Tyranny and Legitimacy of Civil Disobedience in Sophocles’ Antigone
Sophocles’ Antigone warns the readers about the dangers of tyranny and the importance of heroic resistance to arbitrary and unrestrained exercise of power. In defending the citizens’ right to dissent and protest against an unjust law, the protagonist Antigone upholds the basic democratic ideals of free speech, free association and open access and participation in public affairs in absence of which a democratic polity would regress into tyranny. The paper argues that in today’s world, the need for such resistance and protest has become even greater since democratic ideals and principles have increasingly come under threat from autocratic and authoritarian regimes. The paper shows that the questions the play raises are as relevant today as they were in their own time: Is the citizen dutybound to uncritical obedience to an unjust and arbitrary law? Under what circumstances can one refuse to obey a government or a law? What makes an ideal citizen – one who acquisces in and abides by everything the established power dictates or one who protests against whatever violates the principles of justice?