what is the ship of state

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the government.
The 'ship of state' that Antigone and Creon are referring to are the government, or in this case, his kingship. There are rules and certain traditions that have to be upheld, and certain actions taken even if the king does not agree. He's trying to save Antigone, but she does not want to be saved. The ship of state is a metaphor and it means that, just like sailors on a ship, those who are in government give everything over to the ship.