the end of Creons world. He claims to favour the interests of the city over all but then shows his true colours by both acting and ranting like a tyrant. Antigone is steadfast and determined in her aim - she fully believes that the rule of god must take precedence in this matter regarding death, as well as revealing her belief that it is the family that is more important than the state. In contrast, it is Oedipus' desire to serve his adopted city, and to release it from its's uff ering, that propels him toward the awful truth about his family. Oedipus ends up losing both his true and adoptive parents, his wife, sight, and ultimately his people. Oedipus seems a more intensely tragic figure, especially when compared to Antigone, who is fully aware of what she is doing.
Antigone knew that her actions would be considered wrong, and that they would lead to her death, but she was ready to die for her own, personal, cause. In comparison, Oedipus was under the impression that he would be serving the populace by searching out the killer of Laius. Both of these plays are fine, tragic, stories concerning the human spirit, and how individuals can persevere for a cause they believe in. It is in declaring that Polynices should not be afforded a proper burial that Creon went against not the gods, but the beliefs of Thebes' citizens. He changes throughout the course of the play, beginning as a friend to the normal man, but later he is corrupted by power and becomes more and more ruthless. The Chorus teaches Creon some important facts about death, that even though a man can achieve a great deal, death will still come (ll 1457-58).
It is The Chorus that makes Creon realise he is wrong, that God, and not he, is in fact superior. But it still takes all the tragic events to unfold before Creon loses his belief that a utopian society is one that is subjugated by an unrelenting and tyrannical rule. Without The Chorus Creon would never have made this change as a person and we would never have learned how insignificant both He and his Kingdom really were in the grand scheme of things. Both Creon and Antigone ultimately display a loyalty to a much greater power than themselves, and Creon learns that, sometimes, people have to learn the hard way from their mistakes. If Creon had not gone against Gods' law and made his own wishes more important, he would not have suffered as he did. By stopping Polynices burial he brought upon his own terrible punishment.
It is by learning from his mistakes that Creon learns to be wiser, to realise that he could not simply demand that his orders be carried out and not care about anything else. It is by losing both his wife and son, and, eventually, the respect of many citizens of Thebes that Creon grows as a person. The Chorus is very effective throughout Antigone, as it talks of love, death, and other unstoppable forces that man attempts to defeat, and it explains to the audience how futile it is to battle against the problems we face in life. Both Antigone and Oedipus The King are dramatic and, of course, tragic plays, but it is The Chorus that maintains the theme throughout both that there must be a public vindication of the gods power and authority, and that is what ultimately takes place..