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But how did Sophocles intend us to view the result?
What is the moral intended?
What is the drift of the words at the end, which say that ‘wisdom is the supreme part of happiness’? If this wisdom, or prudence (“τὸ φρονεῖν”), means, generally, the observance of due limit, may not the suggested moral be that both the parties to the conflict were censurable? As Creon overstepped the due limit when, by his edict, he infringed the divine law, so Antigone also overstepped it when she defied the edict. The drama would thus be a conflict between two persons, each of whom defends an intrinsically sound principle, but defends it in a mistaken way; and both persons are therefore punished. This view, of which Boeckh is the chief representative, has found several supporters. Among them is Hegel:—‘In the view of the Eternal Justice, both were wrong, because they were onesided; but at the same time both were right1.’

Or does the poet rather intend us to feel that Antigone is wholly in the right,—i.e., that nothing of which the human lawgiver could complain in her was of a moment's account beside the supreme duty which she was fulfilling;—and that Creon was wholly in the wrong,—i.e., that the intrinsically sound maxims of government on which he relies lose all validity when opposed to the higher law which he was breaking? If that was the poet's meaning, then the ‘wisdom’ taught by the issue of the drama means the sense which duly subordinates human to divine law,—teaching that, if the two come into conflict, human law must yield.

This question is one which cannot be put aside by merely suggesting that Sophocles had no didactic purpose at all, but left us to take whichever view we please. For, obviously, according as we adopt one or other of the views, our estimate of the play as a work of art must be vitally affected. The punishments meted out to Creon and Antigone respectively require us to consider the grounds on which they rest. A difference will be made, too, in our conception of Antigone's character, and therefore in our judgment as to the measure of skill with which the poet has portrayed her.

A careful study of the play itself will suffice (I think) to show that the second of the two views above mentioned is the true one. Sophocles has allowed Creon to put his case ably, and (in a measure from which an inferior artist might have shrunk) he has been content to make Antigone merely a nobly heroic woman, not a being exempt from human passion and human weakness; but none the less does he mean us to feel that, in this controversy, the right is wholly with her, and the wrong wholly with her judge.

1 Religionsphilosophie, II. 114.

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