After the death of the banished King Oedipus, the brothers of Ismene and Antigone battle for control of Thebes. Both perish. One brother is buried as a hero. The other brother is deemed a traitor to his people. He is left to rot on the battle field. No one is to touch his remains.
In this scene, King Creon has just learned that Antigone has defied his laws by providing a proper burial for her disgraced brother.
Yea, for these laws were not ordained of Zeus,
And she who sits enthroned with gods below,
Justice, enacted not these human laws.
Nor did I deem that thou, a mortal man,
Could'st by a breath annul and override
The immutable unwritten laws of Heaven.
They were not born today nor yesterday;
They die not; and none knoweth whence they sprang.
I was not like, who feared no mortal's frown,
To disobey these laws and so provoke
The wrath of Heaven. I knew that I must die,
E'en hadst thou not proclaimed it; and if death
Is thereby hastened, I shall count it gain.
For death is gain to him whose life, like mine,
Is full of misery. Thus my lot appears
Not sad, but blissful; for had I endured
To leave my mother's son unburied there,
I should have grieved with reason, but not now.
And if in this thou judgest me a fool,
Methinks the judge of folly's not acquit.
In one of the most dramatic female monologues of Ancient Greece, Antigone defies King Creon because she believes in a higher morality, that of the gods. She contends that the laws of Heaven overrule the laws of man.
Translated by F. Storr (Published in 1912)