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English Composition 2

Paragraph on Antigone with MLA Citation and Documentation

The following paragraph on Antigone uses and cites information from the play and from two secondary sources. Note how the material is presented and cited in the paragraph, as well as how the sources are listed on the Works Cited page. (The paragraph uses a different translation of the play from an earlier edition of our textbook, and that earlier translation uses just line numbers for the play instead of the scene and line numbers from our translation of the play.)

          While Sophocles’ Antigone suggests the importance of human laws to maintain order, the play finally affirms that the laws of the gods must take precedence when human and divine laws come into conflict. Creon, a strong supporter of civic law, does not  recognize "a greater crime in all the earth" than anarchy and believes that "we must defend the men who live by law" (752, 757). Although hesitant, the Leader of the Chorus seems to support Creon and his new decree prohibiting the burial of Polynices, saying, "The power is yours, I supposed, to enforce [the edict] / with the laws, both for the dead and all of us" (239-240). Likewise, the Chorus tells Antigone that she "went too far, the last limits of daring— / smashing against the high throne of Justice" (943-944). Civic laws must be maintained to prevent anarchy, but what the Chorus and especially Creon fail to recognize fully (at least until later in the play) is that human laws must operate only within the limits established by the gods. A modern audience may not appreciate how inappropriate Creon’s decree is, but, as W. T. Jones points out, the emphasis the Greeks placed on proper burial rites would make Sophocles’ audience see Creon’s actions as "unreasonable" (60-61). Creon is responsible for maintaining human order, but he is also responsible for ensuring that his own laws do not come into conflict with those laws established by a higher source, laws which have "an existence independent of, other than, and antecedent to man" but nonetheless have "the closest bearing on the life of man" (Krook 15). Divine laws, as Dorothea Krook states, are "presented as eternal, immutable, and absolutely binding" (15). Human laws, on the other hand, change over time, as Creon's new edict shows, and are neither eternal nor, as Antigone demonstrates, "absolutely binding." Creon finally understands the proper relation between human and divine laws near the end of the play. After being warned by Tiresias, Creon acknowledges that "it’s best to keep the established laws / to the very day we die," and the Leader of the Chorus ends the play with perhaps the most concise statement of the lesson to be learned from Antigone: "reverence toward the gods must be safeguarded" (1237-1238, 1467).

Works Cited

Jones, W. T. The Classical Mind. 2nd ed., Harcourt, 1970.

Krook, Dorothea. Elements of Tragedy. Yale UP, 1969.

Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by Robert Fagles. Literature and the Writing Process, edited by Elizabeth McMahan et al., 6th ed., Prentice, 2002, 605-640.

(The Works Cited always should begin on a new page.)

Copyright Randy Rambo, 2016.