Creon and Antigone Origins of Conflict through the Concept of Relative Virtues — страница 2

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the notion that the formation of ethical identity and personal moral ideals occurs during societal interaction under the influence of social roles and traditions. Since “we aren’t naturally virtuous” (Waller 98), and the achievement of virtuous characteristics occurs as a result of practice, there is a possibility of forming new virtues or the modification or total substitution of already existing ones. Besides, the actual practice of constant improvement of character entails change or initial formation of notions of what to strive for, and these ideas come from the formal and informal process of acquiring ethical knowledge from basic societal institutions of pedagogy – education, religion, personal experience, culture, time period, social surroundings, etc. Also, since

virtues strictly exist in the personal realm and are a product of influences of different educations, social roles and personal experiences in the individual character development, the formation of variety of virtues are formed by social educational institutions, variety of virtues might be formed in a separate societal unit or a society in whole. Therefore, virtue and virtuous motives and character might vary on a societal and personal level, making virtue not absolute, but rather a relative concept. Sophocles brilliantly highlights this notion of relative virtue in the character of Antigone and the further portrayal of a clash of virtues resulting in her conflict with Creon. First of all, the formation of her virtues was accompanied by a series of quite dramatic events –

Antigone witnessed the tragic fall of her father, who married his mother, and therefore Antigone and Ismene had to live with a stamp of being both daughters of their half-brother and granddaughters of their mother. These circumstances aligned Antigone’s internal ideals, assigning overriding values to extreme religious piety and inviolacy of laws prescribed by gods. This reliance on religion, fortified by her own personal family tragedy with time translated in the virtues of her character, where striving for an eternal afterlife with the dead became of greater value for Antigone then her present life: “I have longer to please the dead then please the living here… in the kingdom down below I’ll lie forever” (Fagles 63). Here, her value system is based upon her life after

and thus “pleasing dead” becomes her dominant virtue. Although religious educations supported by factual examples from family experience were primary agents that shaped Antigone’s virtues, they were not the only influence. She also has numerous social roles, which also contributed to the development of her moral character and the shaping of her virtues. In the society described by Sophocles, she is the noble daughter of King Oedipus, a loving sister of Ismene and a fiancé of Haemon, a Greek and therefore she is under obligations of patriotism. She is a citizen of Thebes as well, and therefore she must conform to the laws of the land set by the King. Despite all of these factors that helped shape Antigone’s character, the greatest impact on the formation of her

virtues is the fact that she is a woman, and therefore she has to be submissive to the rule of men. This concept, instilled by the norms and traditions of ancient Greek society, is best expressed by Ismene: “Remember we are women, we’re not born to contend with men… then too, we’re underlings, ruled by much stronger hands” (Sophocles 62). The consideration of these values and their role in the formation of virtue of Antigone went to Creon’s calculations about his decision on the incident. Above all, Creon from his position of the highest royalty, has to be the ultimate embodiment of social arrangements: he has to defend societal norms, promote rules and show ability to enforce laws. As a man he has to defend the common notion of superiority of males over females, and

as a father he has to demonstrate a will to teach and instruct his children. These moral obligations and societal traditions form the basis of Creon’s character, and also create a foundation for his virtues, where he always should strive to defend society and its traditions. Therefore, because of the different origins of virtues and differences of the personal virtues themselves, there is a misalignment between Antigone’s notion of ideals and Creon’s personal standards. The rule of consistency as an important component to the existence of virtue makes both characters to act as their virtues dictate them, remain truthful to their values, and force making ethical decisions in sync with their moral codes. Therefore, when Antigone faces Creon, she refuses to even accept