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In his powerful play of 441 B.C. entitled Antigone 1, Sophocles presented a drama of harsh conflict between the family's moral obligation to bury its dead in obedience to divine command and the male-dominated city-state's need to preserve its order and defend its values. Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus2, the now-deceased former king of Thebes3, comes into conflict with her uncle, the new ruler, when he forbids the burial of one of Antigone's two brothers on the grounds he had been a traitor. This brother had attacked Thebes after the other brother had broken an agreement to share the kingship.4 Both brothers died in the ensuing battle, but Antigone's uncle had allowed the burial only of the brother who had remained in power. When Antigone brazenly defies her uncle5 by symbolically burying the allegedly traitorous brother, her uncle condemns her to die. He only realizes his error when sacrifices to the gods go wrong. His decision to punish Antigone ends in personal disaster when his son and then his wife kill themselves in despair. In this horrifying story of anger and death, Sophocles deliberately exposes the right and wrong on each side of the conflict. Although Antigone's uncle eventually acknowledges a leader's responsibility to listen to his people, the play offers no easy resolution of the competing interests of divinely-sanctioned moral tradition expressed by a woman and the political rules of the state enforced by a man.

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