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Civil Disobedience in “Antigone” by Sophocles


The right to break the law is the fundamental philosophical problem that depicts the conflict between the individual and the existing policies. Sometimes the law prohibits clearly moral and necessary actions, which are required to make a positive change for many people. For instance, the play Antigone by Sophocles demonstrates that even in the fifth century BCE people struggled against the severity of the law (Fletcher 168). Antigone attempted to bury her deceased brother Polynices, despite the fact that the ruler decided that the body should have been in public shame. As a result, Antigone broke the law by doing what she thought was moral and was ultimately punished for that. The current essay examines the complex phenomenon of civil disobedience in the example of Antigone.

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Morality of Civil Disobedience

As seen from the Greek play, the morality of breaking the law is a highly complicated subject. Antigone has undoubtedly broken the existing laws; nevertheless, most readers would sympathize with her and conclude that her actions are morally correct. This phenomenon introduces the problem of when law and morality have different priorities, which means that doing moral actions would end up in breaking the law (Oleson 669). There is a large number of examples proving that the existing laws might suppress human rights and basic necessities (Oleson 670). For instance, slavery in America, the Nazi regime in Germany, and many other systems were legally acceptable at different times. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people today would agree that these political strategies are immoral. In Antigone, the focus on morality is shifted by the legal obligations. In other words, while it is evident to the audience that Antigone burying her brother is a moral act, the ruler insists that it is a crime (Tindemans 187). Therefore, morality and law frequently differ, and it is important to remember that law is not always correct.

Contemporary Examples of Civil Disobedience

The moral question of breaking the law is also relevant at present, as many people continue to struggle with their daily lives due to law injustices. For instance, the recent protests against the unjustified murder of George Floyd transparently demonstrate the discontent of the public with some of the existing laws (Gal et al. par. 1). In 2014, Eric Garner died from a similar chokehold by a police officer, initiating multiple discussions about police abusing its power (Los Angeles Times par. 4). These examples demonstrate that law permits evidently immoral actions that end up in murders and not justice. This phenomenon is relevant not only in America; for example, millions of children in Syria cannot receive an education due to war and inhumane policies (Associated Press par. 4). As a result, several communities took the initiative to teach these children and let them experience a relatively peaceful life (Associated Press par. 17). Ultimately, these examples demonstrate that there is a lot of injustice in the world, and the law cannot always address these issues.


The problem of morality in breaking the law is a complicated subject; however, the current essay has demonstrated that the existing rules are not always correct. It is essential to remember that the policies are developed by people and are often adjusted based on subjective opinions. As a result, some of the laws might significantly obstruct human rights, stimulate systematic racism, and widen the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”. Ultimately, the example of Antigone was relevant 2500 years ago and is still relevant today.

Works Cited

Associated Press. “Civil War Makes a Lost Generation of Syrian Schoolchildren.” Newsela, 2014.

Fletcher, Judith. “Sophocles’ Antigone and the Democratic Voice.” Interrogating Antigone in Postmodern Philosophy and Criticism. Edited by S.E. Wilmer and Audronė Žukauskaitė, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 168-184.

Gal, Shayanne, et al. “26 Simple Charts to Show Friends and Family who aren’t Convinced Racism is still a Problem in America.” Insider, Web.

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Los Angeles Times. “Bracing for a New Civil Rights Movement.” Newsela, 2014.

Oleson, James C. “The Antigone Dilemma: When the Paths of Law and Morality Diverge.” Cardozo L. Rev., vol. 29, 2007, pp. 669-702.

Tindemans, Klaas. “Antigone and the Law: Legal Theory and the Ambiguities of Performance”. Edited by S.E. Wilmer and Audronė Žukauskaitė, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 185-193.

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