Defying the will of the gods, such as Creon leaving Polynices' body unburied in Antigone seems to be a serious offence. How does the will of the gods influence life in Athens?
Sophocles: The will of the gods are largely influencial ideals in Greek life. By largely I mean that everyone lives their lives in constant fear of the gods in the knowledge that one wrong move to offend them and they could be doomed for eternity. The tragedy of Antigone is that Creon knows he is defying the will of the gods, but his pride overcomes him and he doesn't attempt to redeem himself until it's almost too late. Even then he doesn't listen properly to the prophet Tiresias, and destroys his last chance for redemption. As Creon says- " He whom the state appoints must be obeyed to the smallest matter, be it right- or wrong."
Mrs Bendall: So oracles are used as a medium to inform the will of the gods.
Sophocles: Yes, the will of the gods are spoken through prophets and oracles, such as Tiresias, who appears in both Oedipus Rex and Antigone, and warns both Oedipus and Creon of impending doom, that they both choose to ignore at their own peril. Prophets and Oracles act as perhaps a more sympathetic side to the gods, warning of events to come and consequences of actions. In this way it doesn't seem quite so horrible of the gods when someone dies and are sent straight to Hades and not the Ellisian fields. They do have a chance to make things right- the gods don't like to look bad.
Mrs Bendall: You said that in choosing to ignore the gods and value man's law above the heavenly, Oedipus and Creon were sentencing...