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Compare & Contrast Essay – “Antigone” with “Romeo and Juliet”

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In Antigone, Ismene must decide between the will of the gods and the will of the state, life and death. On one hand, if she follows the benevolent will of the gods and buries her brother, Polyneices, she will be put to a humiliating death. On the other hand, she can follow the will of Creon’s traditional political authority and be forever put to shame by her demanding sister, Antigone. She is torn between two opposing forces, and whichever one she chooses, she must sacrifice something extremely important to her. By following the will of the gods, she must surrender her own short mortal life to live an eternity in heaven. If she doesn’t bury Polyneices, she will die a shameful, pointless death, and her soul will wander forever in the Asphodel Fields of the Hades’ underworld. This tremendously difficult decision that Ismene faces reminds me of a similar predicament that occurred in Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet. In this tragic novel, Romeo must make the difficult decision in which he must either happily stay with Juliet in the fear of being murdered, or stay exiled on Mantua and live a miserable, secluded lifestyle without his newlywed wife, Juliet.

Unfaithfully leaving Juliet would be against the will of the gods, because in sacred marriage vows, the husband and wife are supposed to be together “til death do us part.” This is similar to Antigone being bounded to the burial of Polyneices, because it is a human’s right to have a proper burial, and deserting him would be similar to unsacred divorce. However, by staying with Juliet and defying the laws of the state, Romeo puts himself into a precarious situation in which his life is in danger. This aspect of the situation parallels Antigone’s risk of being killed if she buries Polyneices. In the end, however, Romeo decides to devotingly stay with Juliet and embrace the loving will of the gods. Romeo’s decision reflects that of Ismene’s in the end, for they both disregard humanity’s cruel orders and trust their spiritually guided conscience.

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