"The Trial of Antigone" Review- a just outcome to The National Hellenic Museum's third memorable trial

  The charachter Antigone was found “Not Guilty” in a mock trial on March 10, 2016 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois. Two of the greatest lawyers in Chicago prosecuted her, Robert A. Clifford, of Clifford Law Offices, and Dan K. Webb of Winston and Strawn, LLP., former U.S. Attorney. Likewise, two of Chicago’s finest lawyers defended her, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, another former U.S. Attorney, of Skadden, Arps, Meagher and Flom, LLP, and Patrick M. Collins, of Perkins Cole LLP.  The twelve person jury, made up of community leaders, was tied. However, the audience votes weighed on the large scales of justice provided by The National Hellenic Museum, who presented  the event, “The Trial Of Antigone”, tipped over for Antigone. The panel of three illustrious judges, The Honorable Charles P. Kocoras, Judge, U.S. District Court for The Northern District of Illinois, The Honorable Richard A. Posner, Presiding Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and The Honorable William J. Bauer, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, all spoke eloquently and unanimously in favor of Antigone. The James Simpson Auditorium was packed, and the proceedings, moderated by Anna Davlantes, WGN Radio, were filled with terrific oratory as well as lots of humor.

The scales of Justice

The case presented was Creon V. Antigone."Antigone" is a tragedy written by Sophocles in or before 441 B.C. The essential facts presented are as follows:

The brochure and logo for The Trial of Antigone

King Oedipus (yes, the one who married his mother) died and left his kingdom, Thebes, to his two sons, Eteocles and Polyneices, who at first agreed to share the kingdom. Polyneices breached this agreement. The two engaged in civil war and both perished. Their uncle, Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, decreed that Eteocles would be honored and Polyneices would be held in public shame. The rebel Polyneices’ body would not be sanctified, but would lie unburied on the battlefield, prey for worms and vultures. This was the harshest punishment of that time and place. Without a proper burial, Polyneice’s soul could not proceed to the underworld.

The august panel of judges ; The Honorable Charles P. Kocoras, The Honorable Richard A. Posner, and The Honorable William J. Bauer

Antigone and her sister, Ismene, met in secret conclave. Antigone wanted to bury their brother in defiance of Creon’s edict. Ismene refused to help her, fearing the death penalty, but was unable to persuade or stop Antigone from going alone to bury Polyneices.  Antigone, who was engaged to Creon’s son, Haemon, disowned her sister, and caused funeral rites and a symbolic burial to be given her disgraced brother, freeing his soul. In Sophocles play, Antigone is ordered buried alive by Creon, was disinterred, and commited suicide by hanging, and Haemon stabbed himself- a horrific double tragedy. In the Hellenic Museum’s version, Antigone is accorded a trial.

The prosecution begins: Robert A. Clifford, center, standing

The issues are: whether Antigone, who relied on “natural law” or “God’s Law”, should be punished, and whether Creon’s edict or law in this instance was just.

The prosecution continues: Dan K. Webb, front and center

The outcome of this sensational trial: Creon’s law was too harsh and unjustified; Antigone had the right to defy Creon’s edict and to assert her loyalty to an unwritten law sanctioned by a higher power. A well-established theme in discussions of this play is the right of the individual to reject society’s infringement on the freedom of an individual to perform a personal obligation.

The defense begins: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, on his feet

The arguments on both sides were masterful. Bob Clifford, who has spent his professional life seeking the redress of horrible grievances personally impacting individuals, spoke professionally but dispassionately in favor of Creon. He noted that a society cannot grow “without the rule of law”. When he argued that Antigone  stated “I accept death proudly”, and that justice should grant her wish, the audience chuckled, knowing he didn’t speak from the heart. His colleague Dan Webb gave a very deliberate intellectual speech on behalf of Creon, claiming that he certainly had the right to rule against the rebel Polyneices, and that Antigone’s knowing disregard of the law could not be tolerated in society-she must pay the price to the last full measure.  He pointed out “Antigone felt she was above man’s law”. The two Patrick’s for the defense, Fitzgerald, “Patrick the Elder”, and Collins, “Patrick the Younger”, as they dubbed each other, garnered a lot of laughs by kidding about the “dysfunction junction” that produced these brothers and sisters. There were a number of insider references to cases and political events, and some gibes at their opponents, but their arguments, if folksy, were earnest and spot-on. Antigone’s life should be spared- the edicts by Creon were unreasonable and unfair and should not be allowed to claim her life. Fitzgerald said “Antigone was innocent under man’s law and God’s law” and Creon, guilty of “road rage,” should be on trial. Collins pointed out that Antigone “acted at great personal cost”, and that she believed if she followed Creon’s edict, “She would face a greater punishment”. Creon’s laws were “unfollowable”.

The defense continues: Patrick M. Collins, center

The remarks of Their Honors, the judges, were beautifully phrased and in accord.  The Judges decided they had an obligation to discern whether the edicts of Creon were righteous, and decided they were not. They determined, as did Plato, that “The only true laws are good laws”. These laws were unreasonable, and the penalty for breaking them too harsh. They set Antigone free to “Go with fame and in glory”, as she set free her brother’s soul.

Distinguished counsel: Robert A. Clifford, Dan K. Webb, Patrick M. Collins, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

This was the third trial put on by the National Hellenic Museum with the help of local sponsors and featuring these famed attorneys and judges.The former trials were of the philosopher Socrates and Greek mythological prince Orestes.

The podium and Judge's seats under the banner of The National Hellenic Museum

For more information about this great museum and it's programs, go to The National Hellenic Museum


Photos courtesy of Dimitri Eilopoulos/Elios Photography





Top of Page

Join Splash Magazines

Feature Article

Tempflow™ and Tempur-Pedic® Reviews - What 35 Hours of Research Uncovered

Want Your Business to Male a Splash
<!-- #wrapper -->